Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge
Lonely Planet review for Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge
Located on the Pacific coast 3km northeast of Dominical on the road to Quepos, this wildlife refuge forms a key link in a major biological corridor called ‘the Path of the Tapir.’ It comprises more than 330 hectares of private and state-owned land that has been protected from hunting since 1976. The range of tropical habitats that may be observed here include pristine beaches, riverbanks, mangrove estuaries, wetlands, selectively logged forests, secondary forests, primary forests, tree plantations and pastures.
This diversity of habitat plus its key position in the Path of the Tapir biological corridor accounts for the multitude of species that have been identified in Hacienda Barú. These include 351 birds, 69 mammals, 94 reptiles and amphibians, 87 butterflies and 158 species of trees, some of which are more than 8.5m in circumference. Ecological tourism provides this wildlife refuge with its only source of funds with which to maintain its protected status, so guests are assured that money spent here will be used to further the conservation of tropical rainforest.
There is an impressive number of guided tours (US$20 to US$60) on offer. You can experience the rainforest canopy in three different ways – a platform 36m above the forest floor, tree climbing and a zip line called ‘the Flight of the Toucan.’ In addition to the canopy activities, Hacienda Barú offers bird-watching tours, hiking tours, and two overnight camping tours in both tropical rainforest and lowland beach habitats. Hacienda Barú’s naturalist guides come from local communities and have lived near the rainforest all of their lives.
For people who prefer to explore the refuge by themselves, there are 7km of well-kept and marked, self-guided trails, a bird-watching tower, 3km of pristine beach, an orchid garden and a butterfly garden.
The Hacienda Barú Lodge consists of six clean, two-bedroom cabins located 350m from Barú beach. The red-tile–roofed, open-air restaurant serves a variety of tasty Costa Rican dishes.
The Quepos–Dominical–San Isidro bus stops outside the hacienda entrance. The San Isidro–Dominical–Uvita bus will drop you off at the Río Barú bridge, 2km from the hacienda office. A taxi from Dominical costs about ₡2500.
If you’re driving, the El Ceibo gas station, 50m north of the Hacienda Barú Lodge, is the only one for a good distance in any direction. Groceries, fishing gear, tide tables and other useful sundries are available, and there are clean toilets.