What is The Jesus Tree? If you Google this topic, you’ll find amazing photos taken for National Geographic, Pinterest, and Flickr, but it’s unlikely that you’ll discover any other information about this remarkable tree. According to local lore, El Arbolito Solitario might be approximately two hundred years old and the miracle is that she has lived that entire time standing within the tidal wash of The Pacific Ocean. The Jesus Tree lives in salt water… The coastal trail that takes you from Tambor Beach to El Arbolito is magnificent in it’s own right. From the “muelle” (dock) in Tambor, the beautiful nature trek to The Jesus Tree takes less than an hour at a moderate pace. First you wind down a craggy dirt road and through a salt-blown neighborhood of fisherman and artisans, living close to the sea in tiny makeshift homes that pepper the coast. Cocks crow, street dogs scratch and yawn, and locals laze on their front porches enjoying the cool breeze and a cerveza or cafecito while waving at people passing through to make the pilgrimage to El Arbolito. The smiling brown faces you encounter along the way provide an intimate glimpse into the warm simplicity of this alluring culture. As the rocks and ridges become more prominent, the barrio fades into the rearview mirror and rough civilization gives way to large ancient trees, thick roots clinging to cliffs and leaning over the trail dangling families of monkeys like tropical jewelry or furry Christmas ornaments. Flowers jut out in bursts of color and the spectrum of exotic birds squawking overhead is truly impressive, all color and feathers and song. These jungle gems flavor the journey as you walk in complete peace, hand in hand with Mother Nature. The Jesus Tree awaits.
When asked about the official name of this magical tree, local Juan Carlos Cruz, birder, volleyballer, and manager of the regal jungle resort Tambor Tropical stated: “The tree has two names. Costa Rican Tamboreños call it “Arbolito Solitario”. “Solitary Little Tree”. Faithful to our custom of giving the termination “ito” (little) to everything that is dear to us. The curiosity about this tree is not only that it grew in such harsh conditions, but the fact that there are no other trees by it. Expat Tamboreños generally call it The Jesus Tree, because on high tide it gets totally surrounded by water, giving the impression to be “walking” on water like Jesus did.” That is one perspective regarding the origin of the Jesus Tree moniker- the holy image the tree appears to conjure when the tide is high. It’s also possible that this nickname emerged due to the fact that the tree has survived so long on it’s own in a salt water home, thereby making it a bit of a miracle. Some folks even claim that The Jesus Tree performs miracles for visitors when they ask at the right time, granting chlorophyll wishes and sunshine kisses while answering prayers on the sea breeze. Juanca Cruz further observes, ” Although this is not considered a place of worship, it definitely shows in a good way how locals appreciate and respect nature. With that being said, a few misguided romantic juveniles have thought that it was a good idea to make markings with their names on the trees bark.” Perhaps these lost souls were attempting to commune with the power of the tree. Our hope is that future visitors will have a high level of respect when encountering our living landmark. El Arbolito cannot be branded for ownership by a few star-crossed lovers. She is there for all of us to enjoy for as long as the miracle lasts. Some senior members of the Tambor community attest to the fact that the tree is at least eighty years old, and it’s generally accepted that it may very well be close to two hundred years old. A local biologist, Ruth Rodriguez, believes that The Jesus Tree is a “Red Mangrove” (Rhizophora Mangle) and that is why it has survived this long. Here is a link to more information about this remarkable species of plant: http://www.mangrove.at/rhizophora-mangle_red-mangrove.html
The next time you find yourself at Tambor Beach, put on your bathing suit and fill a backpack with water, fresh fruit, a good book, and some sunblock. Bring your camera and a pair of binoculars. Hit the trail, breathe in the fresh sea air, bask in the warmth of the sun, and swim in the calm waters underneath the mysterious gaze of The Jesus Tree.