Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica
The Travel Guide to the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, with detailed Maps, Hotels and Tourist Information

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, Costa Rica

Cabo Blanco Costa Rica

View across the reserve to the Cabo Blanco Island

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve at the extreme southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is one of the most scenically beautiful areas of Costa Rica.

Cabo Blanco holds a special place in the history of National Parks in Costa Rica as it was the country's first protected area, established in 1963.
» The History of Cabo Blanco

The name of the reserve refers to the island Cabo Blanco, located 1.6 km from the reserve's southern tip. Since the times of the Conquistadores it has been known as the "White Cape" because encrusted guano covers the rocks. Cabo Blanco is an important seabird sanctuary, inhabited by large numbers of brown pelicans, frigate birds, laughing gulls, common terns, ospreys and Costa Rica's largest community of brown boobies.

The broken shells of giant conches on the Cabuya Island

Within the reserve, along the coast, there are three roost trees of brown pelicans to which around 250 birds retire each evening. In the late afternoon from the beaches of Mal Pais and Santa Teresa you can always watch them gliding past in long V-shaped formations.

The abundance of bird life only matches the wildlife found under water. 1,788 hectares of ocean belong to the protected area of Cabo Blanco hosting many fishes and large quantities of lobster, giant conches and oyster. » The ocean in front of Malpais

Nature and Wildlife of Cabo Blanco:

The spiny trunk of a giant spiny
cedar (pochote) in Cabo Blanco

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve encompasses 1,270 hectares of mixed forest, which is classified as moist tropical forest. About 150 trees have been identified. Evergreen species predominate, but deciduous dry forest species are found as well. Among the most common trees in Cabo Blanco are Madroño (Lance Wood), Guácimo (Bastard Cedar), Jobo (Hog Plum), Indio Desnudo (Gumbo Limbo) and Guarumo (Cecropia). The most abundant tree is the Pochote (Spiny Cedar) with some specimens over 40 m high. Other impressively tall trees are the Ceiba (Silk Cotton Tree) which can tower up to 60 m, and the fast growing Espavel (Wild Cashew). The unique climate and geographic location of Cabo Blanco also hosts rare tree species like the Camibar which are not found elsewhere on the Nicoya Peninsula.

The majority of Cabo Blanco is secondary forest which is around 60 years old. The remaining patch of primary forest accounts for 15% of the area and is located at the inaccesible highest point of the reserve.

Wildlife in Cabo Blanco

Coati, a member of the racoon family

The forest is home to a large variety of animals like white-tailed deer, pacas, armadillos, anteaters, howler and capuchin monkeys, coyotes, porcupines, raccoons and coatis. There are also wild cats like ocelots, jaguarundis and margay cats but you are less than unlikely to see them in the wild.
See: Animals of the Nicoya Peninsula in the » Wildlife Guide

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

Anteater in Cabo Blanco

Around 150 species of birds have been recorded in Cabo Blanco. Apart from seabirds you can see magpie jays, motmots, long-tailed manakins, cattle egrets, crested caracaras, elegant trogons, white bellied chachalacas, ringed kingfishers and sulphur-winged parakeets.

More about Cabo Blanco:
» Visiting the reserve and map of Cabo Blanco

  The history of Cabo Blanco, the first nature reserve created in Costa Rica

The history of Cabo Blanco

In the fifties the government of Costa Rica encouraged settlers to "develop" pieces of land on the isolated southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. For clearing a piece of land, settlers were rewarded with ownership. Within a few years most of the dense woodland of the peninsula had been "cultivated".

In the early sixties the Swede Nicolas Wessberg (also known as Olaf or Olle) came to Costa Rica with his Danish wife Karen Mogensen. They bought a farm near Montezuma and Olaf Wessberg often went to Cabo Blanco to collect seeds for their orchard.

At this time already only a small piece of primary forest was left on Cabo Blanco. Impressed by the abundant wildlife and the enormous size and diversity of trees there Nicolas Wessberg decided to preserve the area. With the aid of conservationist organizations abroad he bought 1,250 hectares of land and after persistent talks with the Costa Rican government the status of an Absolute Nature Reserve was given to Cabo Blanco in 1963.

Olaf Wessberg memorial plate in Cabo Blanco

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve was the initial step in the development of Costa Rica's extensive national park system which led to the country's successful ecotourism.

Sadly, in 1975 Olaf Wessberg was assassinated on the Peninsula de Osa where he supported the creation of the Corcovado National Park. Yet his wife Karen and many others continued his conservational projects. Two more nature reserves on the Nicoya Peninsula have been named after them: the Karen Mogensen Nature Reserve in the mountains of the peninsula and the Nicolas Wessberg Absolute Reserve located along the beach north of Montezuma.

See also:
The Karen Mogensen Nature Reserve
Pictures of Olaf Wessberg and Karen Mogensen
The Olaf Wessberg Story