Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nature--Pristine and off the Beaten Track in Costa Rica: Part I, Quetzal birds in the Mountains

Nature--Pristine and off the Beaten Track in Costa Rica: Part I, Quetzal birds in the Mountains by Fran Gilmore

Last time I wrote for this blog, it was to tell the stories of a small environmental success and a travesty of oil company pollution of monumental proportions, both in Ecuador. But today a happier topic--eco-friendly destinations in Costa Rica.

My friend Nicole is an American anthropologist who has for many years been deeply involved in conservation efforts in Costa Rica. On my January visit, she was an enormous help, telling me where I could find two beautiful natural environments, with accomodations run by people dedicated to preserving and sharing a pristine environment. She spent hours making arrangements in her fluent Spanish, but it can all be done on line English, so don't fear. And now I will share them with you.

The first is a tiny and charming hotel in the mountains about 2 hours from the capitol, San Jose, called Paraiso de Quetzales ( I was to learn that the beautiful quetzal bird you see is not mythological, as I'd thought, probably confusing it with the phoenix.

We were lucky to be there in late January, the beginning of the nesting season, and to see a tranquil pair seated near each other on different branches. We delighted in the beautiful tails of the male and the sweet little head with its punk feather-do. Jorge Serrano, who owns the hotel and the lovely hilly land around it, is a man who loves his job being close to nature, and makes sure the land is taken care of. He runs the hotel with his kind and gentle teenage son. Both speak passable English. I was surprised when I left by a hug from the son. Can you imagine a teenage boy hugging a paunchy middle aged woman? Spontaneously?

But that was just the last delight of many. For a modest sum of $62/person you get a tiny cabin with 4 heavy blankets (it's freezing in the mountains--bring winter togs), a good dinner near a friendly wood fire (fresh trout from a neighboring fish farm is an option), breakfast and an early morning walk to find the birds. Other times, you can hang around in the cozy living/dining area, or walk through it to a balcony overlooking a hummingbird garden. This is my picture of the Magnificent hummingbird. He obligingly posed.

As I spent a lot of the afternoon trying to capture these fleet creatures in flight, the day finally melted into the sunset you see.

You can find a whole gallery of pictures at

A good place to start your trip is at my friend Carol's B&B, Rainforest Dreams, located in Escazu, a suburb of San Jose, the capitol. You will delight in her company and knowledge of the country, and enjoy the simple but pleasant atmosphere at a moderate price. Find it at For another beautiful coastal destination, see Part II. Buen eco-viaje, amigos!

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