Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge

Located in the northeastern part of Costa Rica in the Caribbean Region you will find the Barra del Colorado National Wild Refuge. The refuge covers 350 square miles, and is home to many animals and plants. You can reach the refuge by flying from the Juan Santamaria International Airport, or by boat on one of the many intersecting waterways. The San Juan River runs through the Barra del Colorado Refuge, and both sides of the river have completely different characteristics.

Thick forests cover the Nicaraguan side of the river, while the Costa Rican side is mainly wetland forest and swamps. There are virtually no roads or trails, so what you see is mainly from your boat. Green macaws can be seen flying overhead, and jabiru storks with massive wings are also spotted regularly. On the riverbanks large crocodiles can be seen basking in the sun.

Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge, Costa RicaGame fishermen frequent the rivers for the vast amount of fish that can be caught. Tarpon are a local fish that can grow huge, and there are plenty of them. 90 million year old Gar can also be fished out of the river. These fish have long snout-like mouths full of razor sharp teeth – similar to a crocs. The San Juan River has also had bull sharks move in. Why these creatures come from the salty Atlantic Ocean to the fresh waters of the river is unknown.

The weather in the refuge is hot and humid most of the year. From February through April, dry weather makes the refuge a better place to visit and spot the wildlife. Caimans, toucans, jacanas and falcons are just a few of the animals you may see. Monkeys and three-toed sloths can be seen in the trees.

Being as remote as it is, the Barra del Colorado is only near two small towns. Brra del Norte and Barro del Sur. Tourism is not very well supported here, and the fishermen’s lodges are really the best place to book your stay. Lodges are available to rent, mostly for fishermen. They are all inclusive, and do include some extra perks as well.

Along the waterways, you will find lush raffia palms. It is here that many of the wildlife make their homes. White-faced capuchin and ocelots can be seen, as well as howler monkeys and mountain lions. Along the beaches, turtle nests are abundant. Both green and leatherback turtles can be seen nesting here.

National Parks and Wildlife Reserves

It’s no wonder Christopher Columbus called Costa Rica “La Huerta”–the garden, because Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Slightly smaller than the state of Virginia, Costa Rica is packed with lush rainforests and cloud forests, spectacular beaches along the rich coast, active volcanoes and more wildlife than you could ever imagine. One of the best ways to see Costa Rica in all its beauty is to visit some of its many National Parks and Wildlife Reserves.

In the heart of Costa Rica, Volcan Paos National Park is the site for an active volcano that most recently erupted in 1954, with the last major eruption in 1910. An outstanding example of the effects of acid rain is in evidence all around. At nearly a mile across this volcano is the largest crater in the world. The clay-colored robin–Costa Rica’s national bird, the beautiful quetzal along with many other birds can be seen here. Volcan Paos National Park is the country’s second most visited conservation site.Manuel Antonio National ParkFor the true adventure seeker, more than forty limestone caves are the biggest attraction at Barra Honda National Park. Barra Honda is located in a tropical dry forest, which is one of the rarest habitats found on earth. The caverns have vertical entrances, which makes them impossible to access without climbing gear. A trained guide and advance permission from the park service is a must.Manuel Antonio National Park, on the west coast, the smallest of Costa Rica’s National Parks, is also one of the most visited. Scenic mountains, breathtaking beaches and captivating fauna such as raccoons, two-toed sloths, squirrel and white-faced monkeys can all be seen in one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful National Parks. Available activities include hiking, fishing, rafting, kayaking and championship surf tournaments.

Further south, Corcovado National Park contains thirteen ecosytems which include highland cloud forest, lowland rain forest, jolillo palm forest, and coastal marine habitats, with thirteen miles of beaches. In addition to beautiful scenery, many of Costa Rica’s endangered species can be seen here, such as Jaguars, Red-backed squirrel monkeys Baird’s tapirs, Scarlet Macaws, White-lipped Peccaries and Harpy Eagles. Camping equipment is available for rent and tours can be arranged.

