Curu Wildlife Reserve

Curu National Park Beach

Curu Wildlife Reserve is a small, but very biologically diverse, private beachfront park between Paquera and Tambor on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.

They have wildlife rescue/release projects in both spider monkeys and scarlet macaws, and it’s one of the only places on the peninsula where you can see either of these amazing species, that were driven to extinction in the area years ago. Thanks to Curu Park, these animals are now living on the peninsula again, albeit in small, expanding groups.

Curu National Wildlife Refuge and Hacienda is nestled in one of Costa Rica’s most naturally alluring regions -the southern Nicoya Peninsula to the northwest of the country. The area is swarms with wildlife and features one of the most photogenic beaches and preserved bays on the Nicoya Peninsula. The region offers easy access to some of Costa Rica’s most signature species such as White-faced monkeys, Howler monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Scarlet Macaws, White-tailed Deer, Collared Peccary, Coati, Raccoons, Coyotes, Iguanas, and hundreds of tropical and migratory birds.

Curu consists of Costa Rica’s first private National Wildlife Refuge and is an archetypical model of how a sustainable development program can be successfully implemented without causing detrimental effects to the environment. The hacienda includes low levels of cattle grazing and cultivates tropical fruits such as mangos on a yearly cycle bases. Curú National Wildlife Refuge and Hacienda is managed sustainably to generate a profit along with generating local employment, while also seeking to preserve the region’s vulnerable and endangered forested habitats such as mangroves, tropical forests, and coral reefs.

On several elevated forest patches of Curu, there are still tiny belts of primary forest remaining but bereft of trails and entry is permitted only for scientists, biologists ans other researchers. These patches are not open to the public. Adventure buffs need not be crestfallen though; the trail system of Curu provides plenty of opportunity to explore various habitats and its teeming wildlife.

The park was founded in 1933 by Federico Schutt de la Croix, and it was initially purchased on October 1, 1933 for 12,000 Costa Rican colones. The region was owned by and bought from the Pacific Lumber Company, a foreign firm that culled the area for precious tropical resources such as mahogany, rosewood, and cedar. The area was converted into a varied use, sustainable development project that included among other things, selective timber harvest and agricultural undertakings including rice, beans, corn, plantains, and later mangos and teak plantations. Cattle grazing also evolved into a significant goal here, but was later resigned to low priority as conservation and ecotourism activities began to be implemented.

Dona Julieta Schutt de Valle arrived in the area as a schoolteacher in the early 1950’s. She taught at several schools on the Nicoya Peninsula. When she came to teach the children of many families that worked and lived in Curú she met Frederico and they later married each other. They would later have three children, Adelina, Luis, and Frederico, all of which are implementing several programs related to monkey and marine conservation, as well as sustainable use activities such as managing small mango and teak plantations.

Other than the wildlife and conservation projects, some of the other attractions at Curú include kayaking in the Bay of Curú, snorkeling, and day trips to the immaculate neighboring island Tortuga. Kayak and camping trips at Playa Quesera can be organized on request. The basic cabinas here have solar power and are housed along the stunning and quiet Curú beach and bay. The waves roll beautifully up the beach within about 50 meters of every cabina. They are comfortable and give the visitor the opportunity to enjoy the wildlife refuge during the early mornings and late evenings when the wildlife is at its most active. Another less rustic accommodation is available in Paquera and Tambor, within 10 to 15 km of Curu.

Curu Park

In 1999, Amigos de las Aves, a Costa Rican conservation organization, initiated a Scarlet Macaw restoration program in Curú.  About 13 Scarlet Macaws were released and they are now independently foraging. The survival rate has increased to more than 90% a year over the years. Active nesting has been also been documented here. In July 2004 two juvenile birds between 4-5 months of age were noted flying with the flock. This is the first successful result of the breeding of reintroduced Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica. The macaws are seen on an everyday within the wildlife refuge and are regularly sighted foraging on beach almonds along Curú’s idyllic beach and in the more expansive areas of the wildlife refuge where they can forage on their favorite food.

Out of the 1,496 hectare Curu Park property only 5 % (75 hectares) are demarcated as a wildlife reserve. This especially mark zone comprises a 200 meter wide beach area, combined with the mangrove estuaries and rivers. The reserve merges with the rest of the property, out of which 75% is anointed as a preserved forest reserve and 20% is devoted for the cause of low impact cultivation. Curu also connects to the Biological Wildlife Corridor of the Nicoya Peninsula. When driving on the road from Paquera to Tambor visitors traverse through a heavily preserved part of the refuge featuring giant trees. It is the long stretch of forest paving the way for animals to migrate between Curu and the mountainous interiors of the peninsula.

Curu boasts of a rich and diverse wildlife in five varied habitats ranging from marine zones and mangrove swamps, to dry tropical forests and moist forest, in addition to the farmland topography. There are about 240 identified bird species in Curu. The most regularly spotted species here include the motmots, fronted amazons, hawks and woodpeckers. As mentioned earlier, scarlet macaws have also been reintroduced in the area with good results. They can be seen at times foraging in the morning or post noon. The list of mammals spotted here includes the unique big cat species such as ocelots, pumas, margay cats along with the indigenous collared peccari, coyote, anteaters, and otters.

The entrance to Curu is about 5 km after Paquera and about 15 km Tambor. There are multiple trails within the refuge, including short, uncomplicated trails and lengthy, challenging trails that can take hours. Curu is open daily from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Entrance charge is $10 per person per day.

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