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 is privately owned and part of a large farm which combines sustainable agriculture and forest management with the protection of wildlife and nature. 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.
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
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. In the surrounding forest live also spider monkeys which have been re-introduced to the area. The sensible apes were driven to extinction on the rest of the Nicoya Peninsula.
On the beach of Curu 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.
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.
The entrance to the Curu Wildlife Reserve is on the main road from Paquera to Cobano – 6 km from Paquera and 16 km from Tambor. From the entrance gate you drive 2 km through farmland until you get to the administration office at the beach. Around the administration you can often see capuchin monkeys. Behind the visitor center lies the horseshoe bay of Curu – a picture perfect tropical beach with white coral sand and calm waters which is great for bathing and swimming. Along the bay you find resting banks and tables under the shade of trees.
Open hours: every day 7 am – 3 pm Cost: $ 15 per person per day
Hiking trails from easy to challenging
There are various trails through Curu, each one with its particular sights and habitats. They are classified from very easy to difficult. Some trails are very demanding and should only be tried during dry season.
The easiest walks are the trails called Laguna, Toledo, Finca los Monos and Ceiba. They are very well maintained and lead through different habitats where you can spot animals.
- Quesera is a road which can be driven in dry season with a 4WD. By foot the hike takes around 2 hours. The small bay of Quesera with its white-sand beach offers a castaway’s feel.
- Posa Colorado is easy to walk on the first 500 metres until the view point, from where you can overlook the whole bay of Curu with the Tortuga Islands in front. After the view point the trail becomes more difficult. After an arduous hike of 1.5 km hike along the steep-sided hill you arrive at the secluded bay of Posa Colorado.
- Laguna is an easy walk which skirts a small lagoon at the edge of pasture land.
- The Ceiba trail leads along the scenic Rio Curu which is a magnet for many animals.
- Killer is only for the adventurous sportsmen: it’s a bushwhacking climb over a steep hill and down to the cliffs.
- Avispero, the extension of the Killer trail, is a treacherous cliff-hugging trail. These hikes are only possible in dry season. Ask the rangers if it’s currently allowed and possible to use it.
- Finca de los Monos again is easy to walk passing through mangroves and coastal habitats. It leads to the next trail:
Toledo, a short and easy stroll along the coast near the headland of the Curu bay.
Instead of hiking you can also choose to walk through Curu on a horseback. Another great option is a tour by kayak through the rivers and mangroves or along the shore. At the side of the reserve administration is Island Tour Adventure owned and run by Luis Schutt, a son of the reserve’s founder. They have a wealth of knowledge and offer guided hiking or horse tours through Curu. They also offer kayaks for rent, do boat and snorkeling tours to the Tortuga Islands, fishing tours and Scuba diving.
Curu also offers the possibility to stay overnight in the reserve’s cabins close to the beach. The rate per person is $30 for a basic accommodation in the cabin’s bunk beds but it allows you to explore the reserve at night with a flashlight, or go on a early morning hike. For reservations call ahead: (506) 2641 0100 or visit: http://www.curuwildliferefuge.com
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.