Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica
The Travel Guide to the Nicoya Peninsula, 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 are almost guaranteed to see lots of 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 animals

Of the 1,496 hectare property only 5 % (75 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 will pass through a heavily forested part with giant trees. It is the broad strip of forest allowing animals to migrate between Curu 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 habitats ranging 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. The most common species are motmots, white-fronted amazons, laughing hawks, woodpeckers and herons. Scarlet macaws have successfully been reintroduced in the area and can sometimes be seen in the morning or in the late afternoon.

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

The easiest spot to watch howler and capuchin monkeys is around the administration at the beach where they come to pick up food. Sometimes you can also see other orphaned animals of which the rangers take care.
One of the trails in Curu leads to a big cage where you can see spider monkeys. Only old or handicapped animals are kept in the cage, the other members of the group live in the wild. Spider monkeys were driven to extinction on the Nicoya Peninsula and a reintroduction program has brought them back into the forests of Curu.

On the beach sea turtles like pacific ridley, hawksbill, and green sea turtles lay their eggs.

Artificial reefs have been built in the bay of Curu which have helped to increase numbers and diversity of maritime life at the coast.

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. Here are 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. However, the trail system of Curu provides ample opportunity 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 created.