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Location : In Chilamate, 5 miles (8 km) W of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. Rates include lodging, meals and taxes. Information / Reservations : US number (800) 451-7111. In Costa Rica (506)766-6800, fax (506)766-6011; e-mail ; Web site

At dusk along the Sarapiquí, behind the lodge at Selva Verde, the only sound is rushing water; the green forest that gives Selva Verde its name guards the river. Brilliant blue morpho butterflies flutter along the forest’s edge above the water. Dusk becomes darkness, the magic moment is gone, and yet it lives forever in Selva Verde Lodge, less than two hours north of San José. One delightful day on a river trip down the Sarapiquí,you can see river otters, crocodiles, white-crowned parrots, kingfishers, keel-billed toucans, parakeets, blue herons, aracaris, a three-toed sloth, anhingas, egrets, flycatchers, a bananaquit, oropendolas, turtles, a scarlet-rumped tanager, trees full of vultures, and iguanas draped on limbs high above the water.

Selva Verde has a reserve of its own, 529 acres (214 ha), across a new hanging bridge over the Sarapiquí. Well-marked trails ranging from easy to somewhat steep explore this tropical lowland forest. Go with a bilingual Selva Verde guide or follow a map. Benches provide a place to rest or to wait and see what the forest reveals : a coati, sloth, raccoon, kinkajou, brocket deer, anteater, river otter, monkey, or maybe a tiny lizard. There are more than 2,000 plant species, 700 butterfly species, and 400 species of birds. Most commonly seen birds are tanagers, honeycreepers, oropendolas, trogons, toucans and chachalacas. Wander the trails behind the lodge to the river : I recommend it – abundant birds and butterflies. Take time to smell the heliotrope. Tiny red and blue poison-dart frogs call on every side; find one in the leaf litter or the base of a tree, be still, and watch them speak. Small green and black frogs may precede you down the path.

Selva Verde’s Butterfly Garden is tucked among trees. The enclosed portion of the garden is marvelous : colorful rattlesnake and hot-lips plants, dozens of butterflies, and benches to sit on. Medicinal plants and endangered local species are the focus in another section. Off-site options include a Sarapiquí wildlife trip, horseback tours, canoeing or river rafting, or a banana plantation visit.

The River Lodge consists of 40 rooms in a series of modules built on stilts and connected by thatch-covered walkways. Constructed of beautiful tropical woods, each double room has a small desk, reading lights, convenient closet space, and lots of windows with louvered shutters. Five more-rustic bungalows with fans and private baths are across the road in the forest.

A large dining room, which accommodates 100 people, shares a river view with an outdoor deck; the set menu is served buffet-style. The dining room is open to the public with prior reservation. A delightful covered outdoor lounge with hanging chairs is surrounded by flowering plants. The gift shop offers a good selection of nature books, tropical-forest posters, basketry, belts, primitive carvings, jewelry, and lots more – even slide film.

A commitment to community involvement has resulted in development of the Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center, built on Selva Verde property for use by guests and residents. In its library, auditorium, and work rooms, local people study English, attend natural history classes, or work on handcrafts to sell in the hotel’s shop.

Getting there By bus : From San José to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí through Braulio Carrillo park, taxi to lodge (two hours); there’s also a bus from Ciudad Quesada to Puerto Viejo. By car : one route is via Braulio Carrillo, Las Horquetas, and Puerto Viejo; slightly longer route via Vara Blanca and San Miguel to Chilamate.

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

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