Birders and intrepid travelers looking for a new nature travel destination in 2012 should add Costa Rica to their list. Here, they can visit the La Amistad International Park and the Cerro de la Muerte region for immersion in a lush, tropical wonderland.

The park is the largest protected region in Costa Rica, and home to more than two-thirds of the natural flora and fauna found in the country. There are more than 600 different species of birds, and visitors can hear their songs echoing off the mountainsides. A stroll down one of the park's many trails may also affords travelers the chance to catch a glimpse of jungle cats, monkeys and a wide variety of other animals that live in the region.

There are also a number of archeological sites throughout the area, and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reports that some of these ruins date back to more than 12,vn the past. Much of the park has been unexplored by humans, and travelers should be conscious of the footprint they leave behind when they come to visit so the lands can continue to flourish in their natural state.

A word of warning from our Costa Rica custom travel planner Sarah Meffert. The La Amistad area is fantastic for more rustic travelers who are primarily interested in birding. And while the birdlife is spectacular, the accommodations in the region are fairly basic.

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