Costa RicaCosta Rica

San Jose Day Trip: Intro to INBioparque

Destination: Heredia

I saw the signs every time I entered Heredia from San Jose, but had never visited the popular wildlife park. However, with a trip to INBioparque planned for just a few days ahead, I decided to read up on the organization. What I learned was not only inspiring, but exciting -- Costa Rica's beautiful mountains, forests, beaches and volcanoes were clearly protected by knowledgeable and concerned individuals.

The National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) was established in 1989 as a private research organization and biodiversity management center. At the time, there existed no organization to study Costa Rica's biodiversity and, though the idea for INBio was well received, the government could not fund the project.

Instead of admitting defeat, the commission members sought funding from international sources. Grants trickled in slowly, and the National Institute of Biodiversity developed into an autonomous, non-profit organization. Today, highly-skilled scientists from around the world join INBio's formative research team, helping disseminate knowledge and further research.

INBio focuses on five main environmental goals: inventory and monitoring, conservation, education, biodiversity informatics and bio-prospecting. Of these, bio-prospecting -- research into commercial applications for natural resources -- is perhaps the most lauded. INBio has obtained special permits to research Costa Rica's national parks, and studies in depth each newly-discovered species. Many naturally-occurring chemicals and genes have since been used in pharmaceutical, medical, food and other industries.

Though INBio had already made significant contributions to the community, the public had little knowledge about its activities. In 2000, the organization sought to improve understanding by creating INBioparque. The resulting park is a mixture of theme park and hands-on museum, utilizing more than 12 acres to recreate Costa Rica's Central Valley forest, rainforest, dry forest, wetlands and farms. Several wildlife stations including boa constrictors, tarantulas, frogs, orchids, ants and turtles, are also found throughout the park.

Like its parent organization, INBioparque is a fully non-profit organization, dedicated to improving its community and educating its visitors. On-site research units, student workshops and special conferences add to the park's atmosphere of learning. In addition, the organization often reaches out to Costa Rican youth -- an Adopt a Costa Rican Student fund helps to educate children on their country's amazing biodiversity and environmental current events.

INBioparque may be experienced both at night and during the day. I opted for the daytime tour, which starts at 11 a.m., and look forward to reporting back to you about my day traveling through Costa Rica's distinct and diverse environments.

San Jose Day Trip: Intro to INBioparque in Pictures