Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge, Limón

Heliconia Rostrata Flower at Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge
Heliconia Rostrata Flower at Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge
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The remote yet stunning Refugio Barra del Colorado is another of Costa Rica’s diverse and beautiful national parks. Officially known as the Refugio Nacional De Vida Silvestre Barra Del Colorado, this natural wildlife reserve is located in Limon province along Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua in the north. Lying adjacent to the Tortuguero National Park on its southern end (both refuges are ecologically similar), the Barra del Colorado is bordered by the San Juan River to its north and by the Caribbean Sea to its east.

Situated along Costa Rica’s gorgeous Caribbean coast, the Refugio Barra del Colorado is a 92,000-hectare refuge made up of wetlands and rainforests that are the habitat of many the country’s indigenous flora and fauna. Some 225 kilometers northeast of the capital San Jose city, getting to this refuge can be quite difficult. You can either rent a boat to get here from the canal system north of Limon or you can catch a domestic flight from the Juan Santamaria International Airport to a gravel airstrip near the village of Barra del Colorado that lies inside the refuge along mouth of the Rio Colorado. It takes roughly 30 minutes to get here by air from San Jose. Most people usually access this park through its meshed waterways, as you are treated to some incredible sights and sounds along the way.

The best time to visit the Refugio Barra del Colorado is from February to April when the weather is dry and one can spot toucans, caimans, monkeys, frogs, crocodiles, sloths, macaws, jacanas, falcons and a variety of other animals, birds and reptiles amid the lush topical trees found here. With its many rivers, creeks and lagoons, this refuge is also a fantastic place to fish, and is among the best sportfishing destinations in inland Costa Rica. Snook, snapper, mackerel and tarpon are main sport fish caught around here. However, found in the waters of the Rio San Juan are Bull Sharks that have migrated upriver from the Atlantic Ocean. You can either rent a boat to fish here or do so along the numerous lodges in the area.

While the north side of the Rio San Juan near the Nicaraguan border is a verdant primary forest, the south side of the river has been heavily logged, making it a swampland not able to support either livestock or agriculture. Conservationists are now actively involved in protecting this refuge from any further logging. However, despite this the Refugio Barra del Colorado is a great place for tourists to come and explore.