Phase III initiated in spring 2007 began our collaborative work on sustainable ecotourism development models in rural farming communities. This aspect of the Heart of Gold Project has been the focus of the project for the past 4 years. Through community meetings and dialogue with farming families in spring 2007, the alliance established that the main alternative economic development goal for spring 2007 and the foreseeable future will be:To research, vision, design and implementation of a world class 50 km. eco-tourism trail through the pristine high cloud forest and remote valleys from Santa Maria in central Costa Rica to Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast. Over 14 days, the team of eco-tourist/smart-travellersw ill experience adventure travel [trekking,mountain biking, and horse-riding], home-stay accommodations with organic farming families, Spanish immersion, community cultural activities, and opportunities to volunteer on the family farms. This venture will diversify regional economies and create locally owned and operated eco-tourism businesses for local farming families.
In April 2012, the inaugeral 14 day Eco-Trail Tour will take place with a team of two guides and 10 'smart-travellers'.
The idea of the eco-trail is to link the different grass-roots or ecological based home-stay and tourism operations along a spectacular, world-class, eco-trail. The eco-trail will be predominantly targeted for intermediate level hikers seeking cultural and educational eco-tourism experiences. The hikes will mostly be guided in small groups, at least in the initial stages of trail and itinerary development.
The trail will link different educational, cultural, and adventure opportunities in regional communities through activities such as; various volunteer opportunities (general labour, teaching English, etc.), mountain biking, horseback riding, tree-top adventures, coffee tours, homestays, and biology and agricultural interpretation. One of the main purposes of developing this trail is to raise awareness to conservation aspects of the Los Santos Watershed - a large natural area Northwest of the Los Santos Forest Preserve (near Nanarillo) that is not protected. Eventually the eco-trail organization will need to develop a strategy in regards to how the trail will educate and aid conservation efforts in the area.
Initially, for simplicity sake, the trail will aim to develop one extensively connected route. This will eventually lead to the operation of a larger network of trails and accommodations, but the idea is to develop one trail that everything else will eventually feed off. The longer-term goal is to regulate the operational management of the eco-trail through a governing organization consisting of the different eco-trail stakeholders (guides, operators, homestay families). The governing organization, through a board of directors, will make decisions regarding trail improvements, stakeholder membership, user numbers, marketing plans, risk management, and price controls.
The first stop on the Los Santos Eco-trail is known as Truchas Madre Selva. There are currently no accommodation facilities at this location; however, camping is allowed on the property. Upon arrival at Truchas Madre Selva, visitors will notice about 10 small shelters, with tables and barbecues for picnicking, surrounding a small trout pond. There is also fish cleaning stations and sinks available, as well as a short 40-60 minute circle trail if visitors wish to enjoy more of the outdoors. The main building on the property includes a good restaurant with room for 50 people and a living room for guests to relax in.
The second stop on the Los Santos Eco-trail is Quetzal Paradise. This property has 8 fully equipped guest cabins that overlook the Los Santos valley and camping is available during the dry season (from February to April). Guests can enjoy the food in the restaurant on site or explore the trails- a great way to catch a glimpse at a few quetzal birds.
Las Vueltas Highland Preserve and Eco-lodge is the third stop in the Los Santos Eco-trail. This facility can only be accessed with a 4x4 vehicle; however, once on the property, guests can explore the trails where guests notice the abundance of old growth trees and perhaps even see one or more quetzals. This property has 3 dorm style rooms that share 2 showers and 2 toilets and 1 hotel style room, and can accommodate 20-30 guests. In the main house on the property there is a large common room that includes a wood stove and comfortable seating space. Guests will enjoy the homemade meals and cheese made with cream from cows on their property.
Providencia is the fourth stop on the Los Santos Eco-trail. Visitors can enjoy the pathway near Las Cascadas del Savegre restaurant on the southwest side of town. This pathway leads clients through a coffee processing and drying area (Coope Savegre) to a waterfall on the river. The path continues through an orange, banana and coffee orchard to an enormous rock. The rock, which provides about 80 square feet of covered ground, was the home of the first settlers in Providencia. For those who seek more of an adventure, Santos Tours offers a number of rural community tourism tours include one to a small Extreme Forest Park close to Providencia. There are currently a number of home stay options available in this community.
The sixth stop on the Los Santos Eco-trail is at Quebrada Grande. This stop is located about 2 km south of Quepos but unlike other areas, the agriculture in this area is not predominantly coffee. There is currently one home stay option in this location offering a bedroom with one bed.
The Fundacion Nubotropica is the seventh stop on the Los Santos Eco-trail and is located about 3.5 km south of the community of Santa Maria de Dota. This location is a good interpretive centre for the Los Santos Forest Reserve and offers 3 dorm style bedrooms and 2 hotel style bedrooms.
Naranjillo is another stop on the Los Santos Eco-trail. Currently, this location is a great place for camping and visitors can enjoy the scenic views of the mountains, the jungle, and the Naranjillo River, which passes through the community.
"I want to live, I want to give... I crossed the ocean for a Heart of Gold." (Neil Young)
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last updated in 2009