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.


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.