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Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Hike

Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Hike

Destination: Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Manzanillo

Highlights

  • Hike through coastal and cacao forest
  • Visit the lagoon and Manzanillo Beach

Facts

  • Location : Puerto Viejo
  • Hours : 7 a.m.
  • Price : $55 per person w/ snack and transportation

The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge covers an impressive 23,000 acres, but don't worry you won't have to trek through all of it. Three- to four-hour hikes in the refuge take you to all the sweet spots from shady cacao forests, to intrepid caiman-filled lagoons to the white sand beaches and rocky slopes of the Manzanillo outlook.

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Stroll from the white sand, palm-saddled beaches of Manzanillo and enter into the dark, coastal forest. Walk under sea almond trees along hard-packed sand trails mixed with golden and red fallen leaves patched among gnarled roots while walking just feet from the coastline. Encounter steely-eyed black common hawks, the ruffled red rumps of sleighty-tailed trogons and the lemon-zest scales of the golden eyelash palm pit viper perched and curled under the branches of the lower canopy.

Cross through the cacao forests, once maintained and harvested, now left to the forest after a fungus plague wiped out the fruit and its original owners' pocketbooks. A small community still lives among the forest around the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, laying claim to small patches of land, able to grow small subsistence crops like sugarcane, bananas, mangoes, beans and citrus.

Hike down to the lagoon for a chance to see caimans and fresh water turtles peeking out from among the mossy-green waters.  Many different animals visit the lagoon throughout the day making it possible to see small mammals like coatis, raccoons and agoutis. 

Travel back through the cacao forest, past a local farm and head for the coast where you'll visit Manzanillo's most popular beach, Playa Blanca, an aptly named visage of white sand, clear water, reef and rock islands – an immaculate display of the Caribbean's beauty. Relax, swim in the waters and take your time before heading up to Manzanillo Point, a rocky outcropping that looks over Playa Blanca, as well as the rest of Manzanillo across Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita National Park.

After the tour's culmination at the point, the trek can move in either of two directions based on the tour package offered: you can hike back along the coast for transport in Mazanillo, or you can await a boat to take you back to Puerto Viejo for transportation to your hotel.

*make sure to bring sunscreen, hiking shoes, insect repellant and a swim suit.

Departure & Return

  • Departure Point : Tour departs from all major hotels in Cahuita, Puerto Viejo Limon, Cocles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo
  • Departure Time : Hotel pickup is between 20 and 50 minutes before tour start time depending on hotel location
  • Return Details : Tour returns to original departure point between three and four hours after tour start time

Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Hike in Pictures

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