On the east coast, the Cahuita National Park and Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is a humid tropical rainforest and is located right along the coast between the mouths of the Cocles and the Sixaola Rivers. Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is just north of Panama and offers hiking trails with opportunities to see more than 360 kinds of bird species, monkeys, sloths, turtles, crocodiles, caimans, dolphins tarpons, and manatees. The most significant thing about this refuge is that it contains the only natural mangrove swamp in the Atlantic. Manzanillo is popular for fishing. Just north of Manzanillo Refuge is Cahuita National Park which offers snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and camping.

The people of Costa Rica have worked hard to preserve the wildlife and natural habitat of this beautiful country. No visit would be complete without seeing at least a few of the many national parks and wildlife reserves offered by Costa Rica, the garden between two oceans.

Puerto Limon

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, is on the Caribbean coast. It is the capital city of the province of Limon. The city was founded in the 1870s when a railway between the city of San Jose and Puerto Limon was completed. The railway was built so coffee could be transported from the center of Costa Rica to the coast.

Puerto Limon is close to the site where Columbus landed in Costa Rica in 1502. A festival is held in the city every year in October to commemorate this event. It is held close to the anniversary of the day Columbus first landed in America in 1492. The festival celebrates a variety of Caribbean cultures including African, Spanish, Chinese and Italian. The Chinese and Italians worked on the railroad that connected San Joseand Port Limon. Parades, dancing, music and food are part of the festival celebration.Puerto Limon, Costa RicaThe Ethno Historic Museum has exhibits on the history and culture of the Puerto Limon area. The building that houses the museum is an example of the area’s architecture from the colonial period.

There are plenty of things to do outside in the Puerto Limon area. Playa Bonita Beach is two and half miles from downtown Puerto Limon. Surfers, sunbathers and swimmers will enjoy this beach.

The Tortuguero National Park is north of Puerto Limon. A boat ride on the national park gives visitors a chance to see aquatic plants, birds, bats and caymans. Caymans are similar to alligators.

Visitors can see tropical fruits, flowers and spices growing at the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are on a working farm.

Tourists can shop and eat outside in Puerto Limon. Jewelry, leather goods and wood carvings are sold at the outdoor market.

Customers can dine on the beach at the restaurant at the Hotel Playa Westfalia. This hotel has a pool and a spa. The Hotel Cocori Puerto Limon is also on the beach. The Park Hotel is in the center of Puerto Limon.

Travelers can take domestic flights to Puerto Limon from Tobias Bolanos International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. There is bus service to Puerto Limon from San Jose and several other cities in Costa Rica.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica

Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea in Limon province, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a vibrant seaside town with magnificent beaches. It has quickly become one of Costa Rica’s number one tourist destinations. International surfers from all over the world come to defeat the famous Salsa Brava waves. Simply referred to as Puerto Viejo by the locals, this quaint village has a relaxed atmosphere with a unique blend of Bribri, Afro-Caribbean and Latino indigenous cultures.

Puerto Viejo features a wide variety of restaurants, discos and bars throughout the village. In addition, there are many good shopping venues. Besides the golden sand beaches and tropical vegetation, there are many interesting attractions, such as the Gandoco Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, the Talamanca Indian Reserve and the Cahuita National Park. Although most of the roads are dirt paved, it adds to the rustic charm of the village.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa RicaWhile many surfers flock to Puerto Viejo for the great surf, there’s a plethora of activities is you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors in the great tropical climate. Horseback tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, mountain biking and kayaking are just a few of the fun activities available in the village. Puerto Viejo’s tropical temperature is approximately 80 degrees year round, which makes it a pleasure to be outdoors.

It was difficult to reach the Talamanca coast until the 1970s. The far distance of San Jose and difficulty of travel by canoe caused the coastal villagers to be somewhat isolated from the mainstream of Costa Rica. As a result, the villagers developed customs and cultures that were unique to themselves. Roads were built in 1979 and connected the village to Limon. Today, it is only a 3 hour drive from San Jose.

