Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge - Cerro Tortuguero Sector

Living in harmony with nature
General characteristics:
NWR Barra del Colorado is located in northeastern Costa Rica, on the Caribbean side, Limon province and borders with Republic of Nicaragua, on the river San Juan. It was created in 1985, it is one of the protected areas (PAs) in the country forming part of that 26% of protected territory and contributes to the significant value of diversity of flora and fauna of Costa Rica.
The refuge covers an area of 81,177 hectares of land, consisting of coastal areas, lakes, rivers, herbaceous swamps, flooded forests, and forests of small hills that do not exceed 718 feet (219 meters) above sea level. It has a great feature with respect to the National Parks of Costa Rica, it is a Mixed Wildlife Refuge, which means that conservation objectives of the site are carried out hand in hand with communities that are embedded within the protected Wilderness area, feature that makes the Wildlife Refuge Barra del Colorado an ideal place for rural community tourism.
Like the national parks, the Refuge areas intended for different forms of conservation, in this case making more room for responsible use by the community:
    • Sustainable use: 61%
    • Sustainable use: 61%
    • Sustainable use: 61%
    • Absolute protection: 35%
    • Special use: 3%
    • Public use: 1%
It is precisely at this 1% of public use where the Cerro Tortuguero is located, right at the southeast edge of NWR Barra del Colorado. With an altitude of 390 feet (119 meters) above sea level, it is a small volcanic cone, which was formed about 1.8 billion years ago.
Cerro Tortuguero has an area of approximately 25 hectares and is the highest point of the entire Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, offering spectacular panoramic views of the forest and canal´s dynamic. Furthermore it become a micro habitat and refuge for many animals and plant species.
Tourist dynamics:
The sector of Cerro Tortuguero is located on the border with Tortuguero National Park and just 10 minutes from the community of Barra de Tortuguero, therefore its visitation is directly related to this famous ecological destination of Costa Rica, even though it should be clear that it belongs to the Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge.
This feature makes Cerro Tortuguero can offer, in addition to its spectacular views and breathtaking nature, an experience of Caribbean living in the community of San Francisco, located at the base of Cerro Tortuguero.
Due of the ecological fragility of Cerro Tortuguero and limited space at the top, the number of daily visitors is restricted. In order to ensure the conservation of natural resources, generate a quality experience and maintain the infrastructure, the service is offered through the alliance with an organization, which in turn generates economic benefits in Cerro Tortuguero nearby communities.
Cerro Tortuguero sector as being closer to the Tortuguero National Park than the main area of Barra del Colorado, shares Tortuguero climatic characteristics. Temperatures range between 77 Fahrenheit (25° C) and 86 Fahrenheit (30 ° C), with rainfall of up to 19.68 feet (6000 mm) annually. The humidity is around 88% which generates a high feeling of warmth.
Ecological Importance:
    • It is the maximum and single coastal level elevation in Costa Rican Caribbean and a geological sample of the formation of the Atlantic region.
    • It is a particular microclimate and a refuge for many animals and plant species.
    • It houses many species of amphibians like the red frog (Ophaga pumilio)
Featured species:
    • Mono congo (Alouatta palliata)
    • White face monkey (Cebus capucinus)
    • Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)
    • Red frog (Ophaga pumilio)
    • Green Macaw (Lapa Verde, Ara ambiguous)
​Cerro Tortuguero is surrounded by many stories that have shaped the history of the guardian of the plains of Tortuguero and the community of San Francisco, which accompanies it.
The truth is that the Cerro Tortuguero is an ecological sanctuary and it is closely related to its closest inhabitants, who came in search of a place to live at the beginning of the 1990s. Many of these families depended on secondary jobs generated by tourism in Tortuguero National Park.
Today, gradually they have been incorporated as major players in the conservation of natural resources and main protectors of Cerro Tortuguero.


Opening hours:
   • Every day from 8 am to 4 pm.
   • Up to 330 people per day.
   • Reservations required (through hotels, agencies or operators).
   • A Guide is required.
   • The entry is done in groups, maximum 10 people per group.
   • Each group enters every 15 minutes.



With the cancellation of your right to enter you collaborate with the local economy and conservation of natural resources.
Right of admission:
  • Residents: 500 colones.
  • Non-residents: US $2.
  • In addition, visitors (residents and nonresidents) must pay a US $ 5 fee for the sustainable management provided by the San Francisco Integral Development Association.
   • Local guide services, transportation and additional services are sold separately and must be arranged with the guide or operator.
   • Credit card payments available (remember to perform your foreign reporting departure)


   • Dock
   • Sanitation Services
   • High level trail path
   • Resting areas
   • Observation platform
High Trail Path: In order to reduce impacts on the ground and some species of the area of Cerro Tortuguero as the red frog (Ophaga pumilio), it has built an elevated walkway, which allows secure access route from the basement Cerro to its peak.
Mirador Cerro Tortuguero (Tortuguero Sightseeing): As the only elevation of the Caribbean coast, it is the only site that offers the ability to get the dimension of Tortuguero jungle. The classic postcard of Tortuguero canals can be brought to reality from this sightseeing place available for visitors.
Community of San Francisco: This small town is witness to a long history. Its simple way of living and the Caribbean tradition mixed with the characteristic nature of the area. The possibilities for rural tourism is one of the main attractions of Cerro Tortuguero Sector.

Common species:
   • Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)
   • Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)
   • Red monkey (Cebus capucinus)
   • Mono congo (Alouatta palliata)
   • Toucan Pico Iris (Ramphastos sulfuratus)
   • Green Macaw (Lapa Verde, Ara ambiguous)
   • Red frog (Ophaga pumilio)
   • Spider gold threads (Araña hilos de oro, Nephila clavipes)
​Mixed Refuge conditions and peculiarities of the site make it necessary to establish some parameters for the proper enjoyment of the site.
   • Respect for public use regulations, guidelines and operational staff.
   • Keep your trash during the tour, there are no trash cans on the trail.
   • Always stay within the trail.
   • It is not allowed to enter drugs, weapons or alcohol.
   • No sports or stereos are allowed.
   • Plants and animals are living beings, do not handle or feed them.
   • The entry of pets is not allowed.
   • Take care of your hydration, bring enough water.
   • Wear a hat, sunscreen and biodegradable insect repellent.
   • It is not recommended to swim in the lakes or the sea due to the boats, animals and dangerous currents.