Hacienda Baru Reserve

Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Reserve Costa Rica has come a long way since 1970, when the Ewings first managed it as a cattle operation, undergoing a metamorphosis that now brings a wildlife refuge, which was created on October 6th, 1995, to protect tropical forest areas on the Pacific Coast, near Dominical. It is a private national wildlife refuge which includes primary forest, secondary forest, tropical wet forest, swamp forest, mangrove estuary, shrubbery, river bank and seashore.

Some visitors arrive in the tropical forest expecting boas to be hanging from the trees and jaguars to appear on the trails. Boas are on Barú’s reptile list, but no jaguars have been spotted here, though there are pumas, jaguarundi and ocelots.

But visitors still have plenty to see, with more than 310 species of birds counted, 57 species of mammals (including bats) and reptiles and amphibians that run the gamut from caimans to red-eyed tree frogs and tiny, colorful, poison-dart frogs. Also, Humpback whales pass by offshore from December to April, and Olive Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles lay eggs on the beach from May through November. The hacienda helps with a nursery where about 2,500 baby turtles are hatched and released every year. Dolphins inhabit these warm waters too.

Moreover, the refuge has about 250 orchid species and growing.

Day visitors are welcome at Hacienda Barú Wildlife Refuge, choosing from a variety of hikes with naturalists or native guides: a three-hour Mangrove and Beach Walk includes a look at reforestation with native species; the popular six-hour Rainforest Experience explores tropical wet forest; and two- to three-hour horseback rides take in tropical waterfalls, beach, jungle trails and pastures. More than a mile (2 km) of self-guiding trails over level terrain are free for overnight guests, with a nominal fee for day visitors. Day and overnight guests can kayak through mangroves, no experience necessary; try whitewater kayaking; or experience a guided night estuary tour by kayak.

Furthermore, an incredible experience awaits those who ascend into the canopy by rope. Harnessed and helmeted, the visitor is gently lifted more than 30m (100ft) to an observation platform, with fantastic views of canopy vegetation and surrounding forest guaranteed. Possibilities of wildlife to be seen are countless. For more adventure, choose tree climbing, with a naturalist guide beside you all the way.

Spend a night in the jungle, camping in tents next to a shelter with flush toilets and shower. Observe nocturnal animals; take a night hike or morning bird-watching. If your taste runs more to cabins, there are six two- and three-bedroom units with double and single beds, kitchenettes, fans, screened windows with shutters and bamboo sofas. Cabins are near both forest and beach.

In addition, there are areas of silviculture (tree farming) with many different species of commercially viable timber, fruit orchards and pasture. It is important to say that the refuge receives income to maintain and protect its natural treasure from only two sources: ecological tourism and tree farming.