In the 1800s, English speaking Afro-Caribbean people came from Jamaica to settle along the Talamanca coast. They brought an African based culture of culinary arts, fishing, and farming that are reflected in Puerto Viejo today. British colonial customs from generations of slavery were retained and cricket and May Pole dances still played a role in their activities. These Caribbean farmers also brought cacao, coconuts and cola nuts. They planted the coastline with these cash crops and facilitated local development by establishing commercial ties.

The interesting cuisine in Puerto Viejo seen today was greatly influenced by the Afro-Caribbeans. Patacone, a French fried style, is still a favorite of the locals and tourists. Spicy patti and jerk chicken is commonly offered by street vendors and restaurants.

With its beautiful beaches and quaint charm, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a great retreat for a perfect vacation.

Manzanillo-Gandoca National Wildlife Refuge


Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, in southeastern Talmanca area of Costa Rica, is a set of rainforest and wetland environments including a coral reef. The refuge has over 20,000 acres and starts south of Punta Uva that is three miles south of Puerto Viejo and continues to the Sixaola River near the border with Panama. The only other coral reef in Costa Rica is in Cahuita.

The small beach village of Manzanillo is found inside the park and has white sandy beaches of the Caribbean. Trails reach up six miles from the town to Mona Point. Close by are the red mangrove swamps, the only one on the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica. Two palm swamps that harbor tapirs within the marshes are found inside the park.

Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Costa RicaThe park’s tropical plant life and isolation attract more than 350 species of tropical birds including the harpy eagle. This is a major feature for birding.

Examples of marine turtles – Green Sea. Leatherback and Hawksbill- nest on the southern beaches of the park. While not a main nesting site for turtles because of people using the beach, conservation authorities have increased plans to preserve the area for nesting.

The Kekoldi Indian Reserve shares land with the Gandoca-Manzanillo Reserve to preserve the indigenous Cabecar and Bribri native tribal areas. The tribes live in the park, subsisting off the land.

The Reserve has a diverse number of animals including eagles, manatees and dolphins. Other examples of wildlife are caimans, tapirs, tarpons, and crocodiles. Visitors who snorkel or scuba dive will be able to view the tropical fish in the coral reef.

The dry season, March to April and then from September through October, is the best time to visit Gandoca-Manzanillo as the park gets high rainfall. Both towns of Manzanillo and Gandoca have entrances to the park. Local accommodations are limited. Visitors will find lodging in Puerto Viejo.

Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge is 73 km in distance from Limon. It is not easily reaches because most of the roads are dirt, so the best route is to drive from San Jose to Limon and then drive south to the town of Cahuita. Pass the town of Puerto Viejo for 12 km and then reach the entrance of the reserve.

The small towns of Punta Uva, Punta Mona, Home Creek and Manzanillo are located in the refuge.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is a beautiful park that is known for its biological diversity and is located in the Tortuguero Conservation Area of Costa Rica.  Located on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, this national park is the 3rd most popular park in Costa Rica.Visitors from all over the world come to this park to take in the wide range of habitats that include beaches, lagoons and rain forests. It is the turtles that are the main attraction, however. Getting to Tortuguero National Park is only accessible by airplane or boat from Puerto Limon thus adding to the allure of this Costa Rican Adventure.

Sea Turtle, Tortuguero National Park Costa RicaThe beaches of Tortuguero National Park are home to a wide variety of turtles which are endemic to the area. Some of these turtles include the Hawksbill turtle, Green Sea turtle and the Leatherback turtle. The species were once driven to the point of extinction due to them being poached for their meat and their eggs. They are now protected by the national park and visitors can watch these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Tortuguero National Park also offers visitors a wide variety of hiking trails to enjoy. The most popular of these trails is the El Gavilan, a winding trail that alternates between the beautiful beaches and the dense forest of the park. Another popular trail is the Tortuga Lodge Trail which runs to a height of almost 400 feet and gives visitors an outstanding view of Cerro Bogue Ridge.

