Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, South Puntarenas

Cacao Pod on Tree can be made into chocolate
Cacao Pod on Tree can be made into chocolate
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Situated on the Pacific Coast's Golfo Dulce, the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge nearly surrounds the town of Golfito and was largely created to protect the community's water supply.

However, because it borders Piedras Blancas National Park to the north, travelers looking to enjoy eco-tourism should make a stop at the refuge and experience its impressive diversity of wildlife.

The refuge's evergreen forests, which feature trees that are more than 140 feet tall, are nourished by the heavy rains in the area, particularly during Costa Rica's rainy season between May and November.

The Golfito National Wildlife Refuge boasts a wide variety of tree species, including silk cotton, butternut, manwood and copal trees. Perhaps the most interesting plant species found at the refuge is the cyad, which resembles a palm tree and is proven to have existed during the dinosaur age.

Trails of various lengths throughout Golfito National Wildlife Refuge make it an excellent place for hiking and viewing an assortment of birds and other animals. The Radio Tower trail, which takes approximately five hours to hike, and the Playa Cacao trail both lead out into spectacular views of the Golfo Dulce. The Playa Cacao trail takes about two miles to hike and spans some five miles of land.

Bird species that can be spotted during the hikes include toucans and tanagers, while all four Costa Rican monkey species also call Golfito National Wildlife Refuge home. Anteaters, pacas and agoutis can also be found at the refuge.

For travelers who want to experience eco-tourism via camping, permits can be requested at the nearby MINAE office for just the refuge admission fee of $10. The Golfito National Wildlife Refuge is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

To get to the refuge from the city of San Jose, tourists can either rent a car or take a bus ($10) and the trip takes between seven and 10 hours. While the journey is certainly a long one, you will be able to view much of Costa Rica's beautiful scenery along the way, passing through many cities, including Dominical.