Costa Rica Nicoya Peninsula

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


Curu Wildlife Reserve, Costa Rica

For eco-tourists and animal lovers the Curu Wildlife Reserve is one of the highlights of the Nicoya Peninsula. In a tropical paradise environment visitors can see many of Costa Rica's animals in the wild.

Curu Costa Rica
Curu Wildlife Reserve

Curu is privately owned and part of a large farm which combines sustainable agriculture and forest management with the protection of wildlife and nature.

The Curu river is a magnet for many animals

Of the 1,496 hectare property only 5 % (84 hectares) are protected under the terms of a "wildlife reserve". This zone encompasses the 200 meter wide beach area, together with the mangrove estuaries and rivers.
The reserve however mingles with the rest of the property, of which 75% are declared protected forest and 20% are dedicated to low-impact agriculture.

Curu also connects to the Biological Wildlife Corridor of the Nicoya Peninsula. When driving on the road from Paquera to Tambor you pass through a heavily forested part with big trees. It is the broad strip of forest that allows wildlife to migrate between the beach and the mountainous interiors of the peninsula. Drive slowly and watch out for animals on the road.

Wildlife and Ecosystems:

Curu boasts a rich and diverse wildlife in five different habitat types that range from marine zones and mangrove swamps, to tropical dry and moist forest, as well as farmland.

Animals in Curu
Squirrel pinching macaw food

232 species of birds have been counted in Curu. You can see different types of parrots and parrakeets, woodpeckers, herons and egrets, hawks and ospreys, trogons and motmots among many others. Scarlet macaws have successfully been reintroduced and can sometimes be seen foraging in the almond trees or swooping over the canopy.
Among the mammals are rare species such as ocelots, pumas, margay cats, collared peccari, coyote, anteaters, and otters. See also: » Wildlife Guide

Curu capuchin monkey
Capuchin monkey in Curu

Around the administration at the beach you can usually see families of howler and capuchin monkeys. Sometimes there are also other orphaned or hurt animals of which the rangers take care.
One of the trails in Curu leads to a large cage in the forest where you can see spider monkeys. Only those individuals who can't survive in the wild are kept in the cage, while the other monkeys are released into the forest. The sensible spider monkeys were driven to extinction on the Nicoya Peninsula and the project in Curu aims at their reintroduction.
On the beach sea turtles like pacific ridley, hawksbill, and green sea turtles lay their eggs, and in another eco-project an artificial reef and coral restoration tries to increase numbers and diversity of maritime life in the bay of Curu.

Ecosystems in Curu
Mangrove forest in Curu

Of vital importance to the marine ecosystem is the habitat of the mangrove swamps. An immense number of small organisms live in the nutrient-rich mud and build the basis of the marine food chain. The mangroves present the breeding grounds for many Pacific fish, and lots of water birds feed and nest in the thickets. In Curu all five of Costa Rica's mangrove species are represented.

On some higher elevations of Curu there are still small patches of primary forest left but there are no trails and access is allowed to scientists only. The trail system of Curu however provides plenty of opportunities to explore different habitats with abundant wildlife.

Visiting Curu: » Trails and visitor information

History of Curu:

The farm was established in 1933 by Frederico Schutt and is still family owned. In 1974 part of the hacienda was occupied by squatters who settled around today's village of Valle Azul. To prevent further damage to nature the Schutt family sought governmental support, and in 1981 they obtained the status of "Protected Forest" for most of their land. Additionally in 1983 the Curu National Wildlife Refuge was officially created.