Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Explore Costa Rica's wetlands at Hacienda El Viejo
My Costa Rican friend Rocio López is a dynamo. Something like the Energizer Bunny, she’s one of the most accomplished and unstoppable commercial and public relations directors in Costa Rica, constantly popping up with exciting new projects, including INBio Parque and the Veragua Rainforest Research & Adventure Park.
I always sit up and take notice when Rocio advises me of new products that she's representing. Recently, she wrote to turn me on to a newly opened wildlife-focused tourist facility in a heretofore remote part of the upper Tempisque River basin. And wow! What a winner!
El Viejo Wildland Refuge & Wetlands, 17 km southeast of Filadelfia, in the far northeast corner of the Nicoya Peninsula, is a 5,000-acre refuge bordering Palo Verde National Park. As the website makes plain, the wilderness refuge adjoins, and is part of, a vast family-owned sugar estate that still functions as such. The optional ‘Trapiche Tour’ includes a visit to El Viejo Sugar Mill, one of the largest sugarcane processing mills in the country. And the colonial-era hacienda has been turned into a lovely restaurant and a venue for traditional folkloric dances.
A visit here is a four-parter, beginning with a 90-minute canopied boat tour on the Tempisque river – a chance to spot crocodiles, roseate spoonbills, anhingas, and the huge jabiru stork, Costa Rica’s largest bird. After a buffet lunch at Hacienda La Casona, hop aboard an electric golf cart for an “Eco-Ride” along trails that wend through the wetlands and riparian dry deciduous forest. You're pretty much guaranteed to see monkeys plus an entire menagerie of other wild-roaming critters, and maybe white-tailed deer or (if you're truly lucky) a cougar or other wild cat.
No self-respecting tourist venue in Costa Rica lacks for a zipline canopy ride. El Viejo is no exception. You can add an adrenalin rush to your visit by whizzing along six cables slung between ravines and treetops.
A day pass ($80 adult, $64 child) lets you partake of all activities; separately, one activity costs $40 adult ($32 child), two cost ($55 adults, $44 child).
In Costa Rica, nothing succeeds like success, and copy-cat versions are never far behind.
Hence, during my recent research trip for the latest, eighth edition, of Moon Costa Rica guidebook, I visited a similar property on the banks of the Río Tempisque, south of the hamlet of Puerto Humo, about 12 kilometers north of Barra Honda National Park.
Rancho Humo, an old ecolodge that lay abandoned for years, reopened in January 2011 and follows the model of El Viejo, with an excellent Visitor Center perched at the edge of wetland. It was still a work in progress during my visit in December 2010, but viewing scopes were in place for close-ups on roseate spoonbills picking among the reeds. It, too, has golf cart “eco-tours” along 14 kilometers of trails through its 1,093-hectare wetland and dry forest reserve. Howler and white-faced monkeys chatter and screech at your passing!
And to complete the triptych, Tempisque Safari Ecological Adventure, a few kilometers beyond Rancho Humo, is part wilderness reserve, part wildlife rescue and breeding center, and part zoo. Here, you get to stroke tame tapirs, even commune with tame jabiru storks. And peccaries, monkeys, snakes, plus jaguaris and other wild cats are among the animals displayed in cages. Opt for a cart tour (pulled by a waterfall buffalo) through the ranch property before exploring the Tempisque river by boat on a three-hour guided tour ($50 pp, minimum four people).
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
For further information about travel in Costa Rica, buy Moon Costa Rica
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal & Monteverde pocket guide.
Buy the Costa Rica ¡Pura Vida! travel app and get up to date tips and information on Costa Rica direct to your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. The Costa Rica ¡ Pura Vida! travel app shows you only the best of Costa Rica, from Arenal Volcano to zipline adventures, and regular updates ensure you the latest recommendations. Only $2.99!
And coming soon... the Moon Costa Rica travel app.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker