Why did you go to Costa Rica? My work sent me. That is the short answer; the longer version is that my employer is pretty amazing and far-sighted, and they have long believed that a significant opportunity to learn about biodiversity, tropical agriculture, and just plain relaxing and rejuvenating is a worthy investment for their employees. People who have worked there for a certain amount of time get a chance to partake in this incredible gift of a trip.
What was the weather like? We had sunny or at least clear mornings, and mostly rainy afternoons that included one thundery evening. September is the beginning of the "green season" (rain), but this meant lush vegetation and high waters, perfect for our rainforest walks and river tour. It was not super humid either—when it started to get muggy, it would rain and then feel all fresh again.
Were there bugs? Not really, not like I'd pictured. I wore bug spray with 15% DEET every day—morning and night. But there are more mosquitoes buzzing around on a Vermont evening than I ever saw/heard in Costa Rica. My companions got some bites, but I did not even see one mosquito. Other bugs included tiny creatures (ants?) that start forming a line to the sugar spoon if you leave it on a surface for too long. We also saw a large bullet ant in the rainforest (under the safe supervision of our guide). Oh, and we HEARD bugs all the time, very loudly. Cicadas I guess? (It was hard to tell sometimes who was making the racket—geckos are also pretty noisy I learned.)
Is Costa Rica near the equator? The capital of Costa Rica, San José, is about 700 miles north of the equator. We were a bit north of that near Arenal volcano. It's near enough that dawn and dusk were about equivalently 12 hours apart—it got light around 6am and dark around 6pm. That was a little different from home at this time of year, but not much (being equinoctial September).
How long was the trip? I calculated it took about 17 hours to get to our destination, and about 20 hours to get back. This may have involved headwinds and/or layovers and/or meals taken en route, I don't know. We flew on Delta and connected from Bradley/Hartford through Atlanta and on to San Jose. The first flight was over 2 hours and the next over 4 hours, and then we had a 2.5 hour ride to our final destination, the AMAZING eco-lodge Finca Luna Nueva.
Where did you stay? Let me tell you... or show you... the paradise that is Finca Luna Nueva.
Finca Luna Nueva is a model farm that is certified Biodynamic. They aim to educate leaders and students from around the globe in organic, biodynamic, regenerative agriculture.
This is the reception area of the lodge where we first arrived, with viewing tower behind.
Looking back down at the main buildings from the top of the tower.
The main building of the lodge has several rooms and a central area. The men of our group stayed here, and the women stayed in two bungalows elsewhere. (The M:F ratio was 2:9)
The gorgeous ozonated pool with Brugmansia shrub on the right (highly hallucinogenic flowers).
One of the trumpet-like flowers in its full nighttime glory. They smell incredible.
My favorite scent memory of the trip, this is ornamental ginger that perfumes the air in every direction.
Just your average flowers in paradise
Sunset scene from the tower
Dawn from the tower on our last morning
If you want to hike through the rainforest, you have to wear boots!
The farm's Cabalonga trail is about an hour's leisurely walk (1.5 miles-ish)
This is cacao, the flowers & pods grow right off the trunk of the tree
I was fascinated by the bromeliads and epiphytes in the middle canopy, that capture nutrients and water for their tree hosts and other creatures. No space is wasted in the rainforest.
Heliconia, a flower evolved to attract hummingbirds.
Too far into the rainforest? Just take the emergency exit.
This tree is the Walking Palm that has roots above-ground. If the palm is not getting the light it needs it will sidle off until it finds a good spot. Fascinating! On the right is our beloved guide.
Rainforest scene with palms and heliconia
The Cabalonga trail ends back on the farm amongst banana trees...
And coconut trees...
And rambutan trees. We all learned to peel and adore rambutan fruit on the trip.
On another day we had a fantastic farm tour, including a Turmeric digging experience. Turmeric is incredibly important at my work, so it was super-cool to get to meet her in person.
Turmeric plant & rhizome
Freshly harvested Turmeric. We wiped off pieces and chewed them right in the field, taking pictures of our saffron-colored tongues.
The farm's co-owner invited us to his home later in the day for a special Turmeric drink. The recipe is a secret. All I can say is pineapple may also have been involved.
A seed saving garden is also on the property and part of our tour. Our guide showed us all kinds of medicinal plants and we smelled and tasted many things. Wave of the future: Meringa. (I don't know what that is, but you heard it here.)
The giant bamboo was my favorite part of the garden. It's hard to see the scale here, but it was truly majestic. We just turned a corner and there were these enormous bamboo stands, about 60 feet high.
Trying to show the scale with people alongside--not working.
On the biodynamic farm tour, given by the two long-time owners and totally fascinating, we got to see ripe cacao and even taste some of the slimy, bitter seeds inside. (I liked them!)
Evidence of biodynamics, the cow horns where the preparations are placed and then transferred to the soil. Learn more about the movement, its standards, and healing the world through agriculture at Demeter USA
And then there was the food! This is still ALL at Finca Luna Nueva lodge! The restaurant was open-air, open for 3 meals a day, and the food was delectable.
See those lentils on the right? Those are the best lentils I've ever had in my life. Everything was imbued with layers of flavor. Spices, herbs, dressings—it all looked simple, but so much went into every dish. This plate also includes a toothsome pulled chicken dish, salad and beans.
A farm intern made a wood-fired pizza oven as a project, and the restaurant fired it up on our last night there.
I ordered the vegetarian pizza, THICK with veggies.
One blissful afternoon the restaurant had a milk crate of fresh coconuts prepared for us—we'd ask for one and they would hammer in a small hole, pop in a straw, and hand it over. Heaven.
These dressing bottles were always on the table. Look at all of that Turmeric powder!! There was also a warm, lighted drawer where they kept the salt and pepper—I think otherwise it would clump up and be unpourable in the damp.
There were rice & beans and also fruit with most meals—like this typical breakfast.
One of our dinners—in the back is Brazilian spinach, a small-leaved and slightly piquant green grown on the farm. At the top are yucca chips, which we had often here and at other restaurants. There's also rice, a salad that's not lettuce but something more substantial and almost kale-like, a delightful green goddess type dressing, and crispy chicken with a ginger sauce. So good. SO GOOD!
Have you been to Costa Rica or Central America? I want to go back!! Stay tuned for Part 2: "Animals & Adventures."