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

Hacienda Barú is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Admission

$7 for self-guided visit. Guided visits are also available.

Essential Gear

Sunscreen
Bug repellent (Natural options we like are Repel Lemon-Eucalyptus spray & doTERRA Terra Shield
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

 

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La Paz Waterfall Gardens: Wildlife Up Close
A Catamaran Cruise in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio Catamaran Cruise
Hanging Bridge at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The Famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Wilson Botanical Garden in Costa Rica
Wilson Botanical Garden at Las Cruces Biological Station

30 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.

    1. 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.

  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?

    1. 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 🙂

    1. Hi Vicki, depends on which cruise port you’re talking about. If you’re coming into Quepos, Hacienda Baru is about a half hour south and you could definitely arrange transport for a day trip. You might want to check out Manuel Antonio National Park too, which is the closest. If you’re going to Puntarenas, Carara National Park or Manuel Antonio are much closer, and from Moin/Limon on the Caribbean side, most people go to Tortuguero or some of the sights around Cahuita like the Sloth Sanctuary or Tree of Life Wildlife Center.

  3. Hi!
    We’ve been considering staying at Hacienda Baru this coming July (2016). How is it at this time of year without air conditioning. This is a consideration for us since we have my 80 year old mother and my two children (aged 6 and 8). We live in Victoria, BC, in the Pacific Northwest and are unused to hot humid weather…Not to mention that my husband is a redhead!!!! Thanks so much! BTW, I love your blog.

    1. Hi Ayala, July is rainy season but it is still pretty steamy in the Dominical area that time of year (temps in the upper 80s during the day). If you’re not sure, we’d recommend something with AC. Hacienda Baru is a great place to stay but it is down at sea level so doesn’t get a great breeze. Another good option in the area that you might want to check out is Villas Rio Mar. It’s just up the road on the river road in Dominical. A/C, nice quiet location, big pool, comfortable rooms, and similarly priced to Hacienda Baru.

  4. Hello,
    Can you recommend a good & cheap place to stay in the Hacienda Baru area? We will most likely be renting a car and coming from La Foruna/ Arenal.
    : ) Justine

  5. Dear Jenn and Matt,
    I am so enjoying reading your website. My husband and I are in the process of planning a one week-10 day trip to Costa Rica and renting a car to drive from the Arenal area to Hacienda Baru and Manuel Antonio. Where do you suggest stopping en route to break up the time? We would then be returning to San Jose airport.
    Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Judy, The Tarcoles River Bridge on Route 34 is a popular stop along that route. You can walk along the bridge to see huge crocodiles in the river below. Right before you get to Playa Hermosa (after Jaco), there’s also a good spot to pull over for nice ocean views and a lot of times you can see Scarlet Macaw parrots flying overhead. If you need somewhere to eat, Jaco has some great choices (recommendations here). Or for something fast and cheap, we often stop at a place called El Jardín towards the beginning of Route 34 (left side of road if going south). It’s a little cafeteria-style rest stop, but the food is always good and fresh and there’s a huge souvenir shop too.

      Wherever you stop, just make sure there’s secure parking since you’ll have your bags or park so that you can watch your car. Have a great trip!

    1. Hi Rhoda, I don’t think they do tours. They work with local schools and do turtle releases with the kids and I know if you’re staying at the hotel and they’re doing a release you can attend, but I don’t think they offer anything for the general public. Turtle season usually slows down in November too so there probably won’t be much activity during your visit.

  6. Hi Jen & Matt,
    I LOVE your blog! We are currently travelling in CR with our 2,5-year-old son. We are thinking about visiting the Hacienda Barú Refuge in a few days. Do you think it makes any sense to bring a stroller with us? Our son is not so happy about walking long distances in the hot weather. We figured that out during the last 3 weeks 😉 We took the stroller to the Arenal Hanging Bridges e.g. and his dad had to carry it at some points, but overall it was ok. So are the trails anything like the ones over there? Actually we have the same question for Manuel Antonio NP, which we will visit next. Or do you have any other recommendations for stroller accessible wildlife experiences in the Uvita area? In know a a baby carrier would be the best solution, but we forgot ours at home in Germany. I regretted that more than once already, trust me 😉
    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog! I read it everyday during our trip.
    All the best, Martina

    1. Hi Martina, I think a stroller would be fine at Hacienda Baru. Like at the hanging bridges, there will be places where you’ll have to carry it, but a lot of the trails are flat and you shouldn’t have problems with mud because it’s the dry season. Manuel Antonio National Park will be even easier. It has a paved path now and another wooden boardwalk-type trail that you could easily go on. The main trail should be fine too. If your son is into snakes and reptiles at all, Parque Reptilandia near Dominical is cool and is an easy walk, and there’s also the Villas Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.

      So glad to hear that our site has been helpful with your planning. We’re working on a lot more family travel articles right now if you ever get the chance to come back!

    1. Hi Lisa, They are both great places to hike so if one is more convenient to where you will be staying, go there. If it doesn’t make any difference, personally, I would probably choose Rainmaker because the forest feels so wild and it has hanging bridges and waterfalls. Here’s the link to our post about Rainmaker if you haven’t seen it yet.

  7. Hi Jenn and Matt!

    I’ve been reading a lot of your blogs to help us plan our trip to Costa Rica. It has been really insightful! I find it difficult to find information on Ballena National Marine Park, but I also realize that this area is not as well traveled. I’m a marine biologist and I would really like to see the sea turtles nesting in September; however, I don’t see any tours being offered in this region. Do you know of any? I’m a conservationist and I really want to be respectful of the environmental protections that Costa Ricans have put in place.

