Location: 8km (5 miles) south of Paquera, in Puntarenas province.
GPS Coordinates: 9.793208,-84.925692 (9°47’35.55″N, 84°55’32.49″W)
Puntarenas Ferry GPS Coordinates: 9.977431,-84.848553 (9°58’38.75″N, 84°50’54.79″W)
Size: 84ha (207 acres) 173 acres
Altitude: sea level to 20m (66ft)
Curú National Wildlife Refuge Telephone: +506 2641-0100 / +506 2641-0590
Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) Telephone: +506 2686-4967 / +506 2686-4968
Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) Fax: +(506) 2686-4969
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192
The desire of Federico Shutz and his family to spare this beautiful beach area from development and over harvesting of its marine resources, led to the creation of the Curú National Wildlife Refuge on February 25th, 1983, which purpose is to protect tropical dry forests on the southern Nicoya Peninsula, near Tambor, in Costa Rica.
Based on a old Costa Rican hacienda, this small reserve has a variety of life zones, including primary dry forest, mangroves and a beautiful white sand beach on which Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles nest. The largest beach is excellent for swimming and offers good snorkeling possibilities. Humpback whales are often seen offshore in the nearby Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay), being January the best month to appreciate them, while mangroves extend along the small Curu River.
The climate here is hot with sunny mornings, throughout the year. Afternoon showers are a possibility from May through November. The existing habitats include semi-deciduous forest with a mixture of evergreen and semi-deciduous species, low growing forest near the beach, mangrove swamps and littoral woodland. Some of the largest trees in these forests are the silk cotton, the Panama and the redwood.
Despite its small size, it houses a great variety of birds, terrestrial and marine biodiversity. Guided walks are led by the resident scientists and you might see Capuchin, Spider and Howler monkeys, Agouties, Variegated Squirrels, Coaties, Raccoons, White-tailed Deers, Opossums, Coyotes and Armadillos, and there’s also a lot of lizards species, the most common is the Ctenosaura (the green iguana) and Boa Constrictor. The birds are typical of the dry tropical forest and included are the Black-headed Trogons, Turquoise-browed Motmots, Rose-throated Becards, Lesser Ground Cuckoos, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Thicket Tinamous, Canivet’s Emeralds and Green-backed Heron, while offshore, Royal Terns, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans, Laughing Falcons, Broad-winged Hawk and the Cattle Egret are a common sight.
Aquatic life includes nocturnal hermit crabs, which are very numerous on the beach and on land. There is an almost extinct species of oyster (Ocypode occidentalis) that can be found here, as well as lobsters, chitons and mouthless crabs.
The ecological-mindedness of the Shutz family, the farm’s proprietors, has maintained natural habitat along the ridges, river courses, and beach areas in the refuge and the farm. Several trails go all over the area and permit good wildlife viewing opportunities, a map of which is available at the station near the beach at Curu Bay.
Additionally, an area of mangrove swamp and three picturesque beaches are part of the refuge. The largest beach, Curú Beach, is an excellent swimming beach with very little wave action. The crystalline waters off the other two beaches, Poza Colorada and Quesera, offer good snorkeling around some coral formations. On top of Quesera Point a large shell can be seen, that is evidence of pre-Columbian habitation of this easterly end of the Nicoya Peninsula. In the other hand, fishermen from the small fishing village of Tambor in Bahia Ballena run sunset bird watching cruises through the mangroves of the Pochote Creek.
Getting to Curú National Wildlife Refuge:
From San Jose take the Pan-American Highway to Puntarenas, passing through San Ramon and Barranca. Probably the easiest way to get there is by taking the Ferri to Tambor or Paquera. (Tambor Ferri is the largest and most comfortable, we recommend you get to Puntarenas an hour before the ferry leaves), and there you must take the local bus. The entrance to the park is on the road between Paquera and Tambor, 5 km south of Paquera, and from the farm gate (first one on your left after leaving Paquera) to the refuge is another 1.5 km. Now you can also take the new Caldera Highway, until you get to Puntarenas. The Caldera trip takes about 2.5 hours from San Jose while the other takes about 4 hours.
From Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR), drive south through Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Nandayure, Lepanto and Paquera until you get to Curú National Wildlife Refuge. It is a very scenic trip as you go down the coast (this route exemplifies rural Costa Rica and is very beautiful).
Take a local bus from the route San Jose – Malpais – Montezuma, which takes about 5 hours (Transportes Rodriguez, +506 2642-0219). We recommend buying the ticket the day before to secure your space.
You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to the Tambor Airport, either with Sansa Airlines or Nature Air every day. From here you can rent a car and drive, or take a bus or taxi to Curú National Wildlife Refuge, which takes about 15 minutes.