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Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Costa Rica, Latin America

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Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

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  • Aerial view of the river in the summer.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Aerial view of the river in the summer.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Aerial view of a local restaurant and boat ramp.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Aerial view of the river in the summer.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Aerial view of a local restaurant and boat ramp.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Aerial view of the river in the summer.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • One way to explore the river is on a commercial boat. Alternatively, you can rent a kayak and paddle along.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Cloudy summer skies.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Iguana sunbathing.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Alligator sunbathing.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Kingfishers near their nest (burrow) on the cliffs.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Albino black howler monkey.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Albino black howler monkey.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Cormorant drying its wings.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • It is a bit hard to see them, but there are four bats hanging on the side of a tree along the river.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Alligator on the bank of the river.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • This lizard appeared to be a quite a good swimmer.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Ibis on trees along the river.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Capuchino monkey.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Great egret hunting.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Three-toe sloth high on a tree.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Fly kingfisher.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Anhinga drying its wings.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Spider monkey jumping between trees with its precious cargo.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Painted turtle along the river.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Lizard on a branch... the locals call them the Jesus Christ lizard, as it runs on the surface of the water.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Lizard that locals call Jesus Christ lizard, as it runs on the surface of the water, as pictured here.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • One of the many species of birds that can be spotted in Caño Negro.- Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • - Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Excellent opportunities to see wildlife.
Cons: 
The site is a fairly long drive away from other Costa Rica destinations.
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Region:
Costa Rica, LT
Access: 
Vehicle
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Site characteristics: Water: 
River
Motorized watercraft allowed: 
Yes
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Portage required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
7.00 mi (11.27 km)
Water difficulty: 
Easy / Class A
Current Local Weather:
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Paddle Description

Paddle Description

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Caño Negro is a wonderful location to observe mammals, reptiles, and hundreds of bird species, including migratory birds at different times of the year. The refuge is located about and hour and a half from La Fortuna, and it can only be explored by boat. There are several tour providers that offer boat tours, or you can rent a kayak and explore the river on your own. Either way, this makes for a great day trip, relaxing and observing abundant wildlife along the river.

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is located in the northern part of Costa Rica, very near the border with Nicaragua, and covers about 10,000 hectares (almost 40 square miles). It is part of the Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area, and it is characterized by and band of forest along the Rio Frio river, wetlands, mostly sorrownded by ranches. In fact, conservation in the area is a result of the partnership between authorities and ranchers.

While many tours operate out of Los Chiles, only a couple of miles from the Nicaraguan border, there are several spots southwest from there where the river is accessible. Visiting the areas off the beaten path will probably make for a more relaxing experience, but there is wildlife in most areas along the river. The river is many miles long, but operators will usually navigate a few miles and then come back to the starting point. If you rent a kayak, it is recommended to paddle upstream first; even though the current is not strong, it still makes a difference when paddling for several miles. If you plan to cross the border, make sure to bring passports.

Whether on a commercial boat on paddling on a kayak, watch for alligators, iguanas and lizards -some of which run on the surface of the water.  Mammals that can be spotted include monkeys -capuchino, spider and black howler- as well as sloths; larger animals such as jaguars and tapirs also inhabit the area, but are very difficult to see.   There are many species of birds that can be observed. Many species winter in the area, when the water is low. During the rainy season, from May to October, there is more water on the river, being fed from the mountains and forests to the south. While many of the migrating birds will be up north for the summer, there are still many resident species that are visible, including anhingas and cormorants, egrets, storks, parrots and many others.

As in other adventures in Costa Rica, a guide is not mandatory, but it can help gain deeper knowledge of local wildlife and culture.

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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