Lapa Rios Costa Rican Rainforest Reserve
By : Cynthia La Grou
We recently had the amazing opportunity to visit the award-winning Lapa Rios Ecolodge and experience a once-in-a-lifetime rainforest adventure. The week-long digital detox (no Internet) was replaced not with silence, but was sensory rich and deeply connected to the abundance of nature. For the ears - sounds of screeching howler monkeys and a litany of biologically diverse creatures taking round the clock shifts to loudly present the listener with an ever changing rainforest symphony. (At first, howler monkeys sound like something out of a horrific zombie movie, but when you realize they are merely laughing at their own jokes - the sounds become less threatening.)

For the eyes - spectacular ocean views, dense jungles, majestic macaws, toucans, parrots, iguanas, whales, frogs - well over 20 varieties of exotic wildlife could be viewed during the course of a day. Animals and ocean views were a photographer paradise - we were also able to photograph over 30 varieties of mycelium while hiking through the rainforest.

And for the taste buds, of course, we dined on an incredible selection of locally grown and purchased food products that support local producers - then immediately hiked it all off while taking advantage of the many outings which include rich environmental education. All the guided tours in the Lapa Rios Reserve help to support the ongoing maintenance and pay back the land acquisition of the reserve. By choosing to hike and learn about the area with a knowledgeable local guide, guests help support the local economy and play a vital role in helping to preserve a rainforest, all while enjoying what the area has to offer.

The owners and managers of Lapa Rios have been committed to the nearby communities for over 20 years. There can be no true nature conservation without taking into consideration the local community and people. At Lapa Rios, they support local commerce and economies, and in their continued commitment to community, hire a year-round local workforce including top management positions.

Lapa Rios also works with Earth Equilibrium, a local 501c3 non-profit organization, inspiring and engaging others towards bold action and supporting projects that show that we can live harmoniously with our planet. They support the transforming power of education, the possibility of living more sustainably and the supportive role that travel philanthropy plays for a destination's community development and environmental conservation.

Lapa Rios has helped five Osa Peninsula Schools by building classrooms, dining rooms and supporting them with needed supplies. In 2013 they created projects that will support the educational needs of more than 120 children of Osa Peninsula.

In 2003 Lapa Rios became the first hotel in Costa Rica to receive five-leaf status from the Costa Rica Tourism Board's (ICT) Certification for Sustainable Tourism. Since its inception, sustainability has been a core value at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge.

For nearly two decades, they have been committed to conserving this incredible region and creating a sustainable property that protects over 1,000 acres of preserved rain forest on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. This is an area prized for its biodiversity, home to 2.5% of the world's biodiversity, many endangered species, and soon to be named World Heritage Site.

According to their website, "The Osa Peninsula , in southwestern Costa Rica, and its immediate surroundings, is indeed unique and priceless. The Peninsula contains the finest example of lowland tropical rainforest in Central America . It is estimated that at least 50% of Costa Rica 's species are found in the area."

● The Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park demonstrate a great number of endemic species and contain many representatives of South American species found nowhere else in Central America.
● It has been suggested that due to its climate, location, topography and great variety of ecosystems, the Osa Peninsula is particularly conducive to the development of new species.
● The area also includes important marine resources, notably the Golfo Dulce, one of only four fjords in the tropics worldwide. Recently, observers have discovered that the Golfo Dulce is a calving area for both northern and southern Pacific populations of Humpback whales, a circumstance unknown anywhere else.
● The Sierpe-Terraba Wetland, to the north of the Peninsula , is amongst the largest mangrove forests on the Pacific coast of Central America , and has been designated as a Ramsar site for the protection of aquatic birds.
● "Jaguars, monkeys, and other wildlife are unable to evade the sights of poachers in the Osa Peninsula , where they are threatening even the animals of the Corcovado National Park. Researchers, biologists, and park wardens are urging the Government to act. They are also requesting the aid of international organizations in order to halt the massacre in one of the areas with the largest biodiversity in Costa Rica, therefore in the world. Experts pointed out that the population of jaguars has decreased from 150 to 50 in the last eight years."

All the way around, Lapa Rios is a model ecotourism project, demonstrating land and wildlife preservation, investment in the local community, and support for local producers, all while providing environmental education for guests as well as economic and educational opportunities for their own community. Check out some of Lapa Rios prestigious AWARDS here.
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