The Cano Island Reserve protects 2,900 hectares or 7,166 acres of territory. The refuge ranges in elevation from sea level to 123 meters or 0 – 404 feet. It protects rainforest, beach, and coral reef habitats. There are hiking trails on the island, but there is seemingly constant controversy with the ranger station and therefore, visitors should not count on being able to go on land. Visitors can however take boat tours to the marine area of the refuge.
There is not a lot of terrestrial wildlife in the reserve. There are some small frogs, lizards, snakes, opossums, peccaries, and pacas, but these animals are few and far between. In addition, there are less than 15 species of birds, with the exception of sea birds, which are abundant.
The main attraction is under the water. There are 19 species of coral in the waters surrounding the island. Within these reefs are hundreds of species of fish and mollusks. A few of these species include white-tipped sharks, manta rays, sting rays, moray eels, barracudas, tuna, giant snapper and grouper, sailfish, marlin, needlefish, and many colorful reef fish. In addition there are often olive ridley sea turtles and migrating humpback whales, false orcas, pilot whales, and several species of dolphins.
Cano Island Biological Reserve is managed by the Costa Rican government. It is open every day from 8 AM – 4 PM. There is a ranger station with restrooms, though it is often closed off to visitors. The entrance fee is $15 per person. There are no overnight facilities. The majority of visitors stay in nearby Drake Bay lodges.
At a glance
Region: South Pacific island
Closest town: Drake Bay
Size in hectares: 2,900 (7,166 acres)
Year established: 1978
Elevation in meters: 0 – 123 (1 – 404 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: no
Public restrooms: yes, though not always open
Entrance fee: $15pp
Hours: 08:00 - 16:00
Hiking trails: yes, though not always open
Boat tours: yes
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 90
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 4,000 (157 inches)
Habitat: coral reef, beach, rainforest
Weather and packing list
The weather on Cano Island is hot and moist. Temperatures are usually in the 90s during the day and 70s at night. The island receives 4,000 mm or 157 inches of precipitation annually. The driest months to visit are December through April.
Visitors to Cano Island should pack a bathing suit, towel, shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block, and insect repellent.
Fun Fact: Cano Island has a history of being struck by lightning more than any other place in Central America. This is thought by locals to be because Cano Island was a Pre-Columbian cemetery and the land is believed to be sacred.