Introducing Barra Del Colorado
At 904 sq km, including the frontier zone with Nicaragua, Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Barra del Colorado, or ‘Barra’ for short, is the biggest national wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. It is also one of the most remote – more so since Costa Rica's commercial airlines suspended service to the area in 2009. This means that the only way to get to Barra is via local bus-boat transportation from Cariari or charter flight from San José.
The area has long been a favorite of sportfishers who arrive to hook gar, tarpon and snook. But those who aren’t into fishing will be rewarded with incredible landscape. The Ríos San Juan, Colorado and Chirripó all wind through the refuge and out to the Caribbean Sea – through a soggy wetland habitat made up of marshes, mangroves and lagoons. Here, you’ll find West Indian manatees, caimans, monkeys, tapirs and three-toed sloths, plus a riotous bird population that includes everything from keel-billed toucans to white hawks. There are countless species of waterbird.
The northern border of the refuge is the Río San Juan, the border with Nicaragua (many local residents are Nicaraguan nationals). This area was politically sensitive during the 1980s, due to the Nicaraguan conflict. Today, however, it is possible to journey north along the Río Sarapiquí and east along the Río San Juan, technically entering Nicaragua. While Costa Ricans have right of use, foreign travelers should carry a passport and US$10 when out fishing.
The village of Barra del Colorado lies near the mouth of the Río Colorado and is divided by the river into Barra del Norte and Barra del Sur. The airstrip is on the south side, but more people live along the north side. The area outside the village is swampy and there are no roads; travel is almost exclusively by boat.