Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge

If you’re visiting Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, be sure to plan a trip to Hacienda Barú. This wildlife refuge, which encompasses an impressive 330-hectare swath of land along the Pacific, offers spectacular bird and wildlife viewing. At Hacienda Barú, you can walk seven kilometers of trails through primary and secondary forest, mangrove, grassland, and even beach. In this variable landscape lives hundreds of types of birds and animals, including sloths, monkeys, peccaries, and toucans. Getting there is easy too. It’s just north of the popular beach town of Dominical and an easy, 45 minute drive south from Manuel Antonio. What’s better is that this reserve is a lot less busy than its well-known neighbor to the north, Manuel Antonio National Park.

Below is everything you need to know to plan your visit to Hacienda Barú.

 

Trail Picture Hacienda Baru

History

What was once a working cattle ranch, Hacienda Barú is now a thriving private nature reserve thanks to the foresight of current owner, Jack Ewing. Ewing banned hunting on the property in 1976, sold all of the cattle by 1990, and has been reforesting the land ever since. In 1995, Costa Rica declared Hacienda Barú a national wildlife refuge. Today the property is funded primarily through its lodge and restaurant and through nature and zip-line tours.

Trails

Hacienda Barú has four trails that you can explore with a guide or on your own. All of them are flat, except for Lookout Trail, and easily can be walked in a day. The Pizote Trail is 1.5 kilometers and meanders deep through the rainforest. Along the trail, you are likely to see wildlife and birds coming to water at the nearby stream. Some of the highlights from our visit were white-faced monkeys, collared peccaries (pictured below), blue morpo butterflies, white-nosed coati, and toucans.

 

Collared Peccaries Costa Rica Picture

 

If you follow the Pizote trail to the end then cross the highway, you come to Lookout Trail (2.5 kilometers), so named because it ascends up a hill with views of Dominical beach. Be sure to wear hiking boots or sturdy sneakers if you venture here because it’s steep and the clay ground can get slippery.

Strangler Trail and Teak and Canal Trail can be explored together as a loop. Strangler Trail passes through grassland before bringing you back into the rainforest. Once you get close to the beach, you pass a turtle hatchery. Staff at Barú take sea turtle eggs that are laid on the beach and put them in the nursery to protect them from poachers. Once the eggs hatch, they release the hatchlings into the ocean.

Teak and Canal Trail is two kilometers and is accessible from the road near the beach. Be sure to keep an eye out for the opening in the fence that connects the two trails; it wasn’t marked on our visit. Birders: After you’d had your fill of canopy-level species at the seven-meter tall tower on Strangler Trail, hit up the open pasture of the Teak and Canal Trail. Here you can spot several types of flycatchers, vultures, and even parakeets. Either way, with a whopping 300 kinds of birds spotted on the property, you’re certain to add some species to your life list. Arrive early for the most sightings.

Getting There

Driving

From Manuel Antonio and points north: Head south along the Costanera (Highway 34). In about 45 minutes, you’ll pass the Río Hatillo. The entrance to Hacienda Barú is just a few kilometers past Hatillo. Look for the large sign on the right.

From Uvita and points south: Head north along the Costanera (Highway 34). Pass Dominical and the intersection of Route 243 on the right. In 50 meters, you will see a gas station on the left. The reserve entrance is just after the gas station.

 

Hacienda Baru Sign Picture

 

Bus

From Quepos station, take the bus going towards San Isido or Uvita. The bus will turn off the highway in several small towns along the way. After it passes through Hatillo (about 1 hour), start looking for the Hacienda Barú sign on the right. If you pass a gas station, you’ve gone too far. Be sure to tell the driver when you get on that you want to get off at Hacienda Barú.

From Uvita, take the bus going towards Quepos. You’ll pass through Dominical and then the intersection of Route 243 on the right. Shortly after you pass Route 243, you will see a gas station on the left. The entrance to Hacienda Barú is just after the gas station. Be sure to tell the driver when you get on that you want to get off at Hacienda Barú.

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Admission: $7

Essential Gear

Sunscreen
Bug repellent
Hiking boots are recommended
Swimsuit (part of the reserve is the beach)
Water

 

Silk catepillar Costa Rica Picture

 

Hacienda Barú is a great addition to any nature lover’s travel itinerary. Over 60 kinds of mammals and 300 kinds of birds have been spotted on the reserve, so you’re guaranteed to see some of the wildlife on your list. Before you go, be sure to take a look at what’s been observed so far. Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to discover something new.

Have a question that we didn’t answer or just want to learn more about the Dominical area? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

 

Post by: Jennifer Turnbull-Houde & Matthew Houde

 

5 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info. We are just in the initial stages of planning a 2 week family trip to CR, and plan to spend our time at Manuel Antonio, Domnicial, and Uvita area, and so was just learning about Hacienda Baru today online. It looks great. Congrats on your recent move to CR. I am curious as to what part of CR you decided to base yourselves? Good luck with everything.

    Reply
    • Lauren, thanks for reading. Hacienda Baru is a great addition to your family’s itinerary. We actually live very close to Baru now and were pleasantly surprised at how much wildlife we saw- more than we’ve ever seen at Manuel Antonio National Park. Hope you have a great trip and let us know if you run into any issues during the planning process.

      Reply
  2. Hey Jenn, we spoke before, my husband and I lived in Quepos/MA about a year and ahalf ago. We just returned two weeks ago, hipefully this time for good. We came with. a dozen suitcases but sadly there was not room for our himing boots (had to bring the Keurig this time. Don’t like Tico coffe pots) I have a friend visitng in a couple of weeks who want ps to go to a waterfall. We have been to Baru Waterfall area before but on up further, closer to San Isidro and didn’t make it in time for the waterfall tour that day. My question is in this reserve, is it palusible to wear tennis shoes or do we need thise hiking boots? How rough and overgrown are the trails?

    Reply
    • Hi Cheryl, Glad to hear from you again. The trails at Baru are really well maintained (not rough and overgrown at all), but if it has been rainy, you’ll definitely want to wear something that you don’t mind getting dirty. There were some large puddles and mucky spots the last time we visited during the rainy seasons. You should be fine in old sneakers, though. The trails are flat (except the one that is on the other side of the highway). Glad you’re back in CR- hope it’s for good this time too :)

      Reply

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