Refuge National de Vida Silvestre Gandoca Manzanillo , on Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean Coast

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Refuge National de Vida Silvestre Gandoca Manzanillo , on Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean Coast

The  Refuge National de Vida Silvestre Gandoca Manzanillo is a remote and exotic destination in Costa Rica, very much off the beaten path.  If you want a unique experience in a very diverse ecosystem, then this is the place for you!  Located on Costa Rica’s southern most Caribbean coastline, it covers 12,000 acres  consisting of  low land rain forest,  endangered swamps,  unique ecosystems and  farmland,  protecting 70% of the southern Caribbean coast.   Also protecting  10,950 marine acres,  home to one of Costa Rica’s two live coral reefs.

Created in 1985 the refuge  has a unique feather in that it allows local communities to continue to live within the park.

South of Puerto Viejo we come to the Cocles River.  Here is where Refuge National de Vida Silvestre Gandoca Manzanillo  begins and continues south to the Sixola River, at the Panamanian border.

What is the main attraction?  Well, there are many but the most famous is the park’s coastline lined with fine, beige-white sand beaches and aquamarine waters, where you will see swimmers as well as surfers.  However, beware of the riptides  (undertows)   Ask the locals before entering the water or ask where the calm waters for swimming are located.

What if I want to go snorkeling or scuba diving?  Yes, there is spectacular beauty under the water, located only about 200 meters off shore!   Especially February through April when there is less river silt run off.  There are so many different species of coral and sponges, algae, and mollusk.  Plus sea cucumbers and  Venus sea fans.  Most popular area for snorkeling is Punta Mona but you need to hire a boat ,  the distance is too far to walk.  If you decide to snorkel on you own be very careful of the riptides! To get a diving excursion check with the Coral Reef information center  (Aquamor Talamanca Adventures)   2 759 0612  www.greencoast.com/aquamor.htm

The Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge  was formed to protect many living things. 1. lowland  rain forest, home to the many species of birds and animals  found here.  In the months of November and December you can see millions of migratory birds flying over head.  2. quiet swamps and  988 acres of marshlands  are home to  Costa Rica’s  sajo tree and the holio palm. (no other place in Costa Rica do you find these trees).  3.  the red mangroves,  found only in this spot in Costa Rica. They provide protection to a natural oyster bed, and is the only intact mangrove swamp on the Atlantic.  4. on the south side of the refuge, the Gandoca River Estuary is home to spawning Atlantic  tarpon and West Indian manatees, as well as crocodiles.

The green sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle nest here during the months of March to July with a peak in April and May.

Inland , rolling farmland blends into dense lowland rain forest. We can see white face monkeys. howler monkeys, two and three toed sloths,  and iguanas.

Highly recommended to see the most variety of plants and animals as well as marine life in Costa Rica!  Hire a naturalist guide to get the best experience.

How to Get There? Go east from San Jose to the city of Limon.  Before entering the city you will turn south to Cahuita, then Puerto Vieja, then Manzanillo.  The park is located 7 miles (12 km) south of Puerto Viejo.  And it is not very accessible.  Many of the roads that lead to the park are dirt and gravel.  The sign are not very good so just stop and ask if you feel lost.

The  refuge encompasses three small villages Punt Uva,  Punta Mona, Home Creek, and Manzanillo.

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Weather in southern Caribbean coast Hot and humid.  Rains a lot here.  Driest months are September, October, and March.  But it is hard to predict the rain.

If you rent a car to get to Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Reserve,  it should be a 4×4.

You can take a public bus direct, from the San Jose public bus station Caribe or  Caribbean.   Taxi drivers in San Jose will know how to drive you there. Takes around 4 hours.

white face monkey

white face monkey

red mangroves

red mangroves

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