In Costa Rica, every single trail will lead you to a tropical adventure. With crater lakes, undisturbed beaches, rainforests and diverse wildlife, the country is a haven for nature lovers and thrill seekers.
The Sarapiqui region in the northern lowlands of Costa Rica is not among popular tourist destinations in the country. The region features large rivers, which converge in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, the largest town in the area. A lush tropical jungle surrounds the rivers. Here, scientists and students across the world come over to conduct environmental research on its diverse flora and fauna. But the reserve has more to offer than studying about the elements and creatures that call the humid forest home. The wealth of biodiversity in the Sarapiqui region makes it an idyllic spot for nature lovers.
Right outside Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui is a small town known as Tirimbina. Tirimbina Rainforest Center is an internationally renowned private wildlife reserve that operates as an education, research, and eco-tourism centre. With over 345 hectares of protected tropical forest, the land hosts an extensive array of diverse ecosystems.
Avid birdwatchers will definitely find it enjoyable to visit Tirimbina. The jungle serves as home to an impressive amount of 300 bird species including White-necked Puffbird, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Broad-billed Mot Mots, Blue-gray Tanagers, and Golden Wing Warbler.
In addition, around 50 species of reptiles, 95 species of mammals, and 43 species of amphibian have been identified in the reserve.
The non-profit organisation behind the reserve is committed to delivering environmental education to the local community, international students as well as eco-tourists.
The reserve features more than nine kilometers of hiking trails nestled in the lush flora and inhabited by diverse wildlife. Travellers can enjoy great views of different habitats including cacao wetlands, riverbanks, rainforest, and cacao plantations.
There are remarkable suspension bridges all around the reserve too and one will be remiss not to explore them. One hanging bridge stretches about 860 feet long above the raging Sarapiqui River. There is also the ‘canopy bridge’ that provides an exhilarating view of the primary forest.
You can take guided tours or explore on your own. Among the advantages of having a naturalist guide is learning about the conservation and sustainability efforts of the organisation whilst exploring the reserve.
Meanwhile, you can also set your own pace by taking on a self-guided hike through the dense forest. If you are taking this route of discovery, make sure to get a map that details important information about the trails as well as key safety instructions about exploring the forest.
The trails are well maintained, fairly easy and can be a fun activity for the entire family.
The tour gives visitors a glimpse of how the cacao fruit is transformed into one of the mankind’s favourite food—chocolate. The hiking tour, led by an expert guide, goes across the suspension bridge to a former cacao-growing plot.
Decades ago, the main purpose of the land is for research. But it currently serves as a means for environmental education. While hiking, the guide will talk about the natural history of cacao tree as well as the artisanal process of chocolate making.
The best part is that travellers can try different kinds of organic chocolate freshly prepared the traditional way. Whether you are a conscious consumer is concerned about where your food comes from or simply a chocolate lover, this few hours tour is perfect for you.
The Tirimbina Lodge, nestled within the reserve, offers tourists pretty much everything they can look for in a simple accommodation. There are 15 rooms with air conditioning, private bathroom, hot water, wi-fi connection, parking area, dining options, mini library, meeting room, and laundry facilities. The lodge offers two types of rooms for guests who are non-researchers. The deluxe rooms make for a more comfortable stay than the standard rooms. Those with a reservation enjoy free access to the hiking trails and a very homey breakfast the next morning.
Travellers who have a heart for adventure and are looking to have a closer contact with nature can opt to stay at Field Station. The guests can easily visit Tirimbina’s splendid forests. Located 7 kilometers away from the La Virgen center, the accommodation is both accessible by hiking or driving through an unpaved road. The hike usually takes 60 minutes from the main offices. The Field Station can house up to 35 individuals in a bunk style rooming. There is also a full bath with shower, dining area, an equipped kitchen, and solar powered electricity.
Charles is a world traveler having lived in 44 states and 11 countries and traveled to dozens more. He and his wife spend time between London, Ireland, Canada, and the Philippines.