Campanario History

How it all began . . .

Field Station 1976

During Easter week of 1990, the founders took a trip into the relatively unknown and little traveled world of the Osa Peninsula to see a tract of rain forest rumored to be for sale.  Upon arriving for the first time, the scarlet macaws squawked their greeting, the sea water was clear to the floor beneath, and the forest rose up majestically behind remnants of earlier buildings.  The rumor was found to be true, the absentee landowner was contacted, funds were located, and the property was purchased.  July 31, 1990 marks the official date of the property acquisition, however there were no plans at that point for improved infrastructure or environmental education programs.  Maintaining the area in as natural a state as possible was the primary concern.  It was one of those projects which you get into, then wonder what you’re going to do with it! 

The first and foremost priority was, and continues to be, the conservation of the forest and marine ecosystems.  At the time of purchase, a few small sections of the land had been deforested, burned and/or converted to pasture.  One of the first activities was to return the domestic animals roaming the pasture to their rightful owners and to let the burned over areas begin to regenerate.

As time went on, and given the backgrounds in education of many of the founders, the Campanario Biological Station, with all its activities, began to take shape.  A large field station was built on the foundations of a previous building at the site, and now houses a dining hall, kitchen, library, lab/study tables, bathrooms, and bunk rooms for 24 people.  This was, and continues to be, the hub of activities for Campanario’s students and visitors.

2003 saw the construction of 5 structures with roofs, platforms, and tents which served as cabins.  The tent cabins have since been replaced with permanent structures, each sleeping 4 persons comfortably.  Gardens were planted by the cabins and an orchid garden was begun to be able to enjoy these extraordinary native flowers.

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Campanario beach 1990

Creek by field station 1990

Burned for plantation 1990

Campanario cove 1990

Old pasture 1990

Orchid Garden 2004

Education programs were designed, schools were contacted, and teachers and students signed up for the opportunity to live and study in the lowland tropical rain forest.  The first high school to officially bring students for an educational program came in 1999.  Since that date, students, visitors, researchers, and volunteers have come from Costa Rica and from all over the United States and the globe.  In addition to the regular camps and courses that Campanario offers, numerous schools and groups have developed their own programs in Campanario, and return on a regular basis.

Throughout the years, work on trails has been and contines to be developed, such as: steps installed on the more difficult climbs, distance markers placed every 50 meters along every trail, and many directional and informational signs painted and installed along the trails. 

Most everyone experiences a manner of living far different from what they are used to – washing clothes by hand and using the sun to dry them, eating non-packaged food, walking instead of driving, living without cellular phones or TVs, and taking time to enjoy watching an insect, the waves, and the sunsets.  Students periodically send back updates about serious environmental awareness programs they have initiated in their communities and/or how they have gone on to advanced studies and careers in environmental sciences.  Campanario likes to think it has played a part in the lives of these people.

Programs were expanded to include work with the local schools, particularly the creation of rural libraries; involvement with local development and conservation associations; and membership in and a seat on the board of directors of the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves.  Over the years, the director has attended and represented Campanario in a constant steam of conferences, presentations, and workshops dealing with conservation issues and with sustainable tourism and development of the area.

An active volunteer program started with the first volunteers in 1991.  Well over 100 volunteers have come and gone, several of them returning with their families or for another volunteer experience.  Most have gone on to study and work in conservation related fields.  Researchers have also spent varying amounts of time at Campanario and have contributed to its library.

An office in San Jose was established to be the center of communications, assist with educational program logistics, and promote the various activities.  A web site was first posted in the late 1990’s and continues to be an essential element in Campanario’s mission of environmental education.

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2003 Tent Cabins

Our 3rd Office in San Jose

Helping the local school

Background of the area . . .

Trail To Los Planes 1990

New Road To Los Planes


Arrival of Electricity

Over the past few years, there have been increased social pressures on the forest and marine eco-systems due to population growth and in-migration, illegal hunting and fishing, and the tourist boom.  Land continues to be logged and cleared, albeit in small patches, as more people make their homes and livelihoods there.  Illegal hunting has caused a devastating decline in natural food sources for the jaguar and other large cats forcing them to venture beyond their accustomed ranges and into populated areas.  There are estimates that the jaguar population is now down to a mere 35-40 individuals within the Corcovado National Park.