Some of the other activities that are popular in Tortuguero National Park include fishing and bird watching. Amateur and professional fishermen often come to this park to catch one of the many fish that inhibit this area, such as Tarpon or Atlantic Snook. Bird watchers come to the park to enjoy the many varieties of birds which include Violet Sabrewings, Green Macaw, Northern Jacanas and Amazon Kingfishers.

Most visitors to Tortuguero National Park begin their trip in Tortuguero Village because of its proximity to the park and the accommodations that can be found in the village. Tortuguero Village also offers many other amenities which include restaurants, quaint shops and tour operators. Once in Tortuguero Village, visitors can visit Tortuguero National Park either by small plane or by chartering a boat at the port of Puerto Limon.

Visitors to this park should be aware that camping isn’t allowed in the park but there are several lodges in the area where one can get accommodations. Some of the more popular lodges in Tortuguero National Park include Laguna Lodge, Turtle Beach Lodge and the Parismina Lodge.


Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline, the least visited yet maybe the most beautiful section of Costa Rica. Extending from the northern border with Nicaragua southward to the border with Panama, the lush Caribbean region of Costa Rica offers adventure seekers as well as nature lovers a land filled with indescribable natural riches. From unbelievable pristine white sand beaches to lush tropical rainforest teeming with countless species of wild life, the Costa Rica Caribbean coastline is just waiting to be discovered.

The gateway to Costa Rica’s Caribbean region is the port city of Puerto Limon, a three hour drive from Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose will take travelers over the Central Mountain Range, passing through Zurqui Tunnel, the only tunnel to be found in the country, dense tropical rainforest will give way to banana plantations and palm tree lined roads leading to Puerto Limon. Puerto Limon is also home to Costa Rica’s only Caribbean cruise port.

Playa Puerto Viejo, Caribbean, Costa RicaThe Costa Rica Caribbean region can be divided into two main areas; the northern Caribbean coastline is home to some of the best wildlife viewing in all of Costa Rica, home to two of the country’s finest national parks, Tortuguero National Park and Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge. Travel to Tortuguero is mainly from Puerto Limon via excursion boats or from San Jose by air. Several lodges will make arrangements to pick up their guest in Puerto Limon. Tortuguero National Park is inundated year round by migrating turtles, June to November will find upwards of 30,000 green turtles making their way onshore to lay their eggs, while the months of February till July will see Giant Leatherback turtles nesting along the same beaches. Headed north from Tortuguero National Park is Barra del Colorado National Wild Refuge extending north to the Nicaraguan border. With less amenities than Tortuguero the area is mainly known for its fishing.

Suggested Trip Costa Rica Caribbean RegionThe southern Caribbean coastline is known for its clear blue waters attracting snorkelers and beachcombers alike. Cahuita National Park, with its many coral reefs is a big draw. The southern Caribbean area host some of Costa Rica’s most unspoiled rainforests, nature lovers will find Hitoy-Cerere Biological Reserve a treasure drove of wildlife. Puerto Viejo, just 30 minutes south of Cahuita National Park is known for its Caribbean flavor, with descendants of Jamaican heritage that came to work the banana plantations and Costa Rica’s railroad during the late 1800’s , the area is deep in Creole traditions that travelers will find evident in the local food, music and Mardi Gras celebrations. The end of the road leads to Manzanillo, the southernmost reaches of the Caribbean coastline is an area that time has forgotten. Adventure seekers will find Gandoca-Manzanillio Wildlife Refuge the perfect launching point for adventures into the jungles, with boating, horseback riding or just hiking to enjoy this area rich in wildlife and scenery that should wet any appetite.

Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast sees the heaviest of the countries rainfall, over 200 inches of rain a year is not uncommon for this region , yet compared to the rest of the country, the rain is spread out through the year. July and December will find the heaviest months with August through October the least amount. Temperatures will average 75 to 85 degrees year round and are kept pleasant by tropical winds coming from the Caribbean waters.


Gandoca, Costa Rica

A tiny coastal village that gazes on the Caribbean Sea, Gandoca, Costa Rica may be one of the tropic’s most untapped treasures. Tucked amid lush jungle foliage, silky-sanded beaches and unspoiled wilderness, it is near Panama’s border and home to commercial banana plantations that serve as the area’s main employer and represent an industry that has been present in Central American for over 100 years.

