The best deal in town is right around the corner… Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge
Hacienda Barú offers a fantastic setting for friends and family to experience the real Costa Rica at a reasonable cost.
Just a short drive north from many of our Dominical rental homes and located directly off the Pan-American Highway, Hacienda Barú spans 815 acres and features several sparkling natural habitats, including primary and secondary forest, mangroves and rich wetlands.
There are a slew of professionally-guided tours and attractions at Hacienda Barú, all at varying prices. The most basic of which is a self-guided tour that’s open to all outside visitors from sunrise to sunset. For the $8 self-guided-tour fee, visitors can set their own pace and experience any and all of the following adventures in a single day:
In the Hacienda Barú butterfly garden, you will see representative samples of local butterflies and garner some basic information about them. In the laboratory, you’ll learn how butterfly eggs hatch, how the larvae eat and grow, and how the pupas transform into butterflies.
You’ll walk on a winding path through what was once a cacao (chocolate) plantation and which today has been arranged to show guests some of the most interesting plants in Costa Rica.
The nature trails at Hacienda Barú pass through a variety of habitat including primary forest, secondary forest, swamp forest, wetlands, pastures and tree plantations.
Bird Watching Tower:
On top of a small hill sits a 7-meter tower. The combined height of the hill and the tower puts the top floor at tree-top level, a perfect place for the observation of birds. For the best birding, visit the tower before 7 a.m. or after 3 p.m.
It must be noted that Hacienda Barú is a bird-lover’s paradise. More than 350 species of birds have been identified on the property. They sell bird guides and bird books on location, but they don’t have high-powered lenses to rent, so make sure to pack your camera gear.
Other for-pay guided tours are:
A Night in the Jungle:
Go deep in the jungle and live like a nocturnal animal for the night. Only here, you don’t need to catch your own food. $135 per person, 19 hours, Reservation required, Monday-Saturday at 3 p.m.
Lowland Bird Watching Hike:
Get out real early and watch dozens of birds begin their days in the Central American sunshine. $45 per person, 5 hours, Reservation required, 2-person minimum, Monday-Saturday at 6 a.m.
Rainforest Bird Watching Hike:
An hour hike leads to an amazing camp breakfast in the rainforest accompanied by some spectacular airborne wildlife. $45 per person, 5 hours, Reservation required, 2-person minimum, Monday-Saturday at 6 a.m.
Flight of the Toucan:
This is a thrilling zip-line ride featuring more than a dozen platforms and eight separate cable rides. Your kids will love this high-flying adventure. $45 per person, 2-3 hours, 260-pound max weight, Monday-Saturday at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Ascend a giant tree deep in the jungle with assistance from an expert. This tour is for physically fit travelers under 260 pounds. Children under 8 are not recommended. $45 per person, 2-3 hours, Size and age limitations, Monday-Saturday at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
EcoTram is a new innovation which allows you to move slowly through the rainforest canopy while sitting in a motorized chair which you control. You can speed up, slow down, stop, go in reverse, or turn up to 340 degrees. Those who have done it so far have commented on the utter serenity of the canopy. Zip lines are fun, but more serious nature lovers will prefer the EcoTram. $30 for 20 minutes, Minimum age is 18, Max weight of 250 pounds, Monday-Saturday anytime between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Think of it as an obstacle course high above the ground. Monkey Challenge has been described as exhilarating, scary, fun, exciting and, of course, challenging. It begins with a climb up to a platform 20 feet above the ground. There are two climbing options, hand and footholds similar to a climbing wall, or a parrot scale similar to a ladder. Beginning from that platform you traverse six different elements or bridges of varying difficulty while gradually ascending four meters in the process. All of this takes place in the rainforest canopy. $20 per child, Minimum age is 10, 250 pounds max weight, Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Head out around dusk and let an experienced naturalist guide show you how the local creatures live. $35 per person, 2-3 hours, Reservation required, 2-person minimum, Monday-Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Soak in the excitement of hiking through lush primary and secondary rainforest. $35 per person, 3-4 hours, 2-person minimum, Monday-Saturday at 7:30 a.m.
Bright birds and crazy crocodiles are the main draws in the Costa Rican lowlands. $30 per person, 2-3 hours, 2-person minimum, Monday-Saturday at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
As you can see, there’s always a lot to do at Hacienda Barú. The property also features a restaurant, Restaurante El Ceibo, and has easy access to Playa Guapil if you decide to take a dip in the ocean to cool off from a long, exploratory day.
And while you’re on site, make a concerted effort to track down Jack Ewing, the man behind Hacienda Barú. Jack brought his family to the property in 1972 and has been a mainstay ever since. His stories are legendary, and the man is an absolute fountain of knowledge when it comes to Costa Rica’s southern zone. Jack’s novel, “Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate,” details many of his wild and whacky experiences in this beautiful part of the globe. Jack also wrote “Where Tapirs Once Roamed,” released in August 2014.