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Location : 19 miles (30 km) S of Limón, 4 miles (7 km) N of Cahuita. Rates include full breakfast. Information / Reservations : telephone/fax (506)382-1335 (cellular phone).

Aviarios del Caribe is a labor of love for owners Luis and Judy Arroyo. Gracious hosts, they warmly share with guests their lives and their vision of humanity as caretaker of habitat and creatures. They have succeeded in having the island at the mouth of the Estrella River and the river delta declared a private wildlife refuge. Here are freshwater canals and lagoons, humid tropical forest, sandy beaches, and marshland, along with the forest and waterways. Its creatures are monkeys, sloths, river turtles, sea turtles, frogs, lizards, butterflies, and aquatic, arboreal, migratory and marine birds, plus birds of prey – 299 bird species so far. According to Luis, all six species of kingfishers found in Costa Rica are here, as well as white-collared manakins, migrating orioles and warblers, collared aracaris, toucans, and even the black-crowned night-heron, which nests here but is uncommon in the Caribbean lowlands.

On short, self-guided trails through forest next to the lodge, you’ll probably see a sloth. You’re sure to see one upstairs in the lodge – Buttercup has a private tree there, though she seems to prefer a corner of the soft couch. Judy nursed the injured baby three-toed sloth back to health after its mother was killed on the highway; the sloth is now 6 years old. Judy has an album she refers to as “Friends of Buttercup” – filled with photos taken by former guests who have sent pictures. Buttercup is now the star of a master’s thesis on vocalizations of female sloths and the responses of the males in and adjacent to her “territory”. People continue to bring injured animals to Aviarios, so there’s no telling what you’ll find when you arrive.

The lodge has six bedrooms, all downstairs. Rooms are large with queen- or king-size beds and floor fans; fresh flowers say welcome. A small gym is available. Upstairs are both indoor and outdoor dining areas and an inviting living area with a library and TV/VCR. Mystical sea horses live in a salt-water aquarium, along with anemones, shrimp, and other fantastic sea creatures. A few steps away on the outdoor deck, see colorful poison-dart frogs in glass tanks; the Arroyos are successfully breeding them. Benches at the deck’s rail are ideal for bird-watching; if you forget binoculars, a pair is there for you to use. Recently 51 species of birds, not including river birds, were sighted from this vantage point in a two-hour period, just in the yard and forest edge.

Take a night frog walk, headlamps provided. For off-site tours, talk to Brandon, who knows the Caribbean coast. He has a four-passenger vehicle or can accompany you in your car for trips to Hitoy-Cerere, Punta Uva, or Bribri and the iguana farm. Transport to Cahuita and back for dinner is. Getting there By bus : from San José, a Sixaola or Puerto Viejo de Limón bus passes the entrance; buses south from Limón pass by. By car : signs mark the entrance east off the main road between Limón and Cahuita, near the Estrella River.

Source: Costa Rica Adventures in Nature by Ree Strange Sheck, John Muir Publications, Santa Fee, New Mexico. 

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