Costa Rica Info Request

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BlackPearl
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Costa Rica Info Request

Post by BlackPearl » December 8th, 2014, 5:54 pm

Does anyone have any feedback they wouldn't mind sharing about Selva Verde Lodge?

I have quite a bit of experience in CR, but primarily in the Osa. Looking to try a new region.
It'll be a short trip, so I may not want to bounce around. I'm looking for a decent place with plenty of access to trails within walking distance of the property.

Thanks in advance...

John

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by cbernz » December 8th, 2014, 7:42 pm

Never been to Selva Verde, but I've been 3 times to La Selva Biological Station, which is in the same area. La Selva is slightly cheaper than Selva Verde - the accomodations are a bit more basic than many eco-resort-type places, but you have unlimited access to miles of trails right outside your door - more than you could possibly hope to cover in a short stay. The trails are well-marked with numbered posts that tell you the number of kilometers you are from the station, so it's really hard to get lost (to get home, just follow the numbers backwards). There are well-worn and paved trails through secondary forest close to the station, and progressively muddier and bumpier trails further out into the primary forest. Your stay includes 3 cafeteria meals, where you can chat and mingle with some of the scientists and researchers who live and work there, or if you want to take a longer hike, the cafeteria will pack a breakfast or lunch for you to go.

Sorry for totally not answering your question, but since you are looking to go to that area, I would consider La Selva as a possible alternative. I've heard good things about Selva Verde as well, and I'm sure you can find a lot of the same cool stuff there. No doubt someone here has been to both places.

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Schell
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by Schell » December 8th, 2014, 8:36 pm

Hi John,

I happened across your post by chance. I haven't been on the forum in a couple of year, but actually was in CR last month and spent a night at Selva Verde Lodge. We had intended on staying there three nights and left after one. The access to trails isn't stellar. There are some trails on the property, but most of their holdings are on the other side of the Sarapaqui River. It is an impressive piece of forest, but you can only access it via a hanging bridge, locked gate and paying $30/person for a guided tour with anywhere between 0-11 strangers.

If you're just looking for trails to wander, Selva Verde Lodge isn't it. We split and went to Monteverde and were glad we did. If you can find a researcher at La Selva that can take you out, I have no doubt that it would be a great experience, but if you can't there doesn't seem to be much to do.

I'm sure someone else can chime in. Perhaps we missed something - wouldn't be surprised.

Cheers,

Rob

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by cbernz » December 8th, 2014, 8:46 pm

Schell wrote:Hi John,

I happened across your post by chance. I haven't been on the forum in a couple of year, but actually was in CR last month and spent a night at Selva Verde Lodge. We had intended on staying there three nights and left after one. The access to trails isn't stellar. There are some trails on the property, but most of their holdings are on the other side of the Sarapaqui River. It is an impressive piece of forest, but you can only access it via a hanging bridge, locked gate and paying $30/person for a guided tour with anywhere between 0-11 strangers.

If you're just looking for trails to wander, Selva Verde Lodge isn't it. We split and went to Monteverde and were glad we did. If you can find a researcher at La Selva that can take you out, I have no doubt that it would be a great experience, but if you can't there doesn't seem to be much to do.

I'm sure someone else can chime in. Perhaps we missed something - wouldn't be surprised.

Cheers,

Rob
That is bogus that Selva Verde makes you pay for tours of their property. La Selva has a policy that day visitors can only access their forest with a paid guide, but if you stay at the station, you have unlimited access to the entire place. The place is crawling with herps and other animals, and you don't need anybody to show you around. Unless there was some drastic change in the three years since I've been there?

Here are some photos from two of my trips to La Selva. With the exception of the stuff we saw on a boat tour, everything here was found hiking trails on our own:

http://www.pbase.com/cbernz/costarica09
http://www.pbase.com/cbernz/laselva

BlackPearl
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by BlackPearl » December 8th, 2014, 8:49 pm

Thanks for the input guys. Rob- that was exactly the information I was looking for. I've heard of a few places being restrictive on self-guided hikes. Certainly not what I'm after!

I've had great experiences at Bosque del Cabo and Hacienda Baru as they have miles of easily-accessible trails.

Any other suggestions now that Selva Verde is out?