Tourism has grown considerably due to the publicity and uniqueness of the area.  In 1989 a road cut was made from Rincon de Osa on the eastern side of the Osa Peninsula across the peninsula to the once fairly isolated Drake Bay.  After several years of virtual abandonment, the road was replowed and spread with gravel, opening it to non-rainy season travel.  It has since been improved, and except for the last river crossing, the road is practically all-weather.  Over the years the road plowing and then gravel surface was extended from Drake Bay into an area called Los Planes, about a 3 hour walk from Campanario.  In February of 2001, a bulldozer continued from Los Planes to the beach at San Josecito (just an hour’s walk north from Campanario), opening to vehicles what used to be only a horse trail.  After considerable erosion, this new road cut was replowed a year later, and for the first time since the Osa Peninsula rose out of the ocean about 3 million years ago, there were vehicles on the San Josecito beach during Easter week of 2002!

Coupled with this increase in access, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute has now installed power lines across the peninsula from Rincon de Osa to Drake Bay, up to Los Planes, and just recently down to the beach just an hour’s hike from Campanario.  Given this “development”, tourism and in-migrations will be accelerating with impacts only our imaginations can envision.  Campanario, fortunately, is still too isolated to be on the grid.  One of Campanario’s goals to to teach all those who come along our paths that this kind of development is not necessary in every corner of Costa Rica nor the world.  People really can live, and live well, without all the amenities of what has become the norm for “civilization”. 

Now, students contine to learn at Campanario, the scarlet macaws still squawk their greetings, the sea water is still clear to the floor beneath, and the forest rises up even more majestically after 27 years of protection.

Conservation in Action!

Make a Difference

Doing our part . . .

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You want to do something special and in a personal way to support the rain forests of the Osa Peninsula - that's good!  You should be happy to know that it is through your donations of time, effort, and funds that Campanario can continue its work and operate the many programs.  We maintain a painfully low administrative overhead, which means your input goes to the current projects.  Here are a few suggestions of how you can support Campanario's efforts to keep the present rain forest in the Osa Peninsula just as it is. 

Here's where you can make a difference!
 And make a difference right now!!

1)  Visit Campanario:
This is first and foremost.  You, your friends, fellow students, office colleagues, should get to know what a rain forest is all about.  Campanario can handle individual visitors or groups up to 44 persons for courses, corporate retreats, family reunions, etc.  Give it some thought.  You'll have a wonderful vacation and learn a great deal in the process.  You'll get muddy, sweaty, wet, tired, but will see things too precious to lose.  Don't just believe this page and web site, come and verify all this for yourself.  We guarantee you'll be inspired!  Click here for planning and reservations.

2)  Donate your time as an intern:
Spending an extended period of time in Campanario will most likely give you a different perspective on your life style.  Click here for information about internships.

3)  Donate materials and equipment:  
There are many needs.  If you are coming for a visit, perhaps you could bring something with you.  Or perhaps you could ship something to an address in the USA where someone coming this way could pick up the item.  Contact us for details about any item on our Wish List.

Wish List:

  • Binoculars
  • Spotting scope.
  • Night vision binoculars
  • Night vision scope
  • Your favorite biology and ecology technical books for the Campanario library.
  • Climbing harnesses, helmets, and gear to get into tree platforms (this equipment will need to be new for safety).
  • Good power tools - because the salt air and humidity have ruined most of what we have.
  • Butterfly nets and mist nets - for capturing and identifying insects and bats.
  • Dissecting microscopes - for continual research.
  • Small portable backpack gasoline powered generator - to use away from usual power sources.
  • Digital movie camera - for filming wildlife.
  • Motion sensitive camera traps to monitor wildlife migrations in the forest
  • Calipers (manual)


  • Forceps, large tweezers
  • Salinity meter
  • Laser sensor for temperature readings
  • Data logger for recording data from sensors (Hobo)
  • Bat ecolocation finder
  • Polasky tool for trail maintenance
  • Infrared flashlights
  • Snake hooks
  • Ultrasonic sound detectors
  • GPS with capabilities of use under the canopy
  • Walkie talkies
  • Hydrophone and recorder for recording underwater sounds, particularly whale calls
  • Submersible cameras for marine photos
  • Laptop computers.
  • Ambient thermometers.


4) Donate your funds:


Our ability to engage in and continue with many of the projects below is a direct reflection of contributions to these efforts, some of which includes the equipment listed above.  Donations may be made by check or direct wire transfer to the Campanario bank account in Costa Rica.  Please e-mail us for the latest instructions for either method.  Let us know how you would like Campanario to use the money.  Please include your contact information and if you would like the donation to remain anonymous.

  • Providing educational resources to the local area school children
  • Subsidizing environmental education trips for local school children
  • Subsidizing tropical research
  • Monitoring migrations of large mammals in buffer zones outside of Corcovado National Park
  • Developing the Osa Trails Project to include neighboring farmers in the protection of the forests
  • Filming wildlife behaviors
  • Expansion of the biologically protected area of the Osa Peninsula

5) Make your life an example of low impact living.  
Click here for At-Home Conservation Tips

Campanario thanks you for your concerns and contributions!


