“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

Herman Melville’s quote is very fitting for this piece because seven family members set off for two very remote areas of Costa Rica in celebration of a “special” birthday of the youngest Hutchinson sister. Seven days later we departed knowing that once again we had experienced a very special time in a part of the world that is filled with off-the-beaten path true places. Some of us made the trip previously in 2006 and the birthday girl remembered the Luna Lodge (www.lunalodge.com) on the Osa Penisula as someplace special and wanted to return with people she loved and people who were fortunate enough to be there on her actual birthday.

On the plane about half-way between Fort Lauderdale and San Jose, while each of us was enjoying a snack and a double vodka and tonic, someone asked what was the size of Costa Rica compared to Pennsylvania. Instantly googling for the answer, one link appeared which read that Costa Rica was slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. Everyone contemplated that fact and took another sip out of their delicious beverage. But hold on there for just a minute because further down the page, I noticed a link which read that Costa Rica was slightly smaller than New Hampshire; laughter amongst us and more sipping. Hello Loretta!! Two links down from that read that Costa Rica was only slightly smaller than Texas…really! Texas! Bottoms up and cheers to the internet, where anything is possible. Further research seemed to confirm that in actuality Costa Rica is slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. In less time than it takes to get to New York, which if you were not aware, is only slightly bigger than Costa Rica, the happy seven were on the ground and through customs in a blink. Onward to the next flight…

It’s not all that easy to reach the Luna..two planes ( large & petite) and a two hour land rover drive over kidney crunching terrain.


But once the Lodge comes into view, you mostly forget all about individual near-death situational thoughts and concentrate on the beauty created by almost sheer will by an American woman who visited for the first time over thirty years ago, had a vision to create a lodge dedicated to preservation of the rainforest, and made her dream become reality. Her name is Lana Wedmore, and everyday she makes sure to personally greet each new arrival and make them feel welcome.


Most of the buildings are under thatched, open-air roofs; better for natural comfort and going to sleep and waking up to sounds not often heard by humans. This is an eco-lodge, and everything is designed around energy conservation and nature preservation. Luna’s electricity is hydro-powered. (Fact – 99% of the entire country’s electric energy comes from clean sources) No phones, no televisions to distract…instead opportunties abound to stop, listen, and behold. Guests have choices to hike, encounter rare wildlife, early morning and late afternoon birdwatching, practice yoga, horseback riding on the beach, have a therapuetic massage while the wildlife provides at no extra charge, a background symphony to entertain and relax you, or simply to sit in a rocker facing a primary rainforest canopy with the Pacific Ocean beyond. Pura Vida is not just a saying in Costa Rica, it is a primary mindset that dictates everything that follows. Some of my Luna memories digitly captured:




Moving on………I have been very fortunate in my somewhat limited travels to witness some truly remarkable sights; a most spectacular sunset on Greece’s Santorini Island, in South Africa being surrounded in a vehicle by a pride of lions so close they litterally could have been touched, sitting in slilence and being brought to tears by the feeling of absolute peace in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha within Bangkok’s Grand Palace, walking through a living painting in Monet’s garden at Giverny, and being totally enveloped in love anywhere in Paris. And now I can add without hesition or doubt, the jaw-dropping beauty of Tres Palmas (www.trespalmascostarica.com), a private villa located about an hour’s drive from the Luna, high on a hill overlooking the juncture of both the Gulfo Dulco and the Pacific Ocean. For this part of the trip we had rented a seven-seat 4-wheel drive Toyota Landcruiser Prado (a.k.a. macho ground-busting beastly machine) and the first time we drove the private road to the house, I thought we would need an 8-wheel drive because it seemed like most of the time we were either looking straight up, or straight down. Our group had a female/male ratio of 5/2, hence a gender-biased decison was made that a male would do the driving; between the two guys, I alone had experience with stick-shift vehicles, so by default became the appointed driver. I don’t remember who was more hysterical about this reality, myself or my traveling mates, but as I was about to discover, going three miles per hour whether ascending or descending, was a sure fire survival strategy, thereby ensuring a safe arrival. And so began our four day stay at Tres Palmas.