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MattSullivan
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by MattSullivan » December 8th, 2014, 8:56 pm

la selva biological research station (from what I've been told/read/etc) or costa rican amphibian research center (which I've been to) fit what you're looking for

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by yoloherper » December 9th, 2014, 12:09 am

To echo what cbernz said, stay at La Selva field station. It's been about 5 years since I was there but I doubt much has changed. Miles of trails that can be accessed with or without guides at whatever time of day is the biggest draw. Seems like a lot of ecotourism lodges in the tropics will restrict access to trails without guides/groups of other tourists which suckst when you're traveling from another continent and want to spend as much time herping/birding as possible. The facilities aren't first class (dorm style beds) but it's cheaper and I actually enjoyed the food. Also, the packed lunch option was great and the size of the reserve is big enough that you could hike way back into the primary forest for the whole day without seeing other people. The guides I had when I did hike with them were pretty knowledgeable as well (probably comes from spending so much time living alongside and helping the researchers), and the researchers themselves were more than willing to talk about their research or what they've been seeing around. I've been to a few other lodges/research stations in other parts of the American tropics since and La Selva is still my favorite.
-Elliot

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by Kfen » December 9th, 2014, 6:20 am

Unfortunately I do not have any experience with the places mentioned, but I do have a question. I thought I heard once that you cannot handle any animals at all (no posing etc) at La Selva. Is that true?

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by cbernz » December 9th, 2014, 10:27 am

Kfen wrote:Unfortunately I do not have any experience with the places mentioned, but I do have a question. I thought I heard once that you cannot handle any animals at all (no posing etc) at La Selva. Is that true?
I've never been bothered by anybody there about touching animals. I can't remember seeing any kind of rangers or anybody who would harrass you. There are groundskeepers who maintain the trails, and lots of researchers (many of whom are doing their own handling of animals), but no, I don't think handling is a problem. I would certainly ask permission before walking around with hooks and bags and stuff, though.

I would think that the main concern at any place like this is they don't want you getting bitten by a terciopelo.

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jason folt
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by jason folt » December 9th, 2014, 12:36 pm

I just spent a week at La Selva in June, and spent a few days back there in 2010. As mentioned it is essentially next to Selva Verde, and if my memory serves both connect to the Braullio Corrillo NP so are as remote as it gets. My experience seems to line up with everyone I have spoken with about the place, but I will be open that my brother was doing undergrad research there in 2010 and PhD research there for 9 or 10 months in 2014 and I visited him both times. Most of the information above seems to be in line with my experiences. I may have a strict sense of the rules due to my brothers affiliation. I have no affiliation personally, and anything on here may be wrong. Don't take it as gospel.

La Selva has a huge network of trails. You won't see a soul (or only in extremely rare circumstances) farther than 2ks out of the lab clearing. Tons of forest, habitat, and really stinking cool animals out there if you put in the miles. Even most of the researchers stay pretty close.

Tons of really cool stuff can be seen right in the lab clearing, the cafeteria. the bridges or the really close swamps for late nights/days when tired. Really nice chances for random stuff even when you think you are "done" for the day.

Guides/researchers might tell you where they saw stuff if you get to know them. The trails are all marked as mentioned, so it's tough to get lost and easy to find stuff near markers. Some researchers are cool if you aren't a tool, and will take you out with them. Let's be honest, lots of tool herpers though. Don't be that guy.

I think technically day use visitors have to be guided, but if you stay overnight you get a little more free reign. I think they do want you to do a day hike with them first to get the lay of the land.

You should remain on trail. There are tons of research projects and such going on. Don't mess with someones life project. If you leave the trail, your chance of getting lost shoots up. It is super easy to get turned around, lost, stuck in weather, hurt yourself, etc way out in the jungle if you leave the trail. Researchers carry radios for this reason, and some had to get "rescued" while I was there. It can get dangerous fast even though La Selva feels safe.

Don't harass, or bag animals. I would not be seen carrying a hook without a reason to be doing so. As a tourist, there probably aren't any good reasons. Again, you don't know if that animal is part of a study. I don't think they will crucify you for gently manipulating something for photos, but for sure no bagging or restraining.

There are areas that are strictly NO TOUCH. La Cantarana is a really cool ecological preserve swamp that is protected. You are not even allowed to conduct research at all in the swamp. No handling at all, for anyone. It is full of wildlife. You can pretty much always see a snake or three every night, as well as many species of frogs depending on their breeding cycles. There is a boardwalk through the swamp which provides ample chances for great photos without harassing or touching the animals. Don't be a douche and mess this up. When I was there people were clearly breaking this rule and catching stuff from the boardwalk. You can see all these animals in other places too.

