Palo Verde National Park River Boat Tours and Guaitil

Take a comfortable boat tour through stunning landscapes; see artisan pottery as it was made in ancient times

A two-tiered tour that blends eco-tourism and nature with authentic Costa Rican culture. This special tour takes our guests first to Palo Verde National Park, located in the basin of the expansive Tempisque River, which feeds out into the Gulf of Nicoya. Here, aboard a comfortable boat, you’ll be treated to sights of an incredible array of native birds in their natural habitat. Swirled with wetlands, marshes and tropical dry forest, Palo Verde National Park is an incredibly diverse ecosystem that should not be missed by bird watchers – it is home to the biggest concentration of aquatic birds in all of Central America, hosting some 250,000 birds at certain times of the year.

After exploring the national park by boat, you’ll be served a hearty lunch of Costa Rican fare to keep you going because en route back to Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas in Tamarindo, we’ll make a cultural stop in the village of Guaitil. This incredible community is a pottery-making haven. The people who call Guaitil home are descendants of the Chorotega native peoples who once roamed this part of Central America. Despite the generations that have gone by, the residents of Guaitil held on to their ancestors’ traditions and continue making pottery in the ancient way, creating works of art that are treasured around the world.

Included: transportation, entrance fee to Palo Verde National Park, wetland boat tour, visit to Guaitil pottery village, lunch, water

What to bring: camera, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, cash for purchases in Guaitil

Suited for: all ages

Wetland bird watching at its best in a national park

It may seem bizarre that in a climate such as Guanacaste, where not a drop of rain falls for months on end, a wildlife-rich floodplain like Palo Verde can exist. Yet this incredible ecosystem remains covered in marshy wetlands year round, providing a healthy habitat for nearly 300 species of birds, plus a seemly endless list of mammals and reptiles as well.

Palo Verde National Park is indeed a bird watcher’s paradise. On your riverboat tour, you’ll likely encounter everything from herons to hummingbirds, owls, flycatchers, falcons, storks, ibis and many more. The floodplain is also home to the dry tropical forest’s only family of red macaws and a small population of brightly colored toucans. Plus you’ll encounter wildlife like caimans in the waterways, and on drier land, exotic animals like armadillos, monkeys, coatis, jaguarundis and bats.

The expansive landscapes are as impressive as the plethora of wildlife that thrives here. The river basin is green year-round and is a lush flat area that encompasses 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres) of protected land. Make sure your camera has plenty of free memory before you engage on this amazing adventure into one of Costa Rica’s most diverse ecosystems.

The green, or rainy season, is a beautiful time to visit the national park, with the almost daily showers making the landscape explode with even more green than usual. But the best time to visit Palo Verde National Park is the dry season, from November to April. In the hottest months of February, March and April, much of the water shrinks back, leaving smaller patches of wetland as habitat for the local birds. For you, that means incredible photos of hundreds of birds clustered together in a small area, and a great chance of capturing a huge flock of aquatic birds taking off in majestic flight.

Step back in time with the Guaitil pottery village tour

Though much of the traditional Costa Rican culture of old has been lost over the years, Guaitil has stayed true to its roots and thankfully continues the habits of the original inhabitants of this region in the province of Guanacaste. The community’s ancestors were the Chorotega native peoples, who were all but wiped out with the arrival of colonists from Spain. While the people of Guaitil cannot be called Chorotega, they maintain much of the lifestyle and habits their ancestors established long ago.

One of those traditions is pottery, for which the village has become famous – not only for the unique patterns and beautiful shapes these artisans create, but also for the methods used in creating these functional works of art. For example, certain tasks in pottery making here are exclusively for designated members of the community (some pieces are only polished by a pair of young girls). In addition, the pottery is still molded using the same clay as it was generations ago and the same dyes sourced from indigenous plants to create earthy reds, blacks and creams. The pottery is still fashioned using the same tools used by the Guaitil residents’ ancestors as well.

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