In Costa Rica: San Luis Ecolodge

One of the most interesting adventures we had in Costa Rica was experiencing the University of Georgia’s research facility and eco-lodge in San Luis, which is just a short “as the crow flies” distance from Monteverde.

Check-in wasn’t until noon.  We’d gotten an early start,  and the public bus didn’t come for 45 more minutes.   We’d walked to the Quaker meeting the day before, and according to Google Maps, the eco-lodge was just kilometers beyond.  How bad could it be?


View toward the Nicoya coast

We started walking to the UGA San Luis Eco-Lodge.

art on the way to sL

Artist studio on the way toward San Luis

The sun was shining – and the wind blowing –  at 25 miles an hour – with gusts much higher.

The views were  stunning.

view of sL

View down to San Luis

What we couldn’t tell from Google is the walk included several kilometers of a very, very steep grade down toward San Luis – at about 25%.  It’s so steep that trucks and buses are prohibited.


A 25% grade-no trucks or buses are allowed on the road to San Luis

Much of the road to San Luis is not paved.

At times, I thought I’d be blown over the edge by the gusts of wind.  Barry was backpacking all our stuff, and before we got to San Luis, he said it felt like about 100 pounds.

However, the walk was beautiful.  And we did make it, but what we thought would be about a one-and a-half-hour walk turned into about three hours.

on the way to san Luis

Cows near the San Luis Eco-Lodge


Welcome sign

We did arrive about 15 minutes before lunch.  Perfect.

And we had a great lunch – a buffet.   I ate two full plates!

And then we got to go with naturalist Dan, an enthusiastic, knowledgeable intern, on a three-hour hike/lecture to the Eco-Lodge farm and through a forest.

Dan, me, David

Naturalist Dan – at the UGA sustainable farm in San Luis, Costa Rica.  David, on the right, from the U.S.

Along the way, we saw three white-faced capuchin monkeys, a coati, and an agouti – a big rodent that is the favorite meal of pumas, and, of course, we saw many colorful birds.


An arguti in Costa Rica

We saw cool birds, animals, bugs, interesting trees and plants.   You would love it there.

At the farm, we saw innovative practices to promote sustainability.  One of their composting strategies is using black plastic tarps, which we are trying at home.

dan at UGA

Dan sharing wisdom of the forest


Raised beds, rotated crops – beautiful lettuces

sloth tree

A symbiotic relationship of stinging ants and this tree give the ants a home and a sweet nectar to eat, and the tree gets defense so it can  grow tall quickly.

leaf cutters

Leaf-cutter ants are busy day and night. They can strip a tree in one day!

Before dinner, we went up and sat on the great deck in wooden rocking chairs, drank delicious Costa Rican coffee, and chatted with other tourists and University of Georgia interns and staff.


Waiting for the next meal at UGA Eco-lodge

Again, I got two full plates for dinner.  We’d heard the hot chocolate served after dinner was stupendous; it was.


Dinner with the interns at the San Lois Eco-Lodge

Then we had an interesting lecture about the history of Costa Rica.  We could have chosen a night hike looking for frogs and snakes, but we’d had enough of hiking for the day.    I was asleep by about 9 that night.


UGA – Costa Rica staff

The next morning, we went at 6:20 to milk cows and see the biodigester that converts  all the waste materials into cooking fuel.


We had a  medicinal plants lecture and field trip after breakfast.

Among many other facts, we learned from Dan that guava is good for hangovers; coffee is anti-Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases; dumb cane is for toothaches; catnip is like cocaine for cats, but as a tea, is calming for people; papaya is a good meat tenderizer; yellow oleander is very poisonous; the root beer plant is for headaches – put a leaf on your forehead . . . The reason aloe is good for sunburns is because it holds in moisture which allows the skin to heal.  The sap from the dragon-blood tree is anti-fungal and an antiseptic. . .

After lunch, we got an an introduction to bird watching.  Costa Rica has 850 species of birds; 250 species are in San Luis near the eco-lodge – beautiful and diverse!


The rain brought rainbows

After dinner, I took a night hike seeking mammals.  Because it was windy and rainy, we mainly found spiders, moths, leaf-cutters, and other small beings.  Again we slept well in our beautiful and comfortable bungalow.

The next morning, we went out at dawn for bird-watching with a naturalist.


We watched for birds from the deck on this rainy morning


A bird on the deck railing


After breakfast in the San Luis dining hall, Barry trying a Spam can strung like a guitar!  With Susan Stanley of The Hobohemians, a blues, folk, jazz group

Generally, we did lots of activities – and then we’d eat again.


Another great meal


No burning of cane as is done on Maui. On this conservation land, the cane is just dug up at its roots.


On our coffee tour

Actually, there was much more!

But you get the idea: you will  learn about plants, animals, bugs, sustainability, Costa Rica, coffee,  history, and more from enthusiastic and knowledgeable interns and naturalists, meet other travelers, eat well, enjoy hot water and a new, clean bungalow, and have an eventful and wonderful time at the beautiful Ecolodge San Luis.

For more information and to reserve your visit, go to the website:

You will love the experience.

