Take a walk on the wild side of Cost Rica while staying at your Jaco beach resort in Puntarenas. As the sun rises above the mangroves, catch a glimpse of raucous macaws, ocelots, anteaters and white-faced capuchin monkeys. With many wildlife refuges and parks close to Jaco resorts you can venture out on your own or take one of several guided tours available. Prepare to be awed with the vast variety of animals and birds in their natural habitat and don't forget your camera.
Wildlife Refuges Close to Jaco
Carara Biological Reserve is 15 km north of Jaco with miles of trails to explore. Most are open to visitors while some can only be accessed with a tour group. The landscape of the reserve includes swamps, marshes, rivers and ravines making for great opportunities to witness the beauty of Costa Rica. More than 100 pairs of brilliant scarlet macaws nest in the forest and are magnificent to watch at dusk as they fill the sky to return to their roost in the mangrove swamp. If you're fortunate you may even sight an elusive ocelot. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission is $6.
Playa Hermosa is just 5 km south of Jaco resorts with a generous expanse of black sand beach that is part of this wildlife refuge. The beach offers a protected nesting ground for the highly endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle. Females scramble from the Pacific to lay their eggs on the shore during daylight hours from July to December. With ideal surroundings it's a great spot to relax.
National Parks Nearby
Manuel Antonio National Park is 75 km south between Damas and Matapalos. Although it's the countr's smallest park it's also the most frequented. Bask in the serenity of white beaches encircled by lush forest and snorkel in the coral reefs. Take the trail that meanders around Punta Catedral offering incredible views. The area is home to iguanas, sloths and howler monkeys as well as the endangered squirrel monkey. To reach the park you have to cross the Camaronera stream which is doable even at high tide, or take a water taxi. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; admission is $10 or guides are available for $20 per person.
Ballena National Marine Park is about 122 km further south in Dominical, but well worth the drive. The underwater park is named for the humpbacked whales that migrate to the area from August to October and December to April. The park is accessed by 4 beach entrances attended by park rangers. Playa Ballena, Playa Colonia, Playa Pinuela and Playa Uvita. Playa Uvita is a coral and rock reef resembling a whale's tail and can be reached by foot at low tide. In the sheltered waters you can see bottle-nosed dolphins and humpback whales if you're visiting during migration. Ranger stations are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; admission is $6 per person.
Visit refuges and parks in early morning or at sunset when wildlife is most active.
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