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Girl Scouts explore Costa Rica

Eleven Girl Scouts from Park Rapids, Brainerd, Duluth and St. Cloud traveled to Costa Rica. The group toured a coffee plantation in the foothills of Poás Volcano. Costa Rica is famed for its savory coffee, grown in nutrient-rich, volcanic soil. Each region of the country produces a distinctive flavor, much like Italy and its wines. 1 / 3
Costa Rica is home to 10 percent of all known butterfly species in the world. The dazzling Blue Morpho is among the largest, with a wing span of five to eight inches. Their vivid, iridescent color is a result of microscopic, glass-like scales. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)2 / 3
Capuchin monkeys are easily spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, the most visited park in Costa Rica thanks to its abundant wildlife and magnificent beaches. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)3 / 3

Local Girl Scouts recently experienced a touch of the tropics.

Eleven Scouts from the Minnesota-Wisconsin Lakes and Pines Council traveled to Costa Rica. The girls and troop leaders hailed from Park Rapids, Brainerd, Duluth and St. Cloud.

For the adventurous traveler, Costa Rica offers plentiful opportunity for an adrenaline rush, such as ziplining over rainforest canopies, kayaking, horseback riding, riverboat tours through crocodile-infested waters or whitewater rafting over Class III rapids. 

For the nature lover, Costa Rica teems with an assortment of flora and fauna. The tiny tropical nation, barely as big as West Virginia, is one of the most biologically and geographically diverse countries in the world. An estimated one million plant and animal species – about six percent of the planet’s biodiversity – are found in Costa Rica.

Severe deforestation during the 1950s to 1970s for cattle ranching and farming destroyed almost 70 percent of the country’s forests.

Then Costa Rica became a pioneer of ecotourism. Today, more than 1.7 million tourists visit the country each year.

A network of national parks, protected areas, forest reserves, biological reserves and wildlife sanctuaries allow visitors to view a dizzying array of wildlife in its natural habitat.

As part of their tour, Girl Scouts planted trees to help build a "biological corridor" between parks. These strips of forest provide connectivity, allowing species to safely flow between protected areas.

The Scouts were fortunate to see sloths, squirrel monkeys, coati (a cousin of the raccoon),capuchin monkeys, geckos, iguanas, toucanets, tiger herons, leaf-cutter ants and various other critters during their trip.

The 10-day adventure took the Girl Scouts from San José, the bustling capital in the Central Highlands, to four of the country’s seven provinces, or "states."

Located in one of the world’s most active volcanic zones, Costa Rica has over 200 volcanic formations dating back 65 million years. Five volcanoes are classified as active, another 60 are considered dormant.

Aerial tram rides, guided nature hikes and other canopy tours let visitors experience the unique "cloud forests" of Guanacaste, located in northern Costa Rica. Typically found at elevations above 3,500 feet, these lush forests grow under constant, swirling mists fed by ocean winds.

In Monteverde, the Scouts spent an afternoon with Costa Rican Boy and Girl Scouts, playing soccer, volleyball and tennis, getting to know each other.

And, of course, you can’t talk about Costa Rica without mentioning its beaches. A highlight was frolicking in the Pacific Ocean as the tide came in.

One of the most commonly heard phrases you’ll hear in Costa Rica is "pura vida" (pronounced POO-rah VEE-dah.) Simply translated from Spanish, it means "pure life." More than a greeting, though, it’s a philosophy of life. To Costa Ricans, it means no worries, no fuss, no stress. Be thankful for what you have and don’t dwell on the negative.

In 2009, Costa Ricans scored the highest rating of happiness on the Happy Planet Index, so they must be doing something right. Pura vida!