The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge tour will take you over remarkable wilderness hiking trails that allow you to sample the different ecosystems of the area. This refuge encompasses 11,00 acres of land including several pristine Caribbean beaches, lush tropical rain forests as well as the transition areas and accompanying wildlife.
The tour will begin when you are picked up from your hotel and driven to the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Your tour guide, who is enthusiastic about nature and fully bilingual, will take you on an adventure that may stay with you for a lifetime.
The unique thing about hiking at Gandoca Manzanilla Wildlife Refuge is that there are both hot sandy beaches and verdant rain forests, providing both sun and shade, unlike other coastal areas of Costa Rica that are more desert-like and dry. This is one of the only places in Costa Rica where the timing of the seasons contrasts with the rest of the country: If you are visiting Costa Rica in the dry season, this refuge will likely be rainy; and if you are visiting in the rainy season, the refuge will likely be dry.
You will be hiking from 3 to 4 hours through various types of terrain. You’ll pass through incredible primary and secondary forests, then white sand beaches, seeing the changing flora and fauna of each area. The guides who lead this tour are filled with a wealth of local knowledge about this refuge and its inhabitants. They will be looking for any visible wildlife to show you and ensure the pace is suitable for everyone on the tour.
This refuge is not as frequented as other national parks so the vegetation is a bit more wild than others. While the paths are marked and regularly maintained, some areas are more rustic, creating a more natural experience.
One of the highlights of the refuge is the “Mirador” (overlook) with spectacular views of Manzanillo Beach. It’s a platform built within a tree clearing where you can see the white sand beaches and Caribbean ocean spread out before you. Bring your camera to take advantage of epic photo opportunities. There is a staircase down to the beach where you can go to spend some time swimming or just soaking up the ambiance of the sun, sea and sand. During certain seasons the tour may also involves taking off your shoes and walking across a shallow river to complete the hike.
At some point during the day, your guide will provide bottled water and snacks to rejuvenate you for the rest of the tour. When your hike comes to an end you’ll get to rest your legs in the air-conditioned van on the ride back to your hotel.
This tour includes local bilingual guide, snack, bottled water and transportation from Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Punta Uva. It can take from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours to get from your hotel to the the wildlife refuge, depending on your pick-up location. Combined time of hiking tour, beach break and round trip transportation is typically between 5 and 6 hours. Please wear hiking shoes and a swim suit under your clothes if you would like to swim at the beach; plus bring insect repellent, sun screen, camera, binoculars and a towel. This hike is suitable for people over the age of 12 who are in good physical condition.
Visitors must pay a donation to enter the National Park (recommendation 1000 colones or $2).