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Caño Negro
Wildlife Refuge

The National Wildlife Refuge of Costa Rica

Birdwatching Costa Rica – Birdwatching in Caño Negro – Caño Negro Boat Tour – Hotel in Caño Negro – Vacation Rental in Caño Negro

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Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

The National Wildlife Refuge Caño Negro is the most significant wetland in Costa Rica, located in the northern plain. This magnificent refuge is about 10,000 hectares. It naturally incorporates several unique ecosystems, such as a lagoon system, navigable rivers, creeks, rainforests, extensive marsh, and open and semi-open environments. Since 1991 Cano Negro wildlife refuge Costa Rica is part of the Ramsar Convention. To visit Caño Negro Refuge, you have to drive to Caño Negro village. A small town surrounded by the refuge.

Because Caño Negro Refuge is a wetland with such different ecosystems, this protected area evolved into one of the most visited by Nature-lovers, birdwatchers, and any kind and active photographer. If one or all of these specific activities are your things, this is the right place to explore.

Birdwatching in Caño Negro Refuge

If you wonder… Great Hotspot Where to watch birds in Costa Rica? Where are great birding hotspots in Costa Rica in one place?

The answer is the National Refuge of Caño Negro. Caño Negro Birding Tour. We are local, on-site, all around the year BIRDING. You can’t go wrong!

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is one of a kind for a pleasant birding vacation in Costa Rica, where you can genuinely enjoy birding and/or photography.

Hotel de Campo Caño Negro

This sustainable hotel is located in the heart of the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, the #1 spot for abundant wildlife and birdwatching in Costa Rica. Since 1998 we carefully reforested, and we’ve created natural wildlife locations.

We created 3 birding and photography hot spots inside the property. One is just in front of the lagoon, one is our private forest, and a new lagoon is specially prepared for photographers, making Hotel de Campo Caño Negro the ideal place to stay for your exotic vacation in Costa Rica.

Our private protected area offers year-round birdwatching opportunities without having to leave the hotel, making it one of the best birding lodges in Costa Rica.

Caño Negro Boat tour

Taking a Caño Negro Boat tour is the best way (and actually the only way) to know this beautiful wildlife refuge.

This is a wetland ecosystem, and all the wildlife is related to water. So, all the action is along the “rio Frio” and the lagoons of Caño Negro Refuge.

Please have a look at the different offers that Hotel de Campo has prepared for you.
Or, request for a tailor-made vacation package.

casa mairena

Costa Rica Vacation Rental in Caño Negro, at Casa Mairena can be the right option if you’re looking for a house to rent in Costa Rica, surrounded by nature, proper for nature-lover, for birding, for a photographer, look no further. Not only will you find an almost pristine wildlife refuge in Caño Negro, but we can help you arrange the best excursion. Rather than staying in a hotel, why not choose a location as unique as you are?

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Contact now Hotel de Campo Caño Negro. Give them some idea of what you are looking for in Caño Negro. With this information, they will provide you with the most accurate information that will suit your interest.

What can I do in the National Refuge of Caño Negro?

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is most of all a major birding hotspot, a fantastic place for nature photographers, and a distinguished place for that person who likes visiting a place with a lot of nature, but outside the conventional tourist destination.
It is exactly this characteristic “outside the conventional tourist destination” that makes Caño Negro a prime destination in Costa Rica.
Of course, it is a prime destination if your vacation spins around nature.
If you are travelling by yourself, you can check out Hotel de Campo Vacation Packages made for birdwatchers and/or photographers, or other packages made for nature lovers.
If you would like to explore more birding hotspots in Costa Rica, and you need help organizing a longer tour in Costa Rica, Birding Costa Rica Tour will be happy to help you.

How do I reach Caño Negro Refuge?

As we say many times, you can drive to Caño Negro in your car every day of the year. Yes, the final 20-25 km on the road is not very good, but any kind of car can do it.

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If you are in the area of the Arenal volcano (La Fortuna), drive north along with route number 142 to El Tanque. Turn left to the next cross and turn right on route number 4 to Muelle, then turn left and take route 35 north in the direction to Los Chiles, and when you arrive at El Jobo (about 7 km before Los Chiles, turn left on the route 138 to Caño Negro.

If you are in Bijagua, follow route number 6 to the north up to the intersection to route number 730. Take right and follow the route up to the intersection with route number 4. Take left and after a few hundred meters, take left in route 138 to Caño Negro Refuge.

If you are in Guanacaste, go to Bijagua, and then follow the same instructions.

If you are around Tenorio National Park, drive to the Park entrance, and from there follow the street to Katira. There, turn left on Route 4 to Colonia the Puntarenas, and at the next intersection turn right on Route 138 to Caño Negro Refuge.

If you are on the Atlantic coast, go to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. From then continue west on Route 4 up to Muelle de San Carlos intersection. There take north in the direction of Los Chiles on route number 35. Before Los Chiles, about 7 km, at El Jobo take left on route 138 to Caño Negro Refuge.

How is the weather in Caño Negro?

Besides the general explication, Caño Negro has a different microclimate. We do not have the weather like the higher mountains of Tenorio or Arenal. Is not as rainy as Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and the Atlantic coast either.
We have mixed weather between the Atlantic coast and the Guanacaste area.

In a general speech, the climate varies over the year, with 2 defined seasons. Local weather has intense influence from the dryer northern Pacific region of Costa Rica. On a normal basis, the dry season extends from the end of December to mid-April.

Two very well-defined seasons are responsible for drastic changes in the water levels. Cold fronts and tropical depressions can produce drenching rains on the foothills and lowlands, raising the level of the Río Frío (Cold River) to 6 meters, subsequently flooding this vast extension of land and triggering fish and plant reproduction.

During the rainy season, of course, it rains, but you would not expect days full of rain day after day.

During the dry season, it doesn’t rain. During the transitional months (January and May) anything can happen, but sunny days are the most.

What is the best time to visit Caño Negro?

The best time of the year to explore Caño Negro does depend on what you are looking for. Eventually, every day is the best time to visit Caño Negro. So let me ask you… What do you expect from Caño Negro? Why would you like to explore Caño Negro Refuge?
At the time to decide on visiting Caño Negro, or at the time to ask us about a stay in Caño Negro, this information is very important.

Is Birdwatching in Caño Negro good?

Birdwatching in Caño Negro Refuge

In Caño Negro we go from good to excellent. If your vacation is about birding, we have a lot of birds every day of the year. From November to April, the number of birds rises because migrant birds arrive in Caño Negro, such as shorebirds, warblers, and Oriols. And also the amount of birds rises because the water level is lower. There is more and more concentration on them.

During the dry season, we are going to have a concentration of birds, but fewer places where to navigate and discover. So, during the very dry season (February to April), it is possible to walk around.

The advantage of the rainy season, May to December, is that the water level of the lagoon and river is higher and this around to navigate to several more places.

What are the Top birds to spot in Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge?

I think that the top bird’s list is very subjective, and every birdwatcher has different preferences. Based on our experience after years of guiding birders, I can certainly mention a few ones. Of course, this is not the entire list of birds that should be spotted in Caño Negro, but it can give you a nice reference of the quality of species you can expect.

Agami Heron: this is probably the most iconic bird Caño Negro can offer you. But is also on the list of hard to find. The beginning of the dry season, let’s say between January and March