Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Mixto Caño Negro)
While it's possible to access the refuge on your own during dry season, its most enriching to take a tour led by a naturalist guide—exploring with an expert increases your chance of spotting wildlife such as howler monkeys, 3-toed sloths, Jesus Christ lizards, turtles, and caimans. Tour of the wetlands typically transport you by boat or kayak; the latter allows you to get closer to wildlife without disturbing them.
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Things to Know Before You Go
With luck, avid bird watchers will spot glossy ibises, green-backed herons, Nicaraguan grackle, or the endangered jabiru.
Bring bug spray and binoculars (or a camera with a good zoom lens) to spot and photograph wildlife from a distance.
There are no restroom or dining facilities in the park, but most tours include lunch in a nearby village.
Fishing is allowed on the Rio Frio for most of the year; licenses are available at the ranger station in Caño Negro village.
How to Get There
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is located about two hours north of La Fortuna in Costa Rica’s Alajuela province, near the Nicaraguan border. The rural roads can be difficult to navigate, so traveling with a local driver or tour company is recommended. During the rainy season when water levels rise, a boat tour is essential.
When to Get There
The wildlife refuge is open daily, year-round. Birdwatchers should trying to target the dry season (mid-November to April), when receding water levels attract an influx of migratory birds. From May to mid-November, most of the refuge is only accessible by boat. Fishing is allowed from July 1 through March 31.
Where to See Wildlife in Costa Rica
As one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, protected wildlife areas exist in every corner of Costa Rica. Monteverde’s cloud forest is a mist-shrouded refuge that blooms with plant life, while Manuel Antonio National Park combines pristine beach scenery with monkey-filled coastal forests. Near San Jose, the Tarcoles River is a popular stop for croc-spotting, while Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side is known for its namesake turtles.
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