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Cabo Blanco Reserve

Cabo Blanco Reserve

Quick Facts

  • Location : 7 miles south of Montezuma
  • Area : 3,140 terrestrial acres, 4,420 marine acres
  • Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. closed Monday & Tuesday
  • Telephone : 2642-0093
  • Entrance Fee : $10.00

White Cape Reserve, locally known as Cabo Blanco, is one of the most lush and beautiful places in Costa Rica. The tiny island one mile from the reserve's southern tip earns Cabo Blanco its name. Cabo Blanco Island is known for its abundance of seabirds and their -- rather frankly put -- bird droppings. As a result, the tiny landmass shines brilliantly and beautifully white in the sun. Fortunately, there is no need to worry about such guano in the reserve's mainland, where visitors enjoy nothing but the most unspoiled beaches and tropical rainforest.

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No tourism was allowed in the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve from the 1960s through the late 1980s, due to deforestation the reserve suffered before it was declared protected. This felling of trees made it necessary to isolate Cabo Blanco from outside influences so that it could fully recuperate to its previous natural state. To this day, much of the park remains accessible only to scientists, state workers, or those with special clearance.

Hiking, swimming, and wildlife watching are the park’s main attractions. A strenuous and rewarding hike along the Swedish Trail (Sendero Sueco) leads to the area’s two immaculate beaches: White Cape Beach (Playa Cabo Blanco) and Balsita Beach (Playa Balsita). Another trail along the coast is the Boat Trail (Sendero el Barco), which leads west from Balsita Beach. These shores are often inaccessible during the rainy season months of May-November, so be sure to check the tides before attempting the journey.

There is also a trail from Cabo Blanco’s Mal Pais entrance, but it stops after about a mile where you will find a large “Do not Enter” sign. Most of this side of the reserve is rocky and closed to the public. A gorgeous, deserted beach is available for everyone to enjoy, often frequented by monkeys, bare-throated tiger herons, and frigate birds. Colorful and smooth stones speckle the sand.

Receiving more rain than the rest of the Pacific Coast, Cabo Blanco has a climate that allows both moist tropical and evergreen forests to thrive. The majority of growth is secondary groves, or recovering woods that have been negatively impacted by human contact. Some biologically varied primary forest, woodland that has escaped such influence, does remain. Such diverse habitats result in the wide variety of plant and animal life found in the area.

The most common trees found in the reserve are lance wood, cedar, wild plum, trumpet tree, dogwood, frangipani and chicle. The spiny cedar tree known as pochote is unique for its wooden spikes, which protrude like armor from the bark. Hard to miss, one particularly enormous cedar within the reserve is over 150 feet tall and ten feet in diameter.

Thanks to the efforts of a Swedish couple, Karen Morgensen and Olof Wessberg, Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Reserve was declared Costa Rica’s first protected wilderness area in 1963.  These two played instrumental roles in developing the country’s environmental movement. They raised enough money to buy and rescue Cabo Blanco’s threatened land, which was being farmed, tree harvested, and demolished – forging ahead before Costa Rica even had its own national park system to care for such a coveted area.


Hiking: Cabo Blanco’s most popular activity is hiking. Hire a guide to help make the most out of the reserve’s two main trails: Boat Trail and Swedish Trail.

Bird and Wildlife Watching: A wildlife lover’s paradise, the park is packed with verdant trails, home to white-faced and howler monkeys, agouti, coatimundi, anteaters, white-lipped peccaries, Baird’s tapir, and raccoons. Over 39 species of bats also inhabit the reserve.

Avid birdwatchers may encounter magpie jays, mot mots, long-tailed manakins, crested caracara, elegant trogon, ringed kingfisher and sulphur-winged parakeets within the reserve. Less than one mile offshore, Cabo Blanco Island is inhabited by large numbers of nesting brown boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, gulls, and ospreys.

Swimming: The hike to Cabo Blanco’s isolated beaches of Playa Cabo and Balsitas is well worth the effort. There are few tourists that make the trek, giving the pristine sands the isolated feel of your own private reserve. Visitors can reach them by following a trail from the ranger station, through three miles of tropical deciduous forest to the coast.


The administration office near the Cabuya entrance to the reserve offers restrooms and potable water; there are showers and a picnic area at Playa Cabo. The San Miguel Biological Station, located on the western side of the reserve, is dedicated in aiding education and research as well as the protection of the Cabo Blanco Wildlife Reserve. Along with potable water and electricity, the station has bunk beds, shared bathrooms, classrooms, a library and laboratories. The lodge can house groups of up to 30 people.

Getting There:

Driving: Take the Puntarenas ferry to Paquera.  From Paquera, follow signs to Cobano and drive through Cobano to Cabuya. This is the gateway to the park.  The entrance station is located just two miles south of Cabuya.

Cabo Blanco Reserve in Pictures

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