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.

1Untitled-2 2Untitled-3 3Untitled-4 4Untitled-5

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.

aUntitled-6 bUntitled-7 cUntitled-8

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!

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.


Copyright © 2017