Keep’n It Green

A letter from us to you...

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Dear Concerned Environmentalist,

I address this to you because you would not be on this web page if you weren't interested in doing something to conserve what is left of the earth's rain forests.  This is not a far-fetched idea to be left only to others.  There is much you personally can do to help.  Each of us in our own life's situation is in a position to contribute in even a small way - maybe financially, but perhaps also with time and effort, and by demonstrating enthusiasm and dedication to Campanario's work.  If not Campanario, then choose an alternate organization - but I ask that you do choose a project and be active!  We all should have the satisfaction of saying, "I made a difference!"

Check this site periodically and be sure to “friend” the Campanario Biological Station on Facebook to see how projects have progressed and what more has been added.  Also check Flickr for updated photos.  I am working on keeping these sites active so you can be active.

Thanks so much for your concern now, and for all that you will be doing in the near future.

Click here to see how you can make a difference.

Yours sincerely,
Nancy Aitken
Proyecto Campanario


Land Acquisition

Our sister NGO . . .


A not-for-profit sister organization, called the Proyecto Campanario Association (Asociación Proyecto Campanario, or APC) has been established primarily for conserving lands outside the original Campanario Biological Station.  The APC is engaged in fund raising to acquire those lands in danger of development.  With the help of donations from international foundations, school groups, and concerned private citizens world wide, the protected area of the Osa Peninsula can continue to increase.

There are several tracts of land for sale in the area, some of which are still in rain forest; others are in old pasture and under considerable pressure to be developed.  The APC is working to acquire the funds to purchase and maintain and/or reforest these lands.  This means raising funds for not only the actual land purchase price, but also for a trust fund for the continual protection of the area.

Acquisition of these lands is becoming more and more urgent as the "development" pressures in the area are increasing.  An international airport has now been approved for construction in the Palmar area.  A gravel road and posts and cables for elecricity have now arrived to the beach just north of Campanario.  Let your imagination run where it will!

Real estate companies periodically call our office for information as to what is for sale in the area.  We are guarded in giving out any information without guarantees that the land will be protected.

Contact us at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to be a part of the conservation effort.


Mission Statement

Our Purpose and Goals . . .

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Proyecto Campanario, a multifaceted conservation effort of its founders and supporters, is dedicated to preserving tropical eco-systems, both terrestrial and marine, through protecting a tract of tropical lowland rain forest and its coastal zones in Costa Rica, offering environmental education programs for national and international students of all ages, promoting tropical research and studies, and working with the local communities.


Since Proyecto Campanario's creation in 1990, with the Campanario Biological Station as the central focus, different programs and activities have emerged to put the mission into action.  Proyecto Campanario is engaged in 10 different programs:

  • Protection of a tract of tropical lowland rain forest and its coastal zones in Costa Rica, maintaining the eco-systems with a minimum of human impact.
  • Tropical ecology courses and camps offered to national and international university and secondary school student groups as the "intense field trip" to give first-hand experience in field studies in tropical eco-systems and in living off-the-grid.
  • Service Learning programs permitting students to be involved in world communities, committing to internships, and working hand-in-hand with members of other cultures through the service they perform.
  • Cultural Conservation programs offering learning opportunities and living experiences in various cultures within Costa Rica, ranging from rural farms to Indian Reserves to nationally known historical institutions.
  • Low-Impact living programs demonstrating to students alternatives toward an eco-friendly and more sustainable life style.  This includes a 1-day trip addressing the problems of solid waste.
  • Eco-tourism adventures for visitors, families and inividuals, looking for a vacation with an educational focus.
  • Internship and volunteer programs exchanging work for part of their room and board in the Station and/or in the San Jose office.
  • Research and species inventories in terrestrial and marine eco-systems carried out by national and international investigators and Campanario volunteers.
  • Local community involvement and service projects to support nearby schools, to offer short courses and talks to the local communities, to promote sustainable tourism, and to work with park officials.
  • National involvement through the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves, which promotes and supports private conservation in Costa Rica and throughout the Central American Isthmus.

Member of

Costa Rican Network
of Private  Reserves,
Organization of Biological Field Stations

Call Us

CR Tel: +506 - 2289 - 8694
CR Fax: +506 - 2289 - 8708

Mail Us

Proyecto Campanario
Apdo. 232-1260, Plaza Colonial, Escazú,
Costa Rica

Email Us

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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