The Camaronal Refuge protects 234 hectares or 578 acres. The elevation of the refuge ranges from sea level to 5 meters or 0 – 16 feet. The refuge includes beach and river habitats. There are no hiking trails, though visitors can walk along the beach. A guide is necessary at night.
The main attraction for wildlife within the refuge is the nesting turtles which lay eggs most nights between May through November. They also lay eggs less frequently throughout the rest of the year, but this is much less predictable. Turtles that nest here include Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Pacific Green Turtles. There is a hatchery that volunteers use to protect the eggs during the incubation period.
Camaronal Wildlife Refuge is managed by the government of Costa Rica. The refuge is open from 6 AM – 6 PM daily, but arrangements can be made for nighttime turtle nesting tours with a park guide. Visitors cannot access the beach at night without a guide. There is a ranger station at the refuge with basic facilities including public restrooms. The cost to enter is $12 per person. There are no overnight accommodations, but camping and fishing are permitted. Most visitors to the refuge stay in hotels in nearby Samara.
At a glance
Region: Northwest Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula
Closest town: Samara
Size in hectares: 234 (578 acres)
Year established: 1994
Elevation in meters: 0 – 5 (0 -16 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: camping
Public restrooms: yes
Entrance fee: $12pp
Hours: 06:00 - 18:00 - guide required at night
Hiking trails: no
Boat tours: no
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 90
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 2,000 (79 inches)
Habitat: beach, river
How to get there
From San Jose, take Rt. 27 west all the way to the end where it meets Rt. 1. Take Rt. 1 northwest until you reach Limonal. Turn left on Rt. 18 west and follow all the way to Rt. 21. Turn right on Rt. 21 and follow until you reach Nicoya. Turn left on Rt. 150 south and follow to Samara. Turn left on Rt. 160 and then follow it through Carrillo and then turn right at the fork to Playa Camaronal. This route has steep, muddy inclines and requires crossing a river. In the rain season, you will have to take the log route, bypassing the previously mentioned turn to Camaronal as the river will be too high. To do so, continue to Estrada Ravago and then turn right, following signs to Punta Islita, which is near the refuge.
Weather and packing list
Camaronal is located in a transitional area between the rainforest and tropical dry forest. Day time temps are usually in the upper 80s to lower 90s and nighttime temperatures are usually in the mid-70s. The refuge receives an average of 2,000 mm or 79 inches of rain annually. The driest months are December through August.
Visitors should pack a bathing suit, towel, shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block, and insect repellent.
Fun Fact: Camaronal Wildlife Refuge has a turtle release program that releases baby turtles most nights.