Finca Bellavista is situated in the mountainous south Pacific coastal region of Costa Rica, in an area called the Southern Zone. This rugged region, often times referred to as Costa Rica’s last frontier, has a vibe that is quite different than other portions of this magnificent country. Markedly rustic and rural, this area is renowned as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. And while this region contains a large portion of the country’s national parks, forest reserves, and conservation areas, there is a long history of highly impactful activities that cultivated and cleared the wildlands for a variety of purposes. Historical uses of the area include logging, grazing, mining and to the largest extent, agriculture.
At an elevation of 650 to 1400 feet, the finca lies within the mountains of the Fila Cruces range, in the westernmost portions of the Talamanca Mountains. The immediate area surrounding the finca serves as a critical wildlife migration corridor (AMISTOSA) between these mountains and the Osa Peninsula. The majority of the 600 acres that comprise the finca are secondary growth rainforest and have become an interface zone between heavily cultivated lowlands and wilder forested highlands. Most of the finca has been cleared at some point in its history – whether for lumber, to create pasture for animals, or to grow crops (often, a combination of the three) – and is in various stages of regrowth from these past activities. While the lush forest growth throughout the finca seems like it could be primary rainforest, this is not a pristine, untouched piece of land.
The area where our ‘base camp’ is located is actually a reclaimed gravel pit (hence its flatness). Gravel from this site was used to build the original road from the InterAmericana through the communities of La Florida and Los Angeles. Shortly after its life as a gravel pit, the ‘base camp’ was home to a handful of indigenous families – a community called Bellavista. Bellavista had a school, a soccer field, and around 20 families living and working the land. Bellavista’s school burned down, and as a result the families relocated to the surrounding communities of La Guaria, Los Angeles, and La Florida where many of them remain. As one walks the trails and the forest, signs of the past are everywhere – from old cacao plantations and pejabaye palms to remains of old houses. We’ve heard our neighbors refer to Finca Bellavista as the second coming of Bellavista, and we agree.
Finca Bellavista’s main access trail/road is actually an old logging access road. Logging roads are typically built not where they make sense topographically or ecologically speaking – they are built to access the largest, most valuable trees. When Finca Bellavista was purchased, a muddy canyon-like trail cut through the center of the property. Alongside this ‘road’, large swaths of homogenous forest exist where trees were planted to harvest later on – species like gmelina, teak and amarillon. On the northwestern edges of the property, there are some primary trees – several are actually in various stages of being cut down with notches taken out and two or three that were abandoned during the milling process. Why these precious trees were left behind when they were clearly so valuable is unknown. One theory is that the logging road washed out and there was no longer access to the area to take trees to market, another theory is that the logging was illegal and the authorities were called in and the saws fell silent. Regardless, there are still some large native hardwood species on portions of the finca that provide a glimpse of the rainforest in a more ancient state.
While we recognize that all human activities – including building and living in treehouses – have impacts on the rainforest, we truly feel that the fate of this particular property changed significantly for the better with the idea of creating Finca Bellavista. The farms we purchased to create the finca were being marketed as timber harvest sites when we began the purchasing processes to create this project. Though we are providing an experience for humans to dwell, interact, and grow within the treetop realm, we remain committed to being stewards of this land and our environment. Everything we do at Finca Bellavista is done with consciousness, caution and care guided by our personal beliefs. Instead of clearing trees and opening ground space for conventional concrete or poured slab foundations, we are instead utilizing trees as home foundations. Attachment methods vary from tree to tree, but in general we have used artificial limbs (which grow with and in essence become like a branch to the tree), suspension, and cantilevering, which allow the trees to continue growing and thriving. We also recognize that there are activities that can improve the health of this scarred land and help to restore it back to a more natural state. By selectively harvesting and thinning homogenous, planted tree zones and replanting with native trees and fruiting plants, we can encourage terrestrial and aerial animal migrations to further the land’s biodiversity. To date, more than 1,600 native tree species have been planted at FBV in an effort to return the forest to a more balanced, natural state. It is our hope and goal to improve the health and fate of this particular swath of rainforest for future generations.
Learn more about our initiatives!