North Pacific Coast Feature

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Eco-Lodges in the North Pacific

On the mainland, sweeping plains bordered by volcanoes hold remnants of Central America's tropical dry forest. On the Pacific-edged Nicoya Peninsula, conservationists try to protect turtle-nesting beaches from the encroachments of ever-grander resort hotels and vacation houses.

These tropical dry forests change from relatively lush landscapes during the rainy season to desertlike panoramas in the dry months. The national parks of Santa Rosa, Rincón de la Vieja, Palo Verde, and Barra Honda all protect vestiges of dry forest, as do the private reserves of Hacienda Guachipelín and Rincón de la Vieja Mountain Lodge, where guests can explore on horseback. Visitors can experience the region's wetlands and waterways by riverboat tours and raft. The Nicoya Peninsula is also the site of Las Baulas National Marine Park, where massive leatherback sea turtles lay their eggs on Playa Grande from October to March; and Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, where thousands of olive ridley turtles clamber ashore to nest on moonlit nights, mostly from July to January.

Good Practices

After a decade of uncontrolled development in the North Pacific province of Guanacaste, Guanacastecation became a pejorative watchword in Costa Rica for unsustainable development.

Playas Junquillal, Negra, Nosara, and Punta Islita are some of the notable exceptions to overdevelopment, managing to maintain a balance between nature and commercial development. Eco-minded tourists who are planning a beach vacation may want to visit these less-developed areas and reward lodge owners who have worked hard to keep their pieces of paradise as sustainable as possible.

Top Eco-Lodges in the North Pacific

Nesting Leatherback Turtles

You simply cannot believe how big a leatherback turtle is. Weighing in at 550 kilos (more than 1,200 pounds), females come ashore under cover of night to lay clutches of up to 100 golf ball-size eggs in nests they dig out of the sand with their flippers. People will go to great lengths in the hopes of catching this incredible sight. Your best chance is at Playa Grande in Las Baulas National Marine Park. As night falls, groups of visitors, each shepherded by a local guide, hunker down at the park entrance, waiting for the summons to sprint down the beach to take their turn, standing silently and witnessing the monumental egg laying. A decade ago, it was almost a sure thing to find at least one laying turtle on the beach during the nesting season. But today, some groups will come away disappointed, a sad reminder of how in the past 25 years, shore development and commercial fishing have reduced sea turtle populations by 99%.

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