Friday, March 25, 2016

Costa Rica - Lapa Rios

Our last few days in Costa Rica we splurged and stayed at the Lapa Rios Eco Lodge. Although it’s expensive (and all inclusive), don’t worry, Shelley and I aren’t getting soft :-) They didn’t even have air conditioning. As they say in real estate, location, location, location. Lapa Rios is a 1000 acre private nature reserve next to Corcovado National Park, on the Osa peninsula in south west Costa Rica. It is situated on the top of a ridge with fantastic views out over the forest and to the ocean on both sides of the peninsula. It is an amazing place to see wildlife and they try hard to be sustainable and to minimize their environmental impact (unlike most resorts). Most of the guests were there for the wildlife. There were a few people who seemed to be there solely to lie by the pool, but if that’s all you’re interested in, there are a lot easier (and cheaper) places to go.


Driving to the resort, Shelley suddenly stopped the car when she spotted monkeys in the trees beside the road. We always enjoy watching the monkeys in zoos, but seeing them in the wild is so much better. Their acrobatic maneuvers are amazing!

Squirrel monkeys

That was our first clue that we were going to have a great time at the resort. Without leaving the lodge area we saw toucans, scarlet macaws, monkeys, agoutis (like giant guinea pigs), coatis (like raccoons), lizards, and colorful poison dart frogs. We were serenaded in the evenings and (early!) mornings by the unearthly monster calls of the (male) howler monkeys.

Black-mandibled Toucan

Our room/cabin was simple but nice. It was screened on three sides with a large outside deck that looked out over the forest to the ocean. In the mornings we could watch monkeys in the trees. We even had an outside shower (in addition to an indoor one) as long as you didn’t mind the toucans watching you :-) With the heat and 100% humidity, a cool shower was the next best thing to air conditioning! (There was solar heated hot water, but I doubt it saw much use.)

sunrise from our room

Guided nature hikes are included and we went on several each day. There were also trails that you could hike on your own, which we also took advantage of. But in the thick rainforest, the guides were much better at finding the wildlife (especially the birds) than we were.

view from Lapa Rios

The first morning we went on the sunrise hike. While we were waiting for the hike to start a group of lively squirrel monkeys visited the tree right beside the restaurant deck. They were close enough that you could have reached out and touched them. That is, if they sat still long enough for that!

Squirrel monkey

By the end of our visit we had seen all four kinds of monkeys found here - squirrel (above), spider, howler, and white-faced capuchin.

Spider monkeys

Mantled Howler monkey

White-throated Capuchin monkey

We really enjoyed the night hike. Most of the hikes (and guests) are bird oriented, whereas I’m just as interested in snakes, lizards, frogs, and insects, which are more the emphasis after dark. Our guide also pointed out the bats that “hung out” over the path to the pool, which I’m sure most people (including us) were unaware of.


This was the first trip that I'd seen scorpions.


We also saw these Tailless Whip-scorpions, which are neither scorpions nor spiders. As arachnids, they have eight legs, but one pair of "legs" has evolved into sensory organs and are not used for walking.

Tailless Whip-scorpion

We even saw an armadillo. (They’re also found in the US but I’d never seen one in the wild.)


We went out early one morning (the coolest time) walking on the trails by ourselves. We saw several poison dart frogs, including the common black and green ones, and one Golfo Dulce that is only found in this area.

Golfo Dulce dart frog

By the streams we saw several Basilisk lizards. (Also known as "Jesus" lizards since they can walk/run on water.)

Basilisk lizard (male)

We saw agoutis (like giant guinea pigs) and coatis (like raccoons) a number of times, including within the lodge complex.


White-nosed Coatimundi

We loved our stay at Lapa Rios and would recommend it highly (if you like wildlife). The only minor weakness was the restaurant. Service at Lapa Rios was great in most respects. When we arrived, and after hikes, they greeted us with cold facecloths and drinks. But the restaurant staff didn’t seem to grasp that when someone comes in and sits down that you should go over and see what they would like. Sometimes they’d come over and ask how our hike was and then forget to ask what we wanted to order. And although they had a separate vegetarian and gluten free menu, the selection was limited and the food wasn’t exciting. But that’s minor, and as vegetarians, we don’t expect too much.

As you can imagine, I took a ton of photos. Some of them aren't very good technically but I'm sharing them anyway because of the interesting subjects. I missed having my long telephoto but, as usual, the 18-300 did a great job as a multipurpose travel lens. A number of the shots are quite noisy (grainy) but considering they were shot at ISO 25,600 it's amazing they came out at all.

For (many) more photos see all 79 as a slideshow or overview

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