Costa Rica – March 2012

We just came back from a wonderful trip to Costa Rica.  Mike had a meeting in San Jose, so I flew down and met him at the end, and we went on a vacation. 

We decided to stay at one place this time – rather than trying to fit too many different places into too short a time.  We chose a small eco-lodge specializing in birding: Rancho Naturalista, about a two hour drive east of San Jose.  It was a wonderful place to stay – we walked all the trails, and saw beautiful landscapes and birds and flowers.  Mike worked on some writing projects, and I watched butterflies and photographed moths.   A perfect vacation for both of us!

I did several posts about our stay – so none of them would get too long.  The photos are a mix of mine and Mike’s.  He took most of the landscapes; I took most of the animal and plant pictures.

Here are links to the other posts:
Birds, Bugs, Frogs, Lizards and one Snake
Flowers and Butterflies

This first post is an introduction to the place and the landscape.

The first night we stayed at John and Kathy Erb’s house – Rancho Bajo – on the hillside below the main lodge.



A view across the valley through the mist.



The main lodge is on a mountainside, overlooking a long valley with farms and fields along the bottom and on the lower slopes of the hills, and jungle at the tops.  This is a view down the valley.


The road up to the lodge


This is the main part of the lodge – with the dining room and most of the guest rooms – including ours.


Some of the guest cabins


The back of the lodge – looking at the dining rooms and the shared balcony.  The private balcony for our room is on the far left – that’s where Mike sat with his computer – working on his projects and looking at the view.


Mike’s ‘office’ – a rocking chair with a place to rest his feet on the railing of the balcony, and a view of the valley.


The dining room


Vanessa – serving dinner.  The food was fabulous.


Sunset from the balcony


This is another of our favorite spots – a table where we could sit and check our email.  There’s a hummingbird feeder under the flowering vine, so the birds were constantly flying in and out.


Here I am – at that table – with a few folks, working on figuring out the ID of a butterfly.


A view across the valley


Mist in the valley


Above the lodge is a steep hillside with walking trails through thick jungle.  Some of the jungle is dark and old, with tall trees and many layers of plants growing on other plants.  Other areas are second growth – with shorter trees and more light.


We shared this part of the trail with a cow.


There was one place along the trail where the trees opened up so we could see across the valley.  That view changed every day – depending on the weather.

The fair weather view


This is more typical – mist on the mountaintops




All mist – no view at all


The longest trail went up to the top of a ridge where there was a lookout over an undeveloped valley.   That was our favorite walk.  We would walk up together in the morning, and Mike would leave me there to watch birds and butterflies while he walked back to work on his projects.

There was a small shelter, so I could stay protected from the sun or rain, and watch the view.


The view over the valley


Often there was mist in the valley


Toucans and parrots would fly over and land in the trees, and butterflies would fly from one side of the ridge to the other in the sun.

A White Crowned Parrot, sitting in one of the trees


A butterfly that came lick my ‘butterfly mix’ – a blend of bananas, brown sugar and rum that Lisa – the owner of the lodge – made up to attract butterflies.  This one is a White-spotted Prepona (Archaeoprepona amphimachus).  Its upper wings are black with brilliant green streaks.


Many of the butterflies have cryptic underwings – so they look like dead leaves.  But the tops of their wings are brilliant colors.  This is a Leafwing butterfly – Memphis beatrix – I think.  It sat working on the butterfly mix for several hours.  I only saw the tops of its wings when it finally flew.


Here its wings are slightly open.


And here its sitting on a leaf – it only opened up for a few seconds.