Once ruled by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, Costa Rica today evokes thoughts of lush, emerald rainforests, lofty, mist-capped mountains, and a bounty of some of the earth’s rarest and most fascinating wildlife. Travel from plunging river valleys to some of Central America’s most beautiful beaches to the cool-weather mountains in a matter of hours, creating an array of options across a swath of biologically diverse landscapes. From charming, colorful towns to volcanic landscapes and grounds scattered with nesting turtles, Costa Rica will rattle your senses in the most enchanting way.
Visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center Foundation in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is an essential experience for anyone wanting to support the basic foundation of eco-tourism. Offering wildlife rescue services and a center, visitors can explore the trusted facility knowing animals aren’t used as entertainment but as an educational tool while being properly cared for and released back into the wild. Dedicated to the rehabilitation of orphaned, mistreated, confiscated and injured animals with the sole mission to rehabilitate and return animals to their natural habitats, the husband and wife duo who founded the center were moved to open it after receiving an infant jaguar whose mother was believed to have killed two goats on a local farm and was killed. Meet jaguars, ocelots, sloths, howler monkey, exotic birds, and many other native wildlife recuperating at the center.
Smack dab in the center of two magnificent cloud forest reserves are the bordering towns of Santa Elena and Monteverde, front-runners in Costa Rica’s still-growing eco-tourism movement and an area attracting all backgrounds and social statuses, from wealthy retirees to low-budget hippies. There’s a fine balance here between the growing industry and natural backdrop yet a visit is still well worth the time. Approaching from main highway, most reach Santa Elena first, a flourishing town filled with attractions, restaurants, and low-cost hotels. On the west side, head down the dramatic stretch of (and heavily pot-holed) road toward Monterverde Reserva but not before exploring Cerro Plano neighborhood with its enchanting shops–Santa Elena is the preferred base from which to explore both cloud forests. Within the reserves, explore lush, virgin forests, see endangered birds, ride horseback, and absorb resplendent views from the continental divide.
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