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Location : 8 miles (12 km) S of La Fortuna. Information / Reservations : (506) 239-1164, fax (506) 239-1311; e-mail; Web site Contact with hotel by radio.

Where else can you awaken to a morning greeting from two collared aracaris pecking at the window ? Bosques de Chachagua in the Tilarán Mountains offers an unforgettable experience in a tropical paradise.

In the 10-minute dirt-road drive up from the paved highway, you move from the workaday world to a rain-forest hideaway which, in some wondrous ways, helps put that other world in better perspective. The 23 attractive individual bungalows of the Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel offer creature comforts : broad wooden-plank walls and polished hardwood floors harmonize with the soft colors of comforters and matching grapes; a ceiling fan, big dresser and mirror, two queen beds, reading lamps, artwork, and flower arrangements of heliconia, anthurium, and varicolored tropical leaves complete the picture. Wood and glass doors open onto a generous terrace with benches and chairs. The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the bathrooms, as large as some hotel rooms. Bilevel, each one has two small garden areas, mirrored windows providing privacy and a view of the outdoors at the same time, and an open, chest-high shower. Wood and cement walkways lead from bungalows across a stream to the reception area, a natural swimming pool, outdoor rancho/bar, and the open-air dining room, a tablecloth place with excellent service by friendly staff.

Meals are delicious. You may find owner Carlos Salazar in the kitchen adding his special touches, especially at breakfast. Some of the food served is grown here : pineapple, papaya, yucca, squash, and black beans. Beef, poultry (despite an ocelot’s interest in the chicken population), eggs, milk and cheese are also produced on the ranch. Dining was embellished one morning with a flight overhead of at least 60 red-lored parrots. An anteater appears more often than not at 8 a.m. The resident scarlet macaw, who hangs out at the dining room, may deign to speak to you.

Chachacua is an almost-250-acre (100-ha) ranch with a glorious rain forest. The magic of the contiguous International Children’s Rain Forest spills over into this rich reserve. Trails go to small waterfalls, along rivers, and through forest inhabited by sloths, white-faced and howler monkeys, keel-billed toucans, blue morpho butterflies, and poison-dart frogs. Have the guide show you the Blood of Christ plant and monkey ladders, and watch for the large, beautiful golden spider that lives here. Boots and walking sticks provided.

The reserve can be a base for trips to nearby Arenal, Tabacón Hot Springs, and Caño Negro wildlife refuge. Packages include some tours. Half-day horseback tours are available. Groups and individuals who visit Chachagua are invited to donate to the nearby community’s school for books, supplies, and building improvements. A new classroom and bathrooms have already been added, the building painted, and students now have books and school supplies.

A three-day package includes lodging, meals, visits to Sarchí, Tabacón and Arenal; and a guided walk and natural history slide presentation. A four-day package adds a visit to Caño Negro. Chachagua offers packages with Palma Real in San José and El Ocotal Beach Resort on the Pacific.

Getting there
By car : from San Ramón, head north through La Tigra and San Isidro; watch for hotel sign before the town of Chachagua. From La Fortuna, go south past Chachagua. Other : transfer provided with fixed-departure packages.

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

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