Costa RicaCosta Rica

Talamanca Cabecar Indigenous Reserve

Quick Facts

  • Location : Talamanca Mountains
  • Altitude : 350 feet above sea level
  • Hours : By reservation only
  • Telephone : 2248-9470

The Talamanca Cabecar Indigenous Reserve is home to approximately 10,000 Cabecar, the largest indigenous group in Costa Rica. Part of La Amistad International Park, the reserve is located just miles from the highly touristed Caribbean coast, but is a world unto itself. To combat poverty and other problems, the Costa Rican government adopted the Indigenous Act of 1977, which preserves indigenous lands and grants native peoples the right to reside in self-governed communities.

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Of all Costa Rican indigenous groups, the Cabecar are considered one of the most traditional. While other native languages are disappearing from Costa Rica, the Cabecar language remains the group's mother tongue and only 50% of the population speaks Spanish. Centuries-old traditions are still part of everyday life: families live in communal homes built from dried cane; they are well versed in the uses of medicinal plants; and self-sustaining agriculture provides the tribe with the maize, bananas, rice and beans that make up their diet. 

In an effort to preserve their culture, the Cabecar people have opened their doors to ecotourism. Some tours begin in Amubri, a town five miles west of Bratsi. Visitors are ushered over the reserve's border, and introduced to the Cabecar way of life. Hike though dense forest; discover how to weave a cane hut's intricate thatched roof; and learn which of nature's plants are good for nausea, headache and other common maladies. 

Other tours depart from San Jose via Turrialba and include whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, camping, and an overnight visit with a Cabecar community. Tours are available by reservation only. It is not possible to arrive at the reserve's border and pay an entrance fee to explore on your own. Most Cabecar communities will also have a small selection of handcrafted souvenirs for sale. 

Getting There: 

To visit the Talamanca Cabecar Indigenous Reserve, book a tour leaving from Limon, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, or San Jose. You cannot drive to the reserve on your own, as there is no park ranger or other official to approve entrance.

Talamanca Cabecar Indigenous Reserve in Pictures