Usually I do not take wildlife pictures because my zoom lense is not powerful enough to get clear pictures. And if ever the wildlife is close enough for a great shot, it probably means that I’m likely to be digested by some animal within the next few minutes, so having the small camera is fine with me. I leave to others wonderfull pictures like the two below of a Howler Monkey, who I named Harry. Harry’s mug shot was taken through a telescope by the birthday girl while on a hike in the Luna area. However I have seen others in differerent locations and could recognize a Howler when spotted in the future. I feature Harry because I am convinced he and his troop followed us to Tres Palmas and secured an area just outside of my bedroom. Howlers get their name because of the loud, deep gutteral sounds they make to warn others that a particular territory is taken and any other monkey should move on and find their own spot to adrenalize tourists. Each morning between 5:00 and 5:30 Harry would howl his lungs out; sometimes it sounded like he was somewhere within my sleeping quarters. Once up to check under the bed, in the closet, outside to check the shower area, it was no use to go back to bed. While I was checking out each morning’s beautiful sunrise, Harry would rest until later in the day when he thought it best to shout the message it was time to go to sleep. The entire week was basically a sunrise to sundown day, and this schedule was exhillerating.

The group had originally planned that during the stay at Tres Palmas, activites would include zip-lining and deep-sea fishing. But after spending the first 24 hours surrounded by panaromic beauty, plus knowing that both of these off-the-premises activites would require getting in the vehicle for the uphill/downhill thrill ride, we collectively decided to trade those two experiences with two others. Namely a night visit to a combination local cantina/open market for dinner, and a lunch outing to a nearby resort. Yes I know we traded exercise and adventure for sustenance and libations, but that should not surprise anyone who knows us because like the scorpions, it is our nature.

Words and pictures cannot capture the beauty and essence of the small area of tropical rainforest we visited in Costa Rica. This particular area contains, and we witnessed some of,  500 species of trees, 140 of mammals, 40 of freshwater fish, 117 of amphibians and reptiles, 367 of birds (Peg took 367 pictures of Macaws), and to everyone’s delight, 6000 species of insects. One evening we witnessed a “Hercules” beetle crossing the living room. To give you an idea of its size, let me just say that the word “Hercules” was well chosen! Here is the little bugger himself:


Sometimes we get lucky by the confluence of events…people we travel with and meet along the way, time of the year, weather, not having a plan for the day other than to allow the day to take us where it wants; lucky to realize that both the Luna Lodge and Tres Palmas not only provided an unforgetable vacation but produced magic as well. When we came, we found peace at both.

Here are some pictures of Tres Palmas and Harry looking knowingly through the trees directly at me:


On the last evening in the rainforest, with dusk ruling the sky, a drink in hand before dinner while enjoying the pool’s tranquility, my mind drifts unexpectedly to some lyrics of one of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. Gazing upon the vast expanse before me, these words come to mind…

I think about Paris when I’m high on red wine
I wish I could jump on a plane
So many nights I just dream of the ocean
God I wish I was sailin again
Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I can’t look back for too long
There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can’t go wrong

Thanks Jimmy; that about says it all for me. Time to be moving on…Cheers!




About Alan G Billingsley

My career has been varied, including time as a newspaper deliverer, lifeguard, bubble gum maker, door-to-door detergent promoter, telephone book proofreader, short order cook, private employment agency counselor and owner, office and credit manger, infantryman, pots and pans salesman, Chinese restaurant cook, Chinese restaurant owner, public employment counselor, budget analyst, tax analyst, grant administrator, radio announcer, radio and television show host, disk jockey, automobile valet, child advocate, and now retiree. I've seldom been bored.
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One Response to “It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

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