After a short ride from the coffee plantation, we arrived at the extremely lush, tropical and friendly inn, La Quinta de Sarapiqui, in the fertile central valley of Costa Rica. Manager Ana greeted us with lemonade in the open-air lobby, and we quickly got settled into our room and then began to explore the surroundings, which included two swimming pools, an enclosed butterfly garden, a forested trail, the Sarapiqui River, educational displays, and a walkway where neon-colored frogs came out at night. Anna felt very at home on the room’s veranda. (See if you can find her, below.)
The butterfly garden was amazing. I love butterflies and the opportunity to see exotic local species close-up was very exciting. I first encountered this magnificent owl butterfly. It was so still, beautiful, perfect and large, that at first I didn’t think it was real. I since learned that the pattern offers camouflage, while the “eye” may also work to fool predators into attacking a non-vital part of the butterfly. Owl butterflies love fermented bananas and pineapples, and the hotel staff had left plenty out. When this one finally flew from its perch, it revealed a stunning periwinkle-colored interior.
The blue morpho is a very common, though no less phenomenal, large and beautiful butterfly with bright, iridescent wings. I saw these throughout Costa Rica.
This is what the blue morpho looks like with its wings closed.
Pretty crimson patch butterflies fed on flower nectar and skittered around the butterfly house.
Ana, La Quinta’s manager, led me out to the nearby Sarapiqui River to see a rare sunbittern and its nest (and egg!)
At night, Anna and I took a walk in what had become a driving rainstorm to see the small poison dart frogs (we were warned about these) and green frogs jumping over the footpaths from one muddy spot to the next. This is La Quinta’s “weather station”.
La Quinta de Sarapiqui has earned a rare 5 leaves, the highest level available from the Costa Rica Tourism Board’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST). Enjoying the grounds and watching Ana and the others care for them, I felt a deep sense of harmony with nature. The hotel is also a teaching facility. I pictured gathered congregations of naturalists.
We noticed that nightfall descended quickly in the Costa Rican valley. Over buffet dinner, we met and chatted with Dana, Chai, Brittany and Cameron, from Florida, who were also on the “Gift of Happiness” tour! And we met a group of students and chaperones from a Michigan high school. We stayed in the open-air lobby, talking and playing low-key games as rain pelted around us. The thunder was among the loudest I’d ever heard.
The next day, we would visit a nearby school. Stay tuned for Part 4 of our Gift of Happiness adventure.
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman