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Location : 37 miles (60 km) S of Golfito on the Pacific coast. Rates include meals, lodging, ground and air transfers from San José, and some guided walks. Some packages include Corcovado or Manuel Antonio. Information / Reservations : San José (506)255-3418, (506)221-0303, fax (506)255-4410; e-mail; web site

Birders and nature photographers can have a field day without leaving the lodge’s landscaped grounds. Hundreds of tropical fruit trees draw birds like a magnet. You can see chestnut-mandibled toucans casually eat a fruit breakfast. In the same tree were blue-crowned manakins, a lineated woodpecker, and blue-gray and scarlet-rumped tanagers. A bird book is left handy to help identify what you spot, and a bird list of more than 300 species lets you know if anyone has seen it before you. Ask for the illustrated booklet on tide pools and the printed nature-trail guide.

Since 1980 manager Peter Aspinall, who owns the lodge with brother John, has been using about 62 acres (25 ha) of this almost 440-acre (180-ha) property to grow exotic tropical fruits gathered from around the world. His experimental station has the most extensive collection of tropical rare and exotic fruits in the country. Birds and guests alike can have their fill of more than 100 varieties, tasting such delicacies as star fruit (carambola in Spanish), passion fruit (maracuyá), guava, guanábana, custard apple (anona), jackfruit, araza, abiu, and dozens of others that are not yet household words. Once, he reminds you, bananas and pineapples were considered rare and exotic fruits.

Animals come out of a primary forest that covers more than 300 acres (120 ha) to savor the fruits. You may cross paths with four species of monkeys, coatis, pacas, white-lipped peccaries, anteaters, or cats such as the ocelot, jaguarundi and margay. Well-marked trails go through farm and forest, and to the beach at the bottom of the hill.

Choose a guided fruit walk through the orchards or a rain-forest walk. The trail map facilitates exploration on your own. A short walk leads to a pristine waterfall whose waters flow into small, protected pools; bathe in the company of kingfishers and hummingbirds underneath a natural canopy of giant forest trees (feel the tickle of fresh-water shrimp).

Ocean swimming and snorkeling is best at low tide, which also reveals tide pools with colorful fish, anemones and other sea creatures. Night walks and early morning birding walks are options, and horses can be rented. Fishing and surfing are options. Nearby is the longest left-breaking wave in the country, a 1,600-yard (1,440-m) run at Punta Pavones.

An Indian reserve borders Tiskita, which is the Guaymi name for fish eagle. A visit to the Indian settlement can be arranged. Dashing hats and attractive bags made by Guaylus are for sake in the gift shop. Profits from sale of cards and T-shirts go to the Tiskita Foundation, which has purchased nearby endangered forest. Tiskita’s work with the nearby community of Punta Banco has facilitated a local clinic, with a new community center and library in the works.

Electricity has arrived at Tiskita. The cabins have fans, reading lamps, and an electric plug in bathrooms. Each cabin is a bit different, constructed of wood and natural stone. Semi-outdoor bathrooms allow bird-watching while you bathe : no hot water. The Aspinalls refer to Tiskita as five-star rustic. Support columns in rooms are polished tree trunks; door handles are pieces of naturally sculptured wood. Screened windows and outdoor terraces are common features of the 14 cabins – some are individual, some share a common veranda. No smoking allowed in lodge facilities.

From a covered lookout furnished with forest-green lounging chairs and surrounded by heliconias and palms, sounds of sea and land mix – lots of parakeets and hummingbirds. Look out across the Pacific to the Osa Peninsula. Watch the sun slide into the ocean in the evenings. A new swimming pool has the same spectacular views.

The original farmhouse, built in 1979, has a small reference library, lounging chairs, and a dining room. Meals are served buffet-style – delicious, varied and generous.

Telephone has not yet arrived, but the lodge has radio contact with the outside. Though it’s remote, it is possible to drive in; an interesting 2 ½-hour trip through farm and ranch leads into a frontier region, crossing the Río Coto by ferry and sometimes fording small streams. A bridge now spans the Río Claro; I am sorry, in a way, that you’ll miss the adventure of fording it, especially in rainy season.

Though fireflies sparkle in the evening, bring a flashlight for nighttime walks. Boots and umbrellas are available for guests. Tiskita is closed in October because of heavy rain.

Getting there By bus : daily bus between Golfito and Punta Banco passes Tiskita entrance. It leaves Punta Banco at 5 a.m. and Golfito at 2 p.m.; about $3 for the three-hour trip (pay a small amount at the ferry). By car : check with Tiskita about road conditions in rainy season. By air : most packages include round trip via charter plane.

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

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