Be safe. You probably won't see anyone out on the trails. There are tons of Bothrops everywhere. If you get bit, you are on your own. I would not hike alone for any reason. Don't mess with the Bothrops. If you get bit, you will ruin it for other tourists and I am sure this is why most places make you have guides now. Safety, safety and liability...

There are people out in the forest. Security/grounds crew are rounding 24 hours a day. There have been incidences with animal poachers and thieves sneaking around. More reason to not travel alone and be paranoid about locking your stuff up. While I say you won't see a soul out once you get a ways out there, don't assume you are alone.

The food and lodging is basic. But you have wifi, hot water and 3 square meals. In my opinion, for access to trails, really cool animals, and general bang for your buck, La Selva can't be beat. Take a friend, follow the rules and be safe. Man there are really cool animals out there... Also, meals are usually a good time. You can always find someone scientifically minded to talk herps, birds, mammals, trees, bugs, etc.

If you want to see pics from 2010, I have a few blog posts up from way back then. We did spend some time elsewhere first, and spent the last few days there. We both were NOOBs back then regarding Costa Rica. Brian has since been back multiple times per year and traveled to most of the country. Comparing his knowledge specifically regarding La Selva from 2010 to 2014 is laughable. That being said, almost every day in the field he was learning something new and seeing new animals. That place gives up it's secrets slowly.

2010
http://buckeyeherps.blogspot.com/2010/0 ... -last.html

I honestly haven't been able to write up 2014 yet. Hopefully, this will inspire me a bit to do so in the next few days. We saw a plenty of stuff we missed the first time.

I will also throw in a plug for CRARC. Technically, you go there for a guided hike on Brian's private reserve. We were just there for 1 night on this trip and so I don't know about exploration during the day or on your own. Brian is a great guide though with a real good eye and ear. We saw 50 or 60 species in a marathon 6 hour hike. He treated us very well and we learned a ton about some rare animals.

Jason

Lloyd Heilbrunn
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » December 9th, 2014, 1:42 pm

I stayed here http://www.chilamaterainforest.com/


Has own trails and close to La Selva too.

Very nice people as well.

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by cbernz » December 9th, 2014, 3:16 pm

Excellent post, Jason. You saw some pretty great stuff on your 2010 trip - can't wait to see what you got this year.
jason folt wrote:I think technically day use visitors have to be guided, but if you stay overnight you get a little more free reign. I think they do want you to do a day hike with them first to get the lay of the land.
When you check in as an overnight visitor, they give you a couple of simple maps, and they'll answer any questions you have, but you are pretty much on your own. They do, however, include a complimentary guided tour with the room. I've taken the tours a few times - they vary depending on the guide you get. Some guides will talk for a bit, and then go around showing you animals, and some guides will stand and talk for a long time about natural history while you fidget impatiently, waiting to hit the trail running. The tour is only a couple hours, and it's probably worthwhile for a first time visitor, but if you blow it off they aren't going to care.

It's a very long hike from La Selva into Braulio Carillio, but it's a fairly short drive to the HQ, where you can walk the trails (daylight hours only) in a totally different elevational zone for 8 or 10 bucks. I haven't found it to be as herpy as La Selva, but there are some neat birds and other things there, and it is a change of habitat.

Another place I really like that isn't too far from San Jose is Rancho Naturalista. This is a more expensive, more upscale eco-lodge in some primo middle-elevation havitat. The owners are very friendly (invited us to eat with them in their own house, I think they are from California), the food is great, they have excellent hummingbird feeders, a mercury vapor light setup that attracts hordes of spectacular moths at night, and some pretty neat herps, like Anotheca spinosa (which we found) and one of the Atropoides vipers (forget which one, and we missed seeing one by a few hours).

I'll plug CRARC as well. My visit there was one of the highlights of my life - we had something like 35 species of frogs in 2 nights, including 7 glass frogs. Brian makes his living on his tours, and they aren't cheap, but he is worth every damned penny if you ask me - and he's a high-octane, highly tuned guide with nearly comprehensive knowledge of his subject, which is to be frank kind of a rarity in Costa Rica (in my experience). The thing is, he doesn't really want people wandering his property by themselves, and potentially messing with the many projects he has going on in his forest. The ideal think to do if you go to CRARC would be to sign up for a couple night hikes with Brian, and find some other place locally to explore during the day.

Oh man, I could talk about Costa Rica all day!

