The leap of the poison arrow frog (also known as the "blue jeans" frog), the stunning colors of toucans, the distinctive songs of trogons, the tenderness of a female sloth with its baby, the attractive textures of iguanas, the sounds of howler monkeys, all surrounded by beautiful tropical trees like the sura, hawk, cecropia, and almond tree (where the endangered green macaw feeds and nests) can be found at La Selva Biological Station.
La Selva Biological Station
La Selva is located only 10 minutes away from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, a small but active town whose residents work mainly in banana or heart of palm plantations, cattle, tourism and commerce. To reach the area, visitors must drive through the Braulio Carrillo National Park, an amazing natural reserve which exhibits the power of the tropical rain forest. La Selva is linked to Braulio Carrillo National Park by a natural corridor, which allows the migration of all kinds of species from the lowlands to higher areas in search for food or nesting places. The trip from San Jose to La Selva last about one hour and a half through paved roads.
La Selva Biological Station is an internationally renowned research center in which 250 scientists from around the world study the dynamics of nature every year. So far, more than 170 thesis have been produced and over 2.000 articles published on research and studies carried out at La Selva. This site also receives groups of students from elementary and high school, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, the Station hosts hundreds of nature lovers each year who look for a peaceful place to admire the wonders of the tropical rain forest.
The Station is comprised of 1.516 ha (3.746 acres) of primary and secondary forest in which 120 especies of mammals live (including 70 especies of bats). Some of the mammals that are frequently seen include peccaries, agoutis, sloths, howler and spider monkeys. Visitors can also spot some of the five species of felines that live at La Selva, as well as 49 species of amphibians, 56 of snakes and 500 of butterflies. The diversity of flora is also significant, including approximately 350 trees and thousands of plants. About 100 species of trees are found in a typical 1-hectare (2.5 acres) area in the reserveâs old growth forest, compared with a dozen or fewer species in a temperate forest. La Selva is particularly rich in the orchid, philodendron, coffee and legume families.
This reserve is also a favorite place for birdwatchers because almost half of the 850 species of birds of Costa Rica can be observed at La Selva. Birds are easily spotted, even before crossing the suspension bridge over the Puerto Viejo River, which separates some of the Station´s buildings and the forest. Some examples are White-crowned parrots, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Red-footed Plumeleteer, Shining Honeycreeper, Chestnut-mandibled, Keel-billed toucans, and Short-billed Pigeons.
La Selva Biological Station
La Selva has 57 km (more than 35 miles) of well maintained trails, some of which are accessible to the physically challenged, offering visitors excellent facilities to explore the tropical rain forest and its secrets. Half day guided walks led by excellent bilingual naturalists are offered at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Full-day guided walks can also be arranged.
Overnight facilities are also available for those nature lovers who wish to enjoy more time at this beautiful site. Accommodations are dormitory style, rustic but cozy, with shared bathrooms. Hearty, delicious meals are served in a spacious dining hall and people can also request a box lunch to enjoy it in the forest. Overnight rates include three meals per day, one half day guided walk and taxes.
This unique site is owned by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), a non-for-profit consortium of 58 universities and research institutions from the United States, Latin America and Australia. OTS was founded in 1963 to promote education, research and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics.
OTS operates La Selva and other two biological stations in Costa Rica (Palo Verde and Las Cruces & Wilson Botanical Garden) in partnership with ESINTRO S.A. Palo Verde is located inside the national park with the same name in Bagaces, Guanacaste and it is well-known for its wetlands, water fowl and for having some of the last remnants of tropical dry forest in Mesoamerica. Las Cruces, located in San Vito de Coto Brus, includes the famous Wilson Botanical Garden, 10 hectares (25 acres) of beautiful gardens cultivated with gingers, bromeliads, heliconias, lilies, bamboo, palms, and more. All incomes received through visits contribute to OTS´mission.
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui offers other attractive activities like white water rafting, boat rides in the Sarapiqui River, restaurants, and more. After visiting La Selva, for example, you can choose to take an unforgettable guided walk through wonderful gardens where you will see amazing tropical flowers. Other places offer butterfly and frogs gardens where visitors can learn more about the magnificence of nature in the tropics.
You can also spend a calm afternoon in the Sarapiqui River and search for mother and baby sloth, shining iguanas, or clownish monkeys, all of which live in the trees whose roots hang in the river's banks. Horse back riding trips are also a common activity in Sarapiqui.