    Also, do you suggest any day tours to Corcovado NP from the Uvita area? We are only in Costa Rica for 8 days and we won’t have time to go to Drake Bay/Corcovado on this trip, but I saw a day trip which at least allows for a 3 hour hike in the park (after a lengthy boat ride). It would at least give us a little taste of the park. Do you think that spending an entire day getting there is worth it or will see quite a bit of wildlife in the Uvita area?

    Any suggestions would be most welcome! Thanks! Amy

    1. Hi Amy, We actually just heard about a night turtle watching tour that recently started in the Costa Ballena. They work with a local turtle project in the area so it is very conservation-minded. We could email you with more info if you would like.

      We do think that it would be worth doing a day trip to Corcovado. You will see wildlife in Uvita, but it isn’t the same. Corcovado has primary rainforest and rare species like Baird’s Tapir, a large population of Scarlet Macaws, all four types of monkeys found in CR, etc. As a biologist, you will really appreciate the park, so even though it’s a long boat ride, it’s probably worth doing. We know of a great company with knowledgeable guides that does tours to Corcovado out of Uvita. Let us know if you would like help making the arrangements. We don’t charge extra to do this and you pay the same amount as if you booked it directly though the tour operator.

      1. Hi Jenn and Matt! Thanks so much for responding to my comment.

        We would really love to go to Corcovado; however, I think we will already be crunched for time (see outline of schedule below). Plus, we are worried that due to the rainy season, we could get trapped in Corcovado if the weather turns bad. If we had to extend our time in Costa Rica, my boyfriend doesn’t have enough vacation and this could become problematic. We will have to save this for another trip when we have more time and rainy season isn’t a factor.

        I would definitely like to hear more about the night sea turtle watching. Will it be a good number of sea turtles in Costa Ballena? I would really like to go to Ostional; however, I think we will already be short on time and it sounds like the drive can be quite long and difficult to access during rainy season. Also, any suggestions for must see in the Costa Ballena region aside from the National Marine Park? I’m bummed that we won’t be able to get to Corcovado; however, is there a nature tour or hike in the area that would allow us to see more wildlife than other parts of Costa Rica? It sounds like the Uvita area (or south of Uvita) is still thriving with wildlife. Is there anywhere you can see the humpback whales from shore?

        We have never been to Costa Rica before, so we are planning on doing some of the more touristy activities. We rented a 4 x 4 car through Alamo via your website. Thanks for the discount and advice!

        Here is our “schedule” for 8 days. I would love to hear if you think this is feasible or not. From all that I’ve read, it is a lot of driving, but this schedule seems more doable. I realize that it might be difficult to comment considering I don’t have any timelines listed nor did I include the activities that we are planning on doing, but any advice would be helpful.

        Arrive and leave from San Jose – September 1-11:
        Uvita
        Manuel Antonio
        Jaco/Tarcoles
        Day tour to Isla Tortuga (Puenta Arenas to Paquera ferry and vice versa)
        Monteverde
        Arenal Volcano NP
        Sarchi

        If you have an suggestions or are able to book a half day or day tour to Isla Tortuga, we would also be interested in this too. We don’t want to be on a party boat ride. We would really like to go snorkeling and see the wildlife on the island.

        Thanks!

        1. Hi Amy, We can’t help with your itinerary questions through a comment (this would be a paid service), but I can send you an email about the turtle tour and some others you might be interested. Look for an email from us soon.

  8. Hello! Does the refuge have a beach accessible to day trippers? What about a waterfall and/or waterfall swimming pool?

    1. Hi Charlie, Yes, there’s a trail that goes out to Playa Guapil. That’s a really pretty, secluded beach, but it does have rip currents so you have to be careful swimming. Hacienda Baru does not have a waterfall. For waterfalls, you can go to Rainmaker near Manuel Antonio or there’s the Uvita Waterfall or Nauyaca Waterfall in the mountain near Dominical.

  9. My wife and 7 and 9 year old did the zip line tour (http://www.haciendabaru.com/flight-of-the-toucan/). It was totally geared for families – super safe. The guides were a ton of fun – they were informative and really engaging. We saw toucans, sloths and some other mammals that were really neat. The zip lining was really fun – highlight was ending up on a platform about 80M up in the rainforest. Its a bit steep but was really worth it. you can stay afterwards and eat and swim at the beach . A definite fun time and great day trip.

  10. We plan to go to CR for 2 weeks in late June-early July 2019, with our 11 yr old son.. For 1 week we have a time share condo in Playas de Coco. For the other week, we are planning 2 nights in SJ & day trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. For the remaining 4 nights, do you recommend all 4 at Hacienda Barú or Tulemar? Do you recommend going to Manuel Antonio in addition to Hacienda Barú? And just a day trip to Uvita or staying there 1-2 of our 4 remaining nights? Our main goals are to see as many animals & birds as possible, practice our Spanish & experience genuine Tico people & culture. Gracias!

    1. Hi Laura, Manuel Antonio is wonderful but more touristy so if you want to experience the culture and practice Spanish, we would recommend spending the 4 nights in Uvita and maybe doing MA as a day trip. Uvita/Dominical has a lot of great wildlife too, especially if you stay up in the mountains. And it’s much more of a local experience. You can read our post about the Costa Ballena for more information.

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