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Rara Avis Reserve

Rara Avis Reserve

Quick Facts

  • Location : 11 miles from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui
  • Altitude : 2,300 feet above sea level
  • Area : 3,300 acres
  • Telephone : 2764-1111
  • Entrance Fee : Free to guests

Remote and wild, the Rara Avis Reserve is one of Costa Rica's most secluded destinations, accessible only on horseback or via a three-hour tractor ride. The reserve, which is also home to a rustic lodge, was founded in 1983 to protect local habitats and to create an example of an economically productive rainforest. Today, Rara Avis also promotes environmental conservation and ecological sustainability.

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Adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park, Rara Avis is home to high-altitude rainforest and a wide range of plant and animal life. The reserve is a beloved secret among birding enthusiasts: at least 367 species have been spotted within its boundaries, and the growing species list includes magnificent frigate birds, ospreys, squirrel cuckoos, great green macaws, resplendent quetzals, and keel-billed toucans. Glass frogs, silky anteaters, white-faced monkeys, turtles, kinkajous, and coatimundis are also common sightings at Rara Avis.

In addition to its diverse wildlife, the private reserve is also known for its stunning natural beauty. Hiking is a popular activity at Rara Avis, especially along the short trail to La Catarata Waterfall, a 180-foot cascade that cuts a brilliant, white path through the dense, emerald jungle.


Rara Avis is a rainforest, so there is little seasonal variation in temperature or rainfall. The reserve is warm and humid year-round, and short, heavy showers are common in the afternoons. Average temperature: 65-90º F.


Hiking and wildlife watching are the two most popular activities at Rara Avis. Guided nature walks leave every morning and afternoon; evening hikes are also available upon request. After a long hike – or just to relax – guests can take a dip in the natural swimming holes beneath the waterfalls – including one located right next to the lodge restaurant.

Flora & Fauna:

The reserve’s common avian species include ospreys, lattice-tailed trogons, olive-sided flycatchers, blue tanagers, gold tanagers, and yellow-eared toucanets. It is one of the few Costa Rican habitats to host rare birds such as the red-throated caracara, wing-banded antbird, and crested eagle. A comprehensive birdwatching checklist is available to guests. Most visitors are lucky enough to observe sloths, spider monkeys, glass frogs, coatimundis, white-faced capuchin monkeys, tree frogs, and several bat species – some even feed at the reserve’s hummingbird feeders!

Getting There:

Bus: In San Jose, buses depart from the Terminal del Caribe, Ave.13, Calle Central. There are many daily departures to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui (be sure you purchase a ticket to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and not Puerto Viejo de Limon); tickets cost about $2.50. As schedules change frequently, travelers should call ahead to confirm departure times. Be sure to ask the driver to let you off in Las Horquetas. Tel: 2222-0610 / 2257-6859.

Car: Take the Guapiles Highway toward Limon. After passing Braulio Carillo National Park, drive for about one hour and turn left at the exit for Rio Frio (look for the sign to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, not Puerto Viejo de Limon). Continue on this road and follow signs to Las Horquetas or Rara Avis. The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours.

From Las Horquetas, about 10 miles southeast of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, the Rara Avis tractor departs at 9 a.m. daily and arrives at the reserve three hours later. The tractor departs Rara Avis at 2 p.m. daily, arriving back at Las Horquetas around 5 p.m. A charter tractor may be arranged (additional cost) for other pickup/drop-off times. Alternatively, guests may ride horseback in or out of the lodge; note that horses can only traverse 7.5 miles of the 9.3-mile trail, so riders must hike almost two miles on foot.

Rara Avis Reserve in Pictures

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