The Rainforest of the Austrians, is a sector of Piedras Blancas National Park north of Golfito. Experience the rain as well as the magic and mystery of this rich forest. These guides, whose roots are here, will showme a tree that exudes a flammable liquid. They will explainthe medicinal qualities of trees and other plants, point out miniature orchids and kingfishers and hummingbirds, and two pristine waterfalls.
The lodge was built with the aid of the Austrian Government to offer people in the La Gamba Valley an alternative to destroying the forest. It provides employment, and part of the lodge profits go to finance projects that benefit the community.
The spectacular main building is set in a former cattle pasture surrounded by forest. Its immense conical thatched roof covers reception, gift shop, lounge area, and open dining room, with a second-level library and VCR-viewing space tucked under the roof. In the dining room Tiffany-style stained-glass hanging lampshades, tablecloths, and bamboo chairs with brightly colored cushions provide a pleasant setting for delicious meals served buffet-style. Angela -, the personable chef, not only excels in the kitchen but also is becoming an expert on flora and fauna.
Ten rooms in five bungalows are a short distance away. Built of natural rock and wood, with curtained windows on three sides, rooms have bamboo furniture, reading lamps, and ceiling fans. Each room has a veranda with comfortable furniture (even a rocking chair) to lounge in. Watch in the landscaped gardens for golden-hooded tanagers (in Spanish called siete colores, seven colors); scarlet-rumped tanagers, and hummingbirds. Parrots and toucans abound. Perhaps you’ll see the flash of orange and blue as a Baird’s trogon flies by. Hear howler monkeys.
Guests can walk in the botanical garden to find many tropical fruit trees – guanábana, cas, papaya, star fruit, three kinds of mamones, water apples – and banana and cacao plantings are nearby. The guide will probably cut one of the cacao pods so you can try the tasty pulp around the chocolate bean. Harvests find their way to the table. Perhaps you will be treated to fired yuca, breadfruit, lemongrass tea, or heavenly chocolate dessert. A stream meanders through the grounds, flowing into a naturally filtered swimming pool. Lodge elevation is 787 feet (240 m), average temperature 91°F (33°C).
Marked trails (three to five hours long) move through the park, which adjoins lodge property : guided walks $15. Guests choose from a variety of excursions : to El Chorro Waterfall, the Esquinas coast, and a visit to Casa Orquídeas; to Río Coto to see the mangroves; toWilson Botanical Gardens at Las Cruces; or horseback riding in Valle Bonito.
The sector of Piedras Blancas Park next to the lodge is called Rainforest of the Austrians to recognize donations from the people of that country to purchase more than 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of endangered forest, which was then turned over to Costa Rica to be included in the national park system.
Getting there By bus: Take the bus to Golfito, ask the lodge about transfers. By car : on the Inter-American, turn west at km 37 and follow signs, about 2.5 miles (4 km); four-wheel drive not necessary. About 4 miles (6 km) from Golfito, go to La Gamba and follow signs; ask about road conditions.
By air : SANSA and Travelair have flights to Golfito; airport pickup is free with reservations.
Source: Costa Rica Adventures in Nature by Ree Strange Sheck, John Muir Publications, Santa Fee, New Mexico.