Article first appeared on Ocean.com. Reprinted with permission from Michael Hanrahan.
Our blue panga sped across the clear, Pacific waters toward the tiny, green island of Cano just off the south coast of Costa Rica. Each of the panga's occupants was grinning enormous smiles at the beauty unfolding before them. Though it was just after nine in the morning, the sun was already high and hot and we had just enjoyed our first visit from friendly Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphins.
I smiled at the perfection of the moment and appreciated its fleeting nature. I knew in my mind that soon I would return home and leave this incredible place, this great nation behind. But not yet…
I had traveled to Costa Rica on assignment, looking to tell the story of its natural beauty as it could be found in one eco-resort. Arriving in this special place at a time of great uncertainty and hawkish saber-rattling in the U.S., the opportunity to return to Costa Rica (I had been once before, 10 years prior, backpacking through the cloud forests of La Selva with a Tropical Field Ecology class from the University of Miami) was a welcome break from the troubling times leading up to the war in Iraq.
My assignment was simple: travel to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, near the small village of Uvita, and relate the story behind one of the very best kept secrets in a country full of fantastic natural secrets.
This secret is the exquisite beauty and simplicity that is La Cusinga Lodge on the Finca de Tres Hermanas property.
There is much about La Cusinga that is spectacular, truly a 'must see' destination in a country filled with unparalleled beauty. The main lodge sits atop a coastal hill surrounded on all sides by lush, tropical forest. Its green tile roof can be seen peeking above the canopy of trees from the water. But it is the view from La Cusinga that is most impressive. From the honeycomb shaped patio, you can see 180 degrees of unaltered natural beauty framed by the welcoming, blue water of the sea.
Gentle waves lap against the shores of Isla Ballena, the largest in the chain of sea rocks just offshore from La Cusinga. Isla Ballena is a breeding site for magnificent frigate birds. On any given day you can see several dozen birds circling high above the little island while others stand perched with extended wings waiting for the tropical breeze to dry them. Large brown pelicans glide past gracefully, sometimes diving head first into the calm water in search of food. There is even a resident pod of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that patrol the bay just down the hill where we sleep each calm, clear night.
As I look out on this scene I feel the most profound sense of tranquility. Everything seems to be in balance here. There really need to be more places like La Cusinga in the world: it's that special.
And I'm not alone in my appreciation for the beauty here. In 1989, after a family trip to the area, Oscar Arias--the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Costa Rica--decided to create Ballena National Marine Park, the first marine park in Latin America. Sitting just offshore from the main lodge, this park protects important habitats such as sandy and rocky beaches, estuaries, mangroves, islands, rocky shoals, coral reefs. The plants and animals which inhabit the park are as rare as they are beautiful, making for a wildlife experience you will remember forever.
One of the most famed visitors to the park and the reason for its name is the Humpback Whale. Each year these whales migrate to the warm tropical waters of Costa Rica to mate and give birth. Costa Rica's Pacific coastline is the only known area in the world where you can see Humpbacks from both the northern and southern hemispheres. These animals are truly awe-inspiring. At nearly 45 feet in length and weighing more than 40 tons, even the most jaded adventurer is impressed alongside their majesty.
As I sat and enjoyed my coffee early in the morning, I could see the wisps of atomized water growing from the backs of these great whales as they exhaled just a few hundred feet offshore. From the patio of La Cusinga, one can go whale watching!
La Cusinga: A True EcoLodge
La Cusinga is the eco-lodge located on Finca Tres Hermanas- a private reserve consisting mostly of virgin rainforest. Other sections of the reserve have been reforested using mainly native species, while others are still utilized as pastures and orchards. The owners of the finca are involved in environmental education, conservation, and experimenting in tropical sustainable agriculture, human habitation and architecture. Every room has been hand crafted by "Carlos", a life long resident of Finca Tres Hermanas. Much of the delicious food you will enjoy at the lodge is grown on their organic farm and you can definitely taste the difference. Rita (Carlos's wife) is the lodge's truly talented chef.
La Cusinga generates much of what little electricity it requires via its own hydroelectric and solar panel production facilities. Their power supply comes from the sun and a nearby stream! And the drinking water comes from a naturally occurring spring located in the mountain just above the lodge. They have no telephones, televisions, microwaves or alarm clocks.
A three-night stay at La Cusinga is a highlight of Adventure Life's 10-day Adventure Pacifica tour. Whitewater, wildlife, beaches, and jungle combine to make this our most complete Costa Rica exploration. Contact us for more information on how to travel to La Cusinga with Adventure Life Journeys!