Barra del Colorado
- Summary: World-class tarpon and snook fishing; home to the largest wildlife refuge in Costa Rica
- Landscape: Lowland Rainforest, Ocean, River Canals
- Attractions: Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge
- Activities: Bird and Wildlife Watching, Sport Fishing
- Caters to: Independent Travelers
- Quick Facts: 22 miles north of Tortuguero ; Sea level ; Warm and humid with frequent rain showers ; 64-89°F
Barra del Colorado Snapshot
Located on the extreme northeastern Caribbean coast, Barra del Colorado has been voted one of the top ten places to fish the world. Anglers come from far and wide to fish the 2000-foot wide Rio Colorado. The area’s fresh water river system forms a unique habitat that attracts monster tarpon and two species of snook. It is the only place in Costa Rica where 100-plus pound tarpon can be taken year-round.read more close
Visitors can also fly fish the rivers or ocean and hook guapote, mojarra or some beautiful Caribbean snook ranging upwards of 30 pounds. Tarpon are usually landed in the river mouth but can be fished farther up the Rio Colorado when they migrate through the Rio San Juan to Lake Nicaragua.
The village of Barra del Colorado is divided by the Rio Colorado. Barra Sur consists of little more than a few houses, a tiny airstrip, a mini-super and a souvenir store. On the other side of the river sits Barra del Norte where simple houses and cabins are connected by dirt paths. Travel throughout the region is almost entirely by boat as swampy wetlands dominate the landscape.
Other than fishing, most folks associate Barra del Colorado with its wildlife refuge, a wetland area rich in biodiversity but extremely isolated and difficult to navigate. Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is the largest refuge in Costa Rica, and includes over 31 miles of canals, rivers, lagoons and marshlands that connect with Nicaragua to the north and Tortuguero to the south.
The landscape is comprised of hot and humid tropical forest, fluvial islands, channels and swamp lands. Non-anglers can rent kayaks and canoes from the lodges to tour the tranquil river system and canals along the Rio Colorado. Visitors will likely see iguanas, keel-billed toucans, caimans, crocodiles, and spider and white-faced monkeys. Less commonly seen are the endangered West Indian manatee, ocelot and jaguar.
Due to its isolated location, Barra is only accessible via plane or boat. Fishing lodges in the area offer roundtrip transportation to/from San Jose either by plane or private shuttle bus and boat. Learn more about sport fishing in Costa Rica.
Places to Stay:
There are a handful of excellent fishing lodges along the river in Barra del Colorado. Most cater to anglers and offer multi-day fishing packages including transport to/from San Jose, fishing, meals, lodging and open bar. A couple of lodges offer reasonable rates for the non-angler as well.
Services & Facilities:
There are no banks or ATMs in Barra as nearly every visitor stays at one of the all-inclusive fishing lodges. Archie Fields’ Rio Colorado Lodge and Tarponland Cabinas are the only lodges walking distance from the village of Barra Sur and the air strip. The other two are accessible by boat only. Most fishing lodges offer amenities such as private hot water showers, satellite TV, recreation areas, and a couple have air conditioning.
From the Caribe Terminal in San Jose, take a bus to Cariari de Guapiles (an easy two-hour trip). In Cariari, purchase bus tickets to Puerto Lindo. This leg of the journey is on a very ancient school bus on poor roads and can take anywhere from two to three hours. The bus will deposit you in front of the public boat taxis to Barra del Colorado. These flat-bottomed boats travel roughly one hour through narrow canals to the village of Barra del Colorado and points in between. In total, the bus/boat route will take the better part of seven hours, including waiting times.
If arriving from Tortuguero, visitors can charter a boat (one hour and 45 min. trip) to Barra with a local lodge or tour company. The trip costs between $50 and $100, depending on the number of people. Boats can also be hired from the southern Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui (three hours down, six hours upriver).
Daily flights can be booked through Nature Air or Sansa from San Jose to Barra del Colorado. Direct flights last 35 minutes and sometimes stop in Tortuguero or Limon.