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Golfito National Wildlife Refuge

Golfito National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

  • Location : Golfito
  • Area : 6,943 acres
  • Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily
  • Telephone : 2725-2620
  • Entrance Fee : $10.00

The Golfito Wildlife Refuge is located on the Pacific coast's Golfo Dulce, or Sweet Gulf. Nearly surrounding the town of Golfito, it was created largely as a method of protecting the municipality's water supply. The refuge shares its northern boundary with Piedras Blancas National Park, and as a result the two protected zones feature much of the same biodiversity and wildlife.

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Heavy rains nourish the refuge’s dense evergreen forests, which boast trees more than 140 feet tall. Silk cotton, copal, butternut, manwood, purple heart, bully and cow tree are commonly seen species. One of the preserve’s most interesting species of flora is the cyad, an organism that resembles a palm tree. The fossil record has proven the cyad to be as old as the dinosaurs.

Trails of varying lengths wind throughout Golfito, and chances of spotting colorful birds and other creatures while hiking are good. The Radio Tower and Playa Cacao trails lead to stunning views of the gulf, but are poorly marked. Visitors should take the time to ask locals for directions, or simply hire a guide in town.


Hiking: The refuge's Radio Trail can be hiked in about five hours. The four-mile hill from the soccer field to Golfito’s microwave tower is steep. Along the way, various species of birds can be spotted, including tanagers and toucans. Three separate paths about a half-mile in length each stem from the Radio Trail, but the trailheads are often covered in brush and difficult to find. Three trails stem from the Playa Cacao route. The hike takes about two hours, covering five miles of terrain. At the fork in the path, taking a left will end with a spectacular view of the Golfo Dulce. Taking a right at the split will lead to another fork; one heads to a half-mile trail following the Corozal Stream, and the other parallels the Pila Stream.  

Bird and Wildlife Watching: While the biodiversity is not as rich as in nearby Corcovado, a number of rare creatures can be spotted within the refuge. Animals include agoutis, pacas, margays, bats and anteaters. All four species of monkey that dwell in Costa Rica reside in the reserve: capuchin, spider, howler and squirrel. Scarlet macaws, toucans, red lored parrots, and parakeets inhabit the refuge as well.


There are no public facilities in the Golfito Wildlife Refuge.The MINAE office is located behind the Deposito Libre in the Zona Americana. Camping permits can be requested free of charge when paying the admission fee. 

Getting There:

Car: From San Jose, take the Interamerican highway south through San Pedro and Cartago. At San Isidro de El General, follow the sign toward Dominical. Once in Dominical take the Southern Highway (Costanera Sur) to Palmar Norte. Then get back on the Interamerican highway until Rio Claro. At the light, take a right to Golfito. The trip takes from seven to ten hours depending on traffic and road conditions.

Bus: Buses depart from San Jose’s Tracopa station for Golfito at 7:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (the 3:30 p.m. bus is direct). The trip takes about eight hours and costs $12. Buses depart Golfito in front of the Deposito Libre at 5:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The trip takes about eight hours and costs $12.

Golfito National Wildlife Refuge in Pictures

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