Hacienda Barú, a national wildlife refuge, is located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, bordering Dominical to the south. The 830 acres of private reserve covers a range of ecosystems including tropical forest, swamp, mangrove, and beach.
Between the 1940s and 1979 the property served as a cattle ranch and pasture, with much of the forest either slashed and burned to provide open space or selectively harvested for timber.
In 1979 one of the new owners, Jack Ewing, decided to allow the property to return to jungle. After a few unsuccessful attempts at crop farming and a failed proposal for the development of a hotel in the 1980s, the owners began to give jungle tours. With the success of the tours the property was transitioned to status as a National Wildlife Refuge and the property opened to ecotourism.
The refuge is part of the “Path of the Tapir” Biological Zone that extends from Savegre River to Terraba River and protects the unique ecosystem of the area. The biological zone protects habitat and ensures uninterrupted movement through the corridor.
There are several trails that wind through the refuge. The one we took led us to Playa Barú, a beautiful and wild beach. There was no one about except for vultures huddled around the corpse of large turtle they were making a feast of. The beach is one of the many in the area used by nesting sea turtles to lay their eggs. Due to this, the beach is protected by the national government and a turtle research and protection office is headquartered nearby.
The refuge also has a butterfly garden with about 6-7 local species fluttering around the enclosure. Admittedly, this was my favorite part, we spent way too long (over an hour) capturing these images of the butterflies.