Pura vida, Renée

P.S. To leave the eco-lodge, did we walk back up the steep road?  No!  We took a cab. 🙂

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

5 responses to “In Costa Rica: San Luis Ecolodge”

  1. Rosita says :

    Very beautiful pics! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Costa Rica’s as diverse and unique as Brazil. Brazil have a bad fame in and overseas, both due to politic corruption and bad management, but, as you can see, not all Brazilians are corrupts, it’s just a sad stereotype. We’re hopeful of a better and more developed future. Brazil have so many beautiful beaches, and, in my humble opinion, the best Brazilian beaches are in Northwest, but here in North we have so many beautiful beaches, although they’re of sweet water, not of salt water. And Pará and Amapá state are the only of North region who have littoral, do you know? In Brazilian Northwest, there’s a beautiful littoral, who resembles the Caribbean, principally in Alagoas and Ceará state, but mostly in Alagoas. But in the South, also have good beaches, although they’re of a dark, cold water, not as crystalline and clear as in Northwest. And in North/Northwest of Brazil, the climate is hot, and can be humid or dry, it can varies. In South/Southwest, the climate is usually drier and colder than in other regions, while in the central region of Brazil, the only who doesn’t have a littoral, the climate is usually dry and hot, it just depends on the period of year. Security and politic are hot topics there, with serious damages and ongoing scandals. there’s a lack on public services, so, public schools and hospitals aren’t good, but we hope it’ll better. I say that politic corruption isn’t a new problem, it’s there since colonizers arrived there, but isn’t too late to solve it, and we’re now most hopeful and participative than never. I 💙 my country, but I recognize its flaws, although I don’t pretend going out of there soon 🙂 When I say that I want to live on Caribbean, it’s just to spend a season abroad, more for pleasure than other thing, but when do it, one day, I’ll return to Brazil. And go to other adventure. I’m an inveterate traveller, but I’m also Brazilian belonger, and I’ll, I need assure it 😉 and here on Brazil, we have places to every type of traveller, from the most laid-back to the intrepid adventurer 😀 and do you ever visited Peru? And to the Bahamas? If yes, what do you can recommend to anyone who’s going for the first time to those countries?

  2. reneeriley says :

    Hi Rosita: You make me want to travel to Brazil, especially the coastal areas. 🙂 I plan to come one day.

    I’m glad you love to travel and that you love Brazil and will work to make it a better place. In every country there are problems.

    In the U.S., it’s obvious that we don’t really have equality or opportunity for everyone as we say we do. The gap between the richest and poorest is growing; many – even hardworking, full-time employees – can’t really support their families. The unions are much weaker now. Many people spend over half their income each month on rent; they will probably never be able to afford to buy their own property. Many people have much debt. In many of the inner cities, the schools help only an exceptional few break out of the poverty of their dangerous neighborhoods. And in some places, people carry guns – legally! Our prisons are filled with minorities. Now much of our news here is about Trump. The fact that he is so popular shows that many people are suffering and don’t feel hope. One good thing I see from many of his statements is that he is shining a light on how some people actually feel. We say we are the land of the free, but we still have lots of prejudice and inequity.

    Also, I agree with you that it’s important to travel that opens our eyes in many ways. But it’s also important to go back home not only to work on making positive changes, but also to help preserve what is valuable.

    As for my travels, I still have many places to go. I’ve never been in South America, but I want to go. I did go to Nassau in the Bahamas on a boat from Miami. That was my first trip outside the Mainland U.S. It was fantastic (but about 40 years ago so my recommendations would be out of date). I’m eager to explore South America. Thanks for all your tips. Aloha, Renée

  3. Rosita says :

    Oh, thank you, dear! 🌺💛 I feel really ashamed of the Brazilian situation, not just in politic and economy, but also because of criminal rates increase and the lack of quality on public services, although I still love Brazil, because it’s too diverse. And it’s my homeland. ❤️🇧🇷 People sometimes joke that I should move me to any European country, but I don’t appreciate the idea, because European winter is very rigorous. I prefer live on American continent instead of European one, despite the fact of loving Paris. One option would be St.Martin, the French piece on Caribbean LOL 🙂 I just think Brazil deserves a second, maybe a third chance of being developed, and throwing poverty and political problems away. And I’m still hopeful about it. It’s better to stay hopeful than losing all our hopes at mid of this exciting, but, at same time, confusing, journey. 😉 do you know Thailand? If yes, there’s any chance of visiting the islands without being overcrowded of tourists?

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: There’s much to do wherever we are. It’s good to work on what can be done wherever you live – unless it’s too dangerous where you are or you feel there is no hope for change. Brazil sounds too nice to abandon it. I’d like to visit some day.

      I was in Thailand about seven years ago and loved it. Some places were crowded, but if you look, almost always you can find places that are nice but not too popular.

    • reneeriley says :

      Well, you are talking to someone from the U.S. Among other things, we bomb people – often civilians 😦 and we have more people in jail than any other developed country – mainly minorities – so my country could improve. And there is hope for that: in Brazil and in the U.S. Aloha, Renée

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