Gandoca is best known for the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refugeand is located at the southern end of it. Here is where some sole survivors of Costa Rica’s wildlife and rain forest ecosystems are protected. Residents include crocodiles, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, eagles, toucans, lobsters, exotic fish and numerous other inhabitants of sea, land and air. The refuge has several rare habitats including a natural mangrove swamp and a lowland rain forest.

Rocky Coast, Gandoca- Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Costa RicaFrom March through July, a visit to Gandoca offers an opportunity to witness turtle nesting season, one of nature’s most fascinating events. A nighttime stroll on the beach may come to a mesmerized halt as huge leatherback sea turtles emerge from the turquoise water and use their flippers as shovels to dig pits into the pristine sand. These large holes are where they settle their 1000 pound bodies to lay as many as 80 to 120 eggs before returning to their tranquil, underwater world. This has drawn a turtle conservation project to Gandoca, where turtle eggs are a delicacy and vulnerable to human poachers. Project members relocate the eggs to safer ground, patrol the site from dusk to dawn, keep the beach clean of debris and build hatcheries. Prior to this project commencing in 1986, almost all eggs fell prey to poachers. The survival rate is now 90 percent, making Gandoca’s beach one of the world’s few to see nesting numbers rise. Volunteers are welcome to join the project’s mission to help hatchings make a safe run to the sea.

Gandoca is a humid rainforest with February, March, June, September and October comprising the dry seasons, making them the recommended time for nature lovers, hikers, dolphin watchers, kayakers and snorkelers to visit the area and refuge.

Located a short seven miles from the popular tourist town of Puerto Viejo, Gandoca is close to restaurants, accommodations and shopping. Gandoca itself, though, truly is a secluded and remote paradise that some might say is best experienced in a hammock.

Cahuita National Park

Costa Rica is world renowned for its bio-diversity which is showcased in the Cahuita National Park. This diverse habitat of pristine beaches, mangroves, marshland and lush rainforest was originally opposed by the local populace. They were persuaded by Alvaro Ugalde to create this sanctuary of botany, culture and wildlife.

One of the least developed areas in Costa Ricais the Cahuita National Park. It is home to numerous species of birds, animals, marine life and is the nesting ground for three species of turtles. Eco-tourists will be awestruck by the endemic flora and fauna. Hike the trails of this nature preserve and catch a glimpse of iguanas, sloths, capuchin monkeys, green ibis, kingfishers and herons. Water enthusiasts can charter a boat and dive on the multicolored reefs that teem with an extraordinary variety of sea creatures such as the blue parrotfish, sea urchins and angel fish. You can also imagine yourself as a treasure hunter while exploring two sunken wrecks that are believed to have carried slaves from Africa. Established in 1970 to protect the offshore coral reef, this sanctuary now includes lowlands, shoreline and rainforests.

Beaches of Cahuita National Park, Costa RicaCultural tourists will enjoy exploring the nearby villages of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. The multicultural backdrop is influenced by a Caribbean flare. The diverse community includes locals and expatriates from North America and Europe. This results in an eclectic mix of cuisine and music. Diners can enjoy French and Italian delights or sample the local spicy seafood dishes while being serenaded by Caribbean rhythms.

To reach the park, rent a car and travel the main highway from the capital of San Jose to Limon before turning south to Cahuita. You can also take one of several daily buses that connect San Jose and Cahuita. The main entrance to the park is approximately four hundred meters south of the village. You can walk, drive or take a local bus to the entrance. There is a secondary gate near the Puerto Vargas Administrative Center. The tropical climate is hot and humid with the dry season extending from mid-February through April.

Cahuita National Park is located in one of the most beautiful and scenic areas along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Visitors to the park will be amazed by the mix of white sand beaches, coconut groves, wildlife and underwater wonders.

