Parks Beyond Borders: Costa Rica's Parks Are Cheap And Accessible; New IUCN Environmental Lists Accentuate The Positive

Volcan Arenal, a memorable national park experience in Costa Rica, a country where it's remarkably affordable to take an international national park vacation.

Costa Rica's Park: Coveted, But Not Costly

Costa Rica’s national parks and preserves continue to attract attention from the world’s media. A recent story in The Australian wrapped up the appeal saying this is a park system where visitors “glimpse the seething life of the tropical rainforest” ... “simmering volcanoes and cloud forests offer otherworldly vistas and its reliable surf breaks are suited to beginners and experts alike.”

The piece, drawn from the 2012 Lonely Planet Costa Rica (10th edition) by Nate Cavalieri, runs down a nice overview of a handful of parks and even offers the rare travel insight that’s likely to convince you that the Central American nation’s park system is a vacation well worth taking. The small size of Costa Rica easily permits a range of park experiences to populate even a short trip, says Cavalieri.

He also says the country earns its high status in “the cubicle daydreams of travelers ... With a world-class infrastructure, visionary sustainability initiatives and no standing army ... Costa Rica is a green, peaceful jewel of the region.”

“Costa Ricans (or Ticos),” notes the article, “are very proud of their little slice of paradise, and eager to welcome guests to sink into the easygoing rhythms of pura vida - the pure life. With the highest quality of life in Central America, a fantastic tourism infrastructure, and perfect beaches, it seems like the pure life indeed.”

In touting the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the article attributes much “of its impressive natural beauty to Quaker expats, who left the US in the 1950s to protest against the Korean War and helped foster conservationist principles.” They helped preserve a “neverland dripping with mist, dangling with mossy vines, sprouting with ferns and bromeliads, gushing with creeks, blooming with life and nurturing rivulets of evolution.”

You won’t want to miss Volcan Arenal, a “mighty, perfectly conical giant” with “beautiful trails, especially the magnificent climb to Cerro Chato.” A bullish whitewater rafting scene focuses on three rivers “with rapids ranging from Class II to Class V, and all have stretches of smooth water that let rafters take in the jungle scenery.”

For ease of access and absolute diversity, the article recommends Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, “the country's most popular (and smallest) national park,” where “Capuchin monkeys scurry across its idyllic beaches, brown pelicans dive-bomb its clear waters and sloths watch over its accessible trails. It's a perfect place to introduce youngsters to the rainforest, and splashing around in the waves you're likely to feel like a kid yourself.”

The sights are something to savor—and so are the prices. Lonely Planet leans toward the less-than-upscale, but they claim a “mid-range” travel budget ends up being $US40-$100 a day, with “basic room with private bathroom: $US20-$30 a day,” and a meal in “restaurants geared toward travellers” setting you back a mere “$US5-$10.”

Finally: A Focus on the Good News

In more news from last month’s World Conservation Congress in South Korea, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has decided to turn enviro-doomsaying on its head and will instead “track and reward successful efforts to conserve species and their environments,” says an article on the Mother Nature Network. “The IUCN plans to launch two programs as complements to its warning-filled "red lists": a Green List of Well-Managed Protected Areas and a Green List of Species.”

The organization, founded, founded in 1948, already “publishes the Red List of Threatened Species, which measures extinction risk, and recently created a Red List of Threatened Ecosystems, which measures an ecosystem's risk of collapse.”

The idea to accentuate the positive came about to "’throw a spotlight on things that are actually working,’" said Trevor Sandwith, director of IUCN's Global Protected Areas program. ‘We already have well-managed, protected areas in the world, which no one is recognizing,’" he said in an article by by Becky Oskin originally sourced from OurAmazingPlanet.

The lists are intended to reward progress on a variety of fronts, regardless of where it’s coming from—and that progress is often coming from nations that are not First World countries. "’We think it's motivating to show where success is occurring, and to show why and how it's occurring, because if someone is getting it right, then that's the model to copy,’ Sandwith said.”