Costa Rica is located in Central America, between Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. It is becoming a Mecca for ecotourism, loosely defined as “come, look, see, experience, but don’t touch”. Respect us, so we can preserve the rewards of ecology for future generations of tourists and Costa Ricans to enjoy.
It is not an island, despite what you saw in Jurassic Park! Touring this mecca was a delight. The national motto: Pura Vida- pure life says it all. The tour guide was well informed, explained a lot to us with a passion that exudes the pride he takes in talking about his country. He was proud of their ecological practices and the results. They do not just preach ecology- they practice it. This is evident by the lush countryside, the preserved rainforests, the rich flora and fauna.
Exploring the city of San Jose was interesting. Feeling the pulse of Costa Ricans was not difficult.They are a warm, hospitable people, despite language barrier, waiters, vendors, taxi drivers, staff of other establishments and people on the streets were ready to help a stranger in need of direction or information. It is impressively clean. It was a pleasure to eat in a restaurant where there are no beggars nor pan- handlers. There is a strong middle class that drives the economy.
The country boasts of not having an army since 1948. This does not mean that there are no crimes. In San Jose, windows, gates and doors are surrounded with iron bars, On top of fences are barbed wires. At first, it was intimidating, giving the impression of high crime rate. After a few days, I have this thought that citizens take care of protecting themselves and their property… not leaving anything to chance or expect their government to provide this service. Walking in the shopping areas, I noticed women hang on to their purses- something most tourists are known to do.
There is something for everyone in the museums- be it in art, archeology, science or history. Their culture and history are well documented and preserved in their museums- where one can follow the history of this nation- from the Pre-Columbian time, the time of Spanish colonization and thereafter. The museums in San Jose are within walking distance from one another.
The Gold Museum, in downtown San Jose traces the indigenous settlements, how the different tribes lived, how they fought and lived. There was a distinction between the social classes. The Pre Columbian artifacts show how the Pre-Columbian people worked with gold, the various art work, the technology at the time, and the connections to their daily lives and their beliefs.
Earthquake Fault Lines and Volcanoes
On the way to the rainforest, the guide showed us the fault lines where the tectonic plates come into contact with one another, the mantle can be cracked or there is a fissure. Fault lines create quakes, the ground is constantly in a state of slow motion. The guide mentioned that there is frequent earthquake activity during the day, but of very low magnitude that it is hardly felt.
There are 112 volcanic formations in Costa Rica called Pacific Rim of Fire. Seven of them are considered active. Their activity is connected with fertile soils, which cover the majority of Costa Rica territory. The terrains around each Costa Rican volcanoes are under protection- many of them are within the national
One can appreciate the lush vegetation along the highway to the rainforest. Palm tree plantations dot the highway to Manuel Antonio National Park. There are extensive mangroves- very helpful roots that act as filter for debris thereby protecting the flora and roots of other trees nearby. Our tour guide stopped along the way for a leaf from a teak tree- rub the leaf between your fingers and you get a red stain coming out of the leaf.
This is used to make ink. Along this highway, branches are cut off from a tree and planted as fence- in time this branch grows to a tree. Once we reached the rainforest, it was a treat to be close to a sandy beach. Walking along the trail of the rainforest, the lush vegetation, fauna and flora are amazing.
Among the trees are a variety of monkey species, a variety of birds- I saw a beautiful ibis; a small iguana and more. It was interesting to see a sloth- an animal that hangs on to the branch and is too lazy to move. Ferns abound, bamboo trees along the trail and there was a big tree where ferns and other lilly- like plants are growing out of the branches- fascinating.
Exotic blooms abound in the garden tour- a wide variety of orchids, including the world’s smallest orchid, bromelia, birds of paradise and many, many other flowers.
There is some degree of deforestation to make room for housing development and agriculture. The few days I spent in this country was most refreshing and makes me believe that we can save our world if live by that credo and not just pay lip service to saving this earth.