Cahuita, Costa Rica

Cahuita is a small, secluded village in the southern part of Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast and it is 43 kilometers or 27 miles from Puerto Limón. Most of Cahuita’s 4000 people are of Jamaican heritage, many having migrated in the early part of the 20th century to work on the banana plantations.

Weather in Cahuita is very rainy and hot but there is a period of time when it is a little less rainy. Between the middle of February and April there is less rain, and sometimes it rains less during September and October. The sun shines more than 12 hours a day in Costa Rica.Cahuita National Park, Cahuita, Costa RicaOn the coast, there is a beach with black sand and a beach with white sand. Between them is one of the best coral reefs in Costa Rica. Cahuita is the gateway to Cahuita National Park which is 2,635 acres, with one tenth of that being offshore. It was formed in 1970 in order to protect the coral reef there. It contains a beach with white sands and marvelous coral reefs. Snorkeling is excellent here and there are hiking trails. Camping is allowed in one section of the park but there are no facilities. The habitat there is a rain forest and some of the animals are: blue fiddler crabs, herons, toucans, ibis, iguanas, monkeys, sloths, tamandua, and coati.The Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center and Botanical Gardens rescues displaced animals, rehabilitates them, and returns them to the wild, if possible. They also breed turtles and iguanas and place them in the wild. There are 10 acres of gardens that include native plants, palms, bromeliads, heleconias, and more. They are closed in May, June, September, and October.

11 kilometers from Cahuita is the Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary. It was established to protect and rehabilitate sloths. During the tour, you will go on a canoe ride in the rainforest, return to the education center to learn about sloths, and then meet some of the babies.

Another attraction is Willie’s Tours where you can tour the Bri Bri Reserve and learn about pre-Columbian culture and cocoa processing. Another choice is rafting on the Pacaure River or hiking through the rainforest. Other guided adventures include snorkeling, fishing, or dolphin watching.

If you wish to spend the night in Cahuita, you will find five hotels there. They are the Atlantida Lodge, Hotel Magellan Inn, Hotel National Park Cahuita, Playa Negra Guesthouse, and Suizo Loco Lodge.

Manzanillo, Caribbean, Costa Rica

Manzanillo, Caribbean Costa Rica is a tiny fishing village residing within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge. Manzinillo is part of the awe inspiring cost of the Caribbean. This idyllic village is best known for gorgeous white sandy beaches dotted with palm trees.

Manzinillo is just a short drive from San Jose. Boasting unmatched weather year round, this quiet little village hosts only a small number of tourists yearly. Tradition and customs are a daily part of Mazinillo life offering friendly faces and delectable cuisine to its tourists. Manzinillo is the ideal location for a low key and tranquil vacation spot.Manzinillo received its name after the ancient tree that grew in the center of the village until the late 1940′s. Manzanillo offer locals and travelers lovely markets to shop and dine. Restaurants serve a bounty from the ocean depths with seafood that is the most delectable in the country. This tiny village is renowned for its seafood cuisine.Manzanillo Coast, Caribbean, Costa RicaManzinillo, Costa Rica has an astonishing array of beautiful accommodations for the vacationer. Small hotels and resorts dot the lovely little village. Traveler’s will wish to take part in snorkeling and swimming among the reefs. Scuba diver enthusiasts will be gratified to witness all the underwater beauty that Manzinillo has to offer. Dolphin tours are readily available for vacationers to watch any of the different species of dolphins that call the coastline home.

Avid fishers will appreciate all of the fishing opportunities available in Manzinilllo. Charter fishing trips are available on an almost daily basis allowing fishers to have the guided fishing trip of their dreams. Small charter boats are available for rental to travelers wishing to explore the sea and fish quietly among the waters of Manzinillo. Nature enthusiasts are able to hike to Monkey Point. Hikers will be able to observe some of Costa Rica’s native monkeys in their natural habitat and surroundings. Monkey Point is a trip of a lifetime. Locals believe that Monkey Point was named by Christopher Columbus after discovering the area during his expeditions. Tropical jungles are on the village edge for locals and travelers to explore and discover.