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by BlackPearl » December 14th, 2014, 3:47 pm

Thanks for all the help guys. I want to split my time between two spots. I think we'll do La Selva Bio Station for one, but I'm still open for the other. For the second spot, I'd be looking for something more upscale. Not a high-end resort by any stretch, but more of an eco-lodge with bungalows etc with private trails that I'd have access to. Geographically, I'd want to stick to places within a couple hours of La Selva. I'm ruling out the Arenal area as I want to go somewhere I haven't been before. Sounds like Rancho Naturalista might fit that bill. How about the Tortuguero area?

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by chrisr » December 18th, 2014, 6:37 am

I'll put in a plug for the CRARC as well. I was not there during a particularly productive time of year for herps and found lots of amazing animals. Brian is incredibly knowledgeable with an uncanny ability to spot target animals at night. I will definitely return to his facility at some point.

Cbernz- what time of year were you at the CRARC?

This thread is great info for me because I haven't been to any of the other spots mentioned except a brief visit to La Selva. I am close to drooling thinking about my next trip to Costa Rica...

Here is a sampling of a day spent at the CRARC last January:

- Chris

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by cbernz » December 18th, 2014, 7:01 am

I was there in mid-August 2011. We saw 6 species of glass frogs (and heard a 7th), 5 species of dart frogs, 5 leaf frogs, massive breeding congregations of treefrogs, Anotheca spinosa, a bunch of different Eleutherodactylids - it was incredible.

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » December 18th, 2014, 10:09 pm

BlackPearl wrote:Thanks for all the help guys. I want to split my time between two spots. I think we'll do La Selva Bio Station for one, but I'm still open for the other. For the second spot, I'd be looking for something more upscale. Not a high-end resort by any stretch, but more of an eco-lodge with bungalows etc with private trails that I'd have access to. Geographically, I'd want to stick to places within a couple hours of La Selva. I'm ruling out the Arenal area as I want to go somewhere I haven't been before. Sounds like Rancho Naturalista might fit that bill. How about the Tortuguero area?
These were nice, got room with a/c. Lots of Eyelash vipers in the Park!

http://magellaninn.com/rooms/the-hotel.html

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by BlackPearl » December 19th, 2014, 7:18 pm

Lloyd,

Looks good. Can you tell me more? Specifically interested in how far the park/jungle access is from the inn?

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by Rags » December 20th, 2014, 1:09 am

If you are looking for a second stop off I would also lean towards Cahuita. We stayed at Cabinas Iguana which is a pleasant, short walk along the coast from the town and park. Comfortable lodges, pool, wildlife in the grounds (Oropel, sloth, Kinkajou, D.auratus, iguanas). Along the same lane is a little cafe that does good breakfast and has internet. Best of all, on the beach end of the lane is the 'Reggae Bar', every Sunday a live band playing great music - the bar is raised slightly off the sand and the whole place really does dance with the music.

Otherwise, how about Hacienda Baru near Dominical. Nice trails around the grounds with fine wildlife.

Lots of great choices in Central America.

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by BlackPearl » December 20th, 2014, 12:05 pm

Thanks again everyone!

Does anyone have input about the difference between Cahuita park and Manzanillo park from a species diversity standpoint? I've heard here are tons of Bothriechis in either spot.

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » December 20th, 2014, 10:21 pm

BlackPearl wrote:Lloyd,

Looks good. Can you tell me more? Specifically interested in how far the park/jungle access is from the inn?

It's been a couple of years, but I'm thinking 5 minute drive to Park entrance.

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by jason folt » February 15th, 2015, 10:11 pm

Finally finished my write up for 2014 for those interested. Sorry I don't have time for separate FHF post. Just sharing it as I mentioned I would.

Costa Rica 2014

Jason

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Re: Costa Rica Info Request

Post by cbernz » February 16th, 2015, 4:02 pm

jason folt wrote:Finally finished my write up for 2014 for those interested. Sorry I don't have time for separate FHF post. Just sharing it as I mentioned I would.

Costa Rica 2014

Jason
Awesome. My favorite is definitely the Isthmohyla lancasteri, but I also love the Hyloscirtus palmeri and the nicely striped C. noblei. It's amazing how some animals can be very common at certain times and absent at others. In three trips to La Selva, I've never seen C. talamancae or P. cruentus, but I'm often tripping over C. megacephalus. Also mega-jealous of the N. rugosus and the Swamp Snake!

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