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7 Heavenly Hikes: Cabo Blanco National Reserve

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Hiking the Cabo Blanco National Reserve is a must to experience during your time in Costa Rica

 

In southern point of the Nicoya Peninsula lies the Cabo Blanco National Reserve, a hiker’s dream and explorer’s paradise. One of the most beautiful and scenic areas of the entire country, Cabo Blanco is made even more special due to the fact that it is Costa Rica’s first protected nature reserve.

In 1963, conservationist organizations realized the specialness of this “White Cape”, designating it a national reserve to protect it for generations to come. Today, more than 3,100 acres make up the park, which is bursting with wildlife, dense forests, and serene beaches.

Getting There

The Cabo Blanco National Reserve is located in the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, and is named for the island that lies a little less than a mile off the mainland.

From the towns of Montezuma and Cabuya, you can take a public bus to the reserve, where you’ll need to purchase your day pass for $10. Alternatively, if you have access to a car, you can drive up to the ranger station, buy your passes, and enter. The park is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and is open the rest of the week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Climate and Topography

Cabo Blanco is best planned as a half-day hike, which will allow you plenty of time to enjoy the plants and animals you’ll encounter along the trail, and to spend extra time relaxing on the fabulous beaches. The trail to the beach is a big rugged, and appropriate for more experienced hikers. However, the shorter Danes Trail will have you looping through the park at an easier pace, so those unsure of their hiking prowess shouldn’t be deterred.

The average temperature ranges from 73 degrees Fahrenheit to 91, and humidity averages 82%, so be sure you dress accordingly. You can view maps and guides at the ranger station before embarking on your tour of the reserve.

Flora and Fauna

Cabo Blanco is located in somewhat of a unique area of Costa Rica, as it exists in a transitional plane of dry and wet forests. Containing both evergreen and deciduous trees, you’ll find an impressive array of foliage, from the vibrant Cortez Amarillo to the tall and proud Espave tree. The Espave (named from the Spanish saying “es pa ver” or “to see”) received its name thanks to the natives and explores in the area, who would climb the tree and use it as a look out.

The reserve is also home to many of the animals that make Costa Rica such a remarkable ecosystem. At the captivating coastline, you’ll find a variety of marine birds like pelicans and a large brown booby population (if you’re lucky, you may catch some of their spectacularly acrobatic dives), alongside a variety of mollusks, crustaceans, and fish. Move into the forest, and you’re likely to run into coati, deer, sloths, anteaters, and a few kinds of monkeys, including howlers and capuchins.

What to Bring

Along with the usual hiking necessities (sunscreen, water, maps, a compass, snacks or a lunch, and a small first aid kit) you’ll also want to focus a little extra attention on your clothing choices. Layers are most definitely recommended, as it can be very hot or very rainy at any moment, and you’ll want some good, sturdy footwear to carry you over the trails. A bathing suit as your bottom layer would also be advisable, as Cabo Blanco has miles of gorgeous beaches for your enjoyment. And as always, don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to capture images of the breathtaking scenery to look back on once your adventure has concluded.

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Hiking Rio Celeste Waterfalls at Tenorio Volcano National Park

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1 of 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Waterfalls at Tenorio Volcano National Park- 

 

Rio Celeste is one of the most beautiful and best-kept secrets of Costa Rica; in fact, many locals have never even been there.  Situated within the Tenorio Volcano National Park, this magical sky blue river culminates in a splendid waterfall and blue lagoon.

A hike up to Rio Celeste involves a pleasant, yet somewhat challenging, trek through the cool rainforest landscape of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The hike up and over to the waterfalls takes about an hour and getting beyond that to the river and hostsprings, takes another hour or so, depending on your pace. Unfortunately, the area surrounding the waterfall has been fenced off so there is no longer an option to swim, however, the breathtaking scenery is worth every step you took to get there. The lush tropical green rainforest, the crashing waterfall, the cyan blue waters and the verdant flow of the underwater grass truly make up one of the most sublime scenes in all of Costa Rica.

Image courtesy of PLOS ONE journal

Image courtesy of PLOS ONE journal

PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication of scientific discipline, recently published an article on the science behind the enchanting color of the Rio Celeste; though images of the fascinating cyan waters may appear to be photo-shopped by an especially adept graphic design artist, they are most definitely real.

A number of explanations have been given about the river’s unusual color, but the article in PLOS ONE, based on conclusions drawn from scientific experiments, explain what happens when the clear waters of Quebrada Agria and Rio Buenavista merge together; called the Teñidero (dye point), this is where the clear waters turn turquoise.

