Travel Now for a More Intimate Glimpse of an Ecotourism Star
For a limited time, intrepid travelers have the opportunity to go back in time to experience places like the Cloud Forest Reserve of Monteverde Costa Rica, traveling quieter paths and more easily seeing (and hearing) its magnificent natural wonders.
With tourism less than half of pre-pandemic numbers, there’s a window of opportunity in 2022 to more quietly explore and enjoy what made Costa Rica a tourism magnet to begin with while supporting local ecotourism partners.
We are extremely excited about our March 15-25 trip to Monteverde, Celeste Mountain & Caño Negro for that very reason.
A lush mountaintop territory bridging the country’s drier Pacific and wetter Caribbean forests, Monteverde Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Before the pandemic temporarily halted travel, some questioned whether throngs of visitors were putting too much pressure on the ecosystem.
These days, so few tourists and tourism dollars are flowing into the area that many of the reserves have changed to an active “GoFundMe” model for supporting conservation, Conde Nast reported in July.
Consequently, our trips to Costa Rica in 2022 offer what may be a limited opportunity to see Monteverde as it once was, with a higher ratio of Howler Monkeys and Resplendent Quetzals to tourist vans and telephotos.
Guided by Carlos Sanchez, whose deep experience in Costa Rica really shines on this trip, we start on the Pacific side, climb to Monteverde and then bird Caribbean lowlands that border Nicaragua, maximizing our opportunities to see species from multiple biomes.
We begin and end in the lush, gardened, birder-friendly Hotel Bougainvillea in San Jose suburb Heredia, where dozens of species can often be spotted before breakfast. Our Pacific-side birding includes a boat ride to the Guacalillo Mangroves and a trip to one of Costa Rica’s most famous bird reserves: Carara National Park.
Climbing to Monteverde, we stay at Monteverde Mountain Hotel, which sits amongst 15-acres of private forest at 4,500 feet above sea level. We bird several famous reserves, including the Children’s Eternal Forest, Monteverde Cloudforest, Curicancha and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves.
Moving to the glorious Celeste Mountain Lodge on the slopes of the Tenorio & Miravalles Volcanoes, we enjoy both Caribbean and Pacific influences and the species lists from here are truly astounding.
We descend to the lowest elevation of our trip with one night at Caño Negro Natural Lodge, located inside Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most important biological areas of the country and among the most important wetland areas in the world.
Nearly a quarter of Costa Rica’s landmass is protected by national parks, biological reserves, wildlife refuges or other protected areas, allowing us to travel freely from one natural jewel to another.
“They have ecotourism down to a science,” said Carlos, who has led many trips for Naturalist Journeys to Costa Rica. “Infrastructure is good, the birding is well thought out…people are often surprised just how easy it is to be there.”
Fulfilling Ecotourism’s Promise
It has been difficult for our partners on the ground, trying to survive with virtually no tourism in 2020. And just 40 percent of Costa Rica’s tourists returned in the first 11 months of 2021, the country’s tourism ministry reported this week.
In 2020, National Geographic wrote about how devastating the pandemic has been to places like Monteverde, which relies almost exclusively on tourism dollars.
By traveling, we hold up our end of the ecotourism bargain; that locals have as much or more to gain by preserving natural resources as they would by developing them.