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Herpetological Refuge

Herpetological Refuge

Quick Facts

  • Location : Alto Las Palomas, Santa Ana
  • Area : 1/2 acre
  • Hours : 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Mondays
  • Telephone : 2282-4614 or 8828-0324
  • Entrance Fee : $14 adults & $7 children

Open since March 2011, the Costa Rica Herpetological Refuge, or Refugio Herpetologico de Costa Rica, is located in the San Jose suburb of Santa Ana. The refuge is the brainchild of biologist Rodolfo Vargas Leiton, a reptile and amphibian specialist who cares for injured and mistreated animals native to Costa Rica.

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The center's main objective is to rehabilitate reptiles and amphibians and return them to their natural habitat. In cases where an animal is unable to return to the wild, the refuge offers a safe haven and improved quality of life. Staff and volunteers provide community education, conduct herpetological research, and encourage better treatment of the environment.  

Tours begin on groomed paths where guests can view some 22 species of snakes. Experienced guides, mostly volunteers, point out the differences between venomous and non-venomous species, and introduce visitors to some of the country's most respected residents: eyelash palm pitvipers, bushmasters, and the aggressive fer-de-lance.  

A small pond affords underwater views of turtles and other creatures, and a docile caiman can be touched with a guide's help. The refuge is home to Sobek the crocodile, whose front claws were removed, and Cesar the iguana. Other permanent residents include a spider monkey and squirrel monkey, both rescued from unhappy lives as illegal pets. The refuge depends on public tours to help cover the costs of food, shelter, maintenance and veterinary treatment. Students and school groups are entitled to special discounted rates. 


Average daily temperatures range from 72º to 81°F. Since the refuge is outdoors, take a raincoat or umbrella during the rainy season (May-November).


A small gift shop sells souvenirs and handcrafted jewelry, t-shirts, carved woodworks, hammocks and hand-painted mugs. 

Getting There: 

Take the old road (Calle Vieja) from Escazu toward Santa Ana. The refuge is located in Alto Las Palomas, four blocks east of the Cebolla Verde Restaurant.

Herpetological Refuge in Pictures

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