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Arenal, Monteverde, and the Northern Lowlands Sights

Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro)

  • Off Hwy. 35 Map It
  • Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge
  • Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge
  • Fodor's Choice

Fodor's Review

It's a shame that Caño Negro doesn't grab the same amount of attention in wildlife-viewing circles as other destinations in Costa Rica. Due to the recent saturation of visitors at Tortuguero National Park to the east, Caño Negro has finally gained recognition among bird-watchers and nature lovers for its isolation, diversity, and abundant wildlife. As a feeding ground for both resident and migratory birds, the refuge is home to more than 350 bird species, 310 plants, and at least 160 species of mammals. The reserve is a splendid place to watch waterfowl and resident exotic animals, including cougars, jaguars, and several species of monkeys. It's also one of the best places to see a basilisk, more commonly known as the “Jesus Christ Lizard" because of its ability to run on water. Comprising the vast wetland sanctuary is a web of channels and lagoons ideal for exploring by boat, and even more so by canoe to reach remote lowlands, swamps, and seasonal floodplains. If you're not staying

at one of the two lodges up here, the refuge is most easily visited as a day trip from La Fortuna. It's important to note that most Arenal-area tour operators do not actually enter the refuge in an effort to avoid paying the $5 per person entrance fee. Tour companies often claim that the areas surrounding the park are equally spectacular, but this is not the case. Although you're likely to see wildlife on the outskirts, you won't see a fraction of what you might encounter inside the park, which lacks the parade of tour boats disturbing the habitat. For the best tour of the refuge, book through resident guide Jimmy Gutierrez at Natural Lodge Caño Negro. There are no public facilities in the park, which consists mostly of wetlands fed by the Frio River and best explored only by boat. Bring a camera, binoculars, and plenty of bug spray. (For more information, see the highlighted listing in this chapter.)

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Sight Information


Off Hwy. 35, 180 km (112 miles) north of La Fortuna, Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, 21402, Costa Rica

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Sight Details:

  • $5; fishing license $30
  • Daily 7–4


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