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Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Mixto Caño Negro)
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Mixto Caño Negro)

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Mixto Caño Negro)

Free admission
Daily at all times
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, Los Chiles, Costa Rica

The Basics

While it's possible to access the refuge on your own during dry season, its most enriching to take a tour led by a naturalist guide—exploring with an expert increases your chance of spotting wildlife such as howler monkeys, 3-toed sloths, Jesus Christ lizards, turtles, and caimans. Tour of the wetlands typically transport you by boat or kayak; the latter allows you to get closer to wildlife without disturbing them.

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Boat Tour Caño Negro
Boat Tour Caño Negro
$50.00 per adult
Traveler Favorite
A family affair
If you are in Costa Rica during the rainy season and: - have a party of 2+ people, and - have an SUV that you are comfortable driving on a rocky road... Then do not sign up for any expensive trips to Cano Negro marketed by the hotels. Drive up to the nature preserve yourself, and Rosi and her family (Joel, Jesus) will make for an unforgettable experience (and also great value!). We went in low season when the lake/lagoons were already filled with water, but the migratory birds only just started to arrive. No matter! With an eagle eye of the captain and the guide, we saw monkeys, sloths, iguanas, turtles, lots of caimans and basilisk lizards and of course the birds! Local anhinga was probably easiest to spot, but storks, hawks, cormorants and flycatchers were also abundant. I can only imagine what the place looks like in February when the water levels are less, but the migratory birds have all arrived! Also take a decent camera/lens. I share some decent photos here, and I am not really a bird watcher or a photographer. Great equipment will make for an even better pictures.
Yuri_A, Oct 2021

Recent reviews from experiences in Guanacaste and Northwest

star-5
Don't miss this experience!
George_R, Jun 2021
Boat Tour Caño Negro
This was an amazing experience and the highlight of our trip to this area. Our local guide Rosi was highly knowledgeable and experienced, and answered all our questions with warmth and a wealth of information. We saw and learned about caimans, howler and white-faced monkeys, sloths, many lizards, fish and dozens of different birds, while discovering the natural history of the area. We even learned about jaguars and her efforts to preserve them. Our five-year-old grandson was in ecstasy. Her boat is comfortable and clean, and the local pineapple she provided was the best we ever had! Great fun and highly recommended!
star-5
Amazing time exploring Caño Negro
Gab, Mar 2020
Boat Tour Caño Negro
Rosi was a great and knowledgeable tour guide with fluent English. She made for a wonderful time exploring the caño negro wetlands. It was amazing to hear about the different animals that live in the area and it was also exciting to hear how she and her husband built this tour company from scratch.
star-5
Great tour on the river
Stepan_F, Mar 2020
Boat Tour Caño Negro
Awesome experience, Rosie is very knowledgeable guide. We have seen lots of different animals (caymans, crocodile, monkeys, turtles and unbelievable amount of birds). Great tour.
star-5
Extremely enjoyable experience
Kevin_H, Dec 2019
Boat Tour Caño Negro
The Rio Frio boat tour with Rosi of Paraiso Tropical Cano Negro was extremely enjoyable. The area is peaceful and beautiful, and filled with exotic wildlife. We recommend this trip highly. (The only down side is the very bumpy road you must endure if driving from the west into the park area.)

Things to Know Before You Go

  • With luck, avid bird watchers will spot glossy ibises, green-backed herons, Nicaraguan grackle, or the endangered jabiru.

  • Bring bug spray and binoculars (or a camera with a good zoom lens) to spot and photograph wildlife from a distance.

  • There are no restroom or dining facilities in the park, but most tours include lunch in a nearby village.

  • Fishing is allowed on the Rio Frio for most of the year; licenses are available at the ranger station in Caño Negro village.

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How to Get There

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is located about two hours north of La Fortuna in Costa Rica’s Alajuela province, near the Nicaraguan border. The rural roads can be difficult to navigate, so traveling with a local driver or tour company is recommended. During the rainy season when water levels rise, a boat tour is essential.

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When to Get There

The wildlife refuge is open daily, year-round. Birdwatchers should trying to target the dry season (mid-November to April), when receding water levels attract an influx of migratory birds. From May to mid-November, most of the refuge is only accessible by boat. Fishing is allowed from July 1 through March 31.

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Where to See Wildlife in Costa Rica

As one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, protected wildlife areas exist in every corner of Costa Rica. Monteverde’s cloud forest is a mist-shrouded refuge that blooms with plant life, while Manuel Antonio National Park combines pristine beach scenery with monkey-filled coastal forests. Near San Jose, the Tarcoles River is a popular stop for croc-spotting, while Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side is known for its namesake turtles.

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