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La Selva Biological Reserve

La Selva Biological Reserve

Quick Facts

  • Area : 3,900 acres
  • Telephone : 2766-6565
  • Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily
  • Entrance Fee : $30 - $38
  • Location : Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui
  • Altitude : 2,000 feet above sea level

It's no wonder why biologists and tourists alike flock to La Selva, it's one of the most, rich dynamic rainforest habitats left on the planet. Comprised of old growth and tropical wet forest, La Selva's grounds cover more than 3,900 acres of rainforest between the Sarapaqui and Puerto Viejo Rivers.

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Wildlife is everywhere at La Selva, without even getting on the trails visitors can see strawberry poison dart frogs, two-toed sloths and collared peccaries. On the bridge over the Sarapaqui River visitors can spot crocodiles and caimans swimming and sun bathing along the shores.  Other common sights on the trails include hummingbirds, toucans, owls, monkeys, and snakes.

There are more than 31 miles of paved hiking trails leading visitors through tropical, wet old growth and secondary forests. The trails are used by both tourists and researchers and it's not uncommon to see research projects while wandering among the trails. For those looking to hike the trails, a guide is unnecessary, but encouraged as they will help point out wildlife that would be hidden to the untrained eye—it's truly impressive. 

The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) purchased La Selva and created the La Selva Biological Station back in 1968. OTS has since conducted research and conservation of the preserve's old growth and secondary growth forest. Current research projects include studying ant populations, regeneration in second growth forests and an automated animal data collection system that collects sounds and pictures to study biodiversity indicators that could indicate global climate change.


La Selva is warm throughout the year; July, November and December are the rainiest months. The average rainfall is around 13 feet annually. Average temperature: 66-88º F. 


Hiking, birding and wildlife watching are the three most popular activities at La Selva. An extensive trail system provides more than 31 miles of groomed paths. Morning, day and night tours are all offered. In addition, there are general and private tours, birding tours and river boat tours. General tour prices range from $28-$70. 

Flora & Fauna: 

La Selva Biological Station offers a cross-section of Costa Rica's tropical rainforest life, including more than 1,850 plant species, 448 species of birds, and approximately 500 species of ants.  Regular avian sightings include the slaty-tailed trogon, green kingfisher, fasciated tiger heron, buff-rumpled warbler, and collared peccary. Other wildlife common to the station are Derby's woolly opossums, spider monkeys, two-toed sloths and tree frogs.


La Selva offers, cabins (twin beds, fan and private bathroom), family houses (two bedrooms, bathroom, and a kitchen) and dorms (bunk beds and shared baths). The onsite dining hall feeds 100. Be sure to book a bed or cabin in advance, as the lodge may fill up quickly during workshops or other educational events. 

Getting There: 

Bus: From San Jose, buses depart from the Terminal del Caribe, Ave.13, Calle Central. There are many daily departures, and tickets cost about $5. As schedules change frequently, travelers should call ahead to confirm departure times. Make sure to buy a ticket to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Ask the driver to stop at La Selva, less than two miles south of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Tel: 2222-0610 / 2257-6859.

Car: Take route 32 out of San Jose. Turn left onto route 4 and follow it for about 30km. About 2km south of the Sarapiqui River, there's an intersection (on the right will be a small restaurant, a white building, and a sign for the Gavilan hotel), turn left onto the dirt road. Follow the dirt road past the police station and a heart of palm plantation and curve left at the end. Follow this road through a small town and La Selva will be on the right.

La Selva Biological Reserve in Pictures

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