Getting to Tenorio Volcano National Park is easy. If you are coming from San Jose, Los Sueños Resort or La Fortuna, you can go through Guatuso and Maquengal but will need to continue on through Upala to get to the entrance of the park, as the National System of Conservation Areas (CINAC) closed the Guatuso entrance in early 2014 due to “dangerous conditions”. Those getting into the area from the beaches of Guanacaste can take highway 1 to highway 6 into Bijagua de Upala. The drive (typically about 3 hours from any direction) is a photographers delight and very much part of a beautiful day.

 

It is best to arrive into the area early in the morning to enjoy the hike and get the most out of the forest and its offerings. Nationals and residents will pay about c800 (Costa Rican Colon) at the El Pilón ranger’s stationentrance to the park; in the entrance to the park and International visitors will pay $12.

 

After a long morning of rainforest discovery, hungry hikers can grab a bite at either of the two small restaurants just outside the park entrance or, head back down the hill into Bijuagua where they can go to Tilapias Angel for a hardy meal of freshly caught (one can even go fishing for lunch) tilapia, rice, salad, beans and plantain.

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HRG’s Guide to Hiking in Costa Rica

Arenal Hanging Bridges park of Costa Rica

Eco- Series: 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica

Preparing for the Rainforest Hike

Costa Rica boasts some of the greatest hiking and eco-exploration opportunities in the world. With its abundance of flora and fauna, there are a plethora of new discoveries to be made by hikers and adventurers every day when visiting Costa Rica. In this series, 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica, we will explore some of the best hiking destinations that Costa Rica has to offer, starting with some tips and tools that every hiker in Costa Rica should have in their virtual, and physical, backpack.

Prepare for Anything

You’ll be amazed at the bounty of microclimates in Costa Rica and the quick changes in weather- sometimes from one minute to the next- that you’ll experience when hiking. You should be prepared for this by planning to wear layers when hiking. Hiking pants that convert into shorts with a quick zip and good, sturdy hiking shoes are an absolute must. When looking into the perfect hiking shoe, go for one that will do well on wet surfaces or even submerged in water; you are going to come across a lot of those, especially when hiking the cloud forest reserves. Regardless of whether your vacation baggage consists of a giant backpacker’s pack or good old fashioned luggage, you’ll want a lighter weight backpack that is strictly for exploring- don’t plan to lug all your stuff along with you on these hiking trails. Most of the trails in this country are moderate to difficult, and you won’t be able to deal with all that. Plan on having something that will allow you to carry the essentials you need for a day’s hike only.

Be Aware of Your Environmental Impact

The lush natural habitat you have the privileged of trekking through in Costa Rica is often fragile. Unconscious hikers sometimes accidentally destroy the environments they enjoy. While the actions of just one hiker may not make a huge impact, the massive effect of large numbers of visitors to the forest can degrade the environment. Here are a few things to keep in mind while in the forest: 1. You are a guest in the forest. Respect the animals that live there. Do not feed them food that could damage their systems. Do not remove them from their homes. Do not taunt them or try to pick them up. Do not destroy or remove their homes or nests. 2. Leave no trace. Whatever you take into the forest, you must take out. Even if you don’t see signs or regulations, follow strict guidelines for dealing with food waste, packaging, or anything else that might alter the environment. This includes even human waste, which is often a major source of environmental impact from hikers. Human waste can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. You can deal with this problem by using “catholes” and covering them up; try to create and use these at least 200 feet away from water sources and trails to minimize the risk of contamination. 3. Obey the rules and regulations of the area, and, if none are given, use good common sense and care. Fires and other hazards such as injuries or getting lost can be avoided in this way. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics offers a set of guidelines for low-impact hiking: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories”.

Hiker’s Etiquette

Hiking in a group can be fun and increase safety. However, sometimes groups of hikers can interfere with the good experience of other hikers. Here are a few rules for hiking etiquette that are universally beneficial. 1. When you or your group of hikers meets another on a steep trail, it is customary to allow the “right of way” to the group that is moving up the hill. 2. Conscious hikers typically avoid making loud noises or taking part in loud, boisterous conversations when hiking. Leave your cell phone conversations for emergencies only, and stay present, safe and considerate by leaving music listening (even with headphones- you need to be able to hear when you are in the forest) for another time and space. One caveat to this rule is when hiking in bear country, but that’s not something you need to think about when hiking in Costa Rica. 3. Stay on established trails; this helps to avoid impact on the land and its natural environment. 4. Hiking faster than your natural pace can increase fatigue and may even cause injury. If in a large group, slower hikers could be left behind or get lost. When in a group, it is a good practice to encourage the slower hikers to lead, while all the others match that speed. Another good safety tip is to have more experienced hikers take up the rear to ensure that everyone is safe. green frogIn this series, 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica, you will discover some of the best hiking trails that Costa Rica has to offer, as well as what to look for through our Spot This! Flora & Fauna of Costa Rica series that typically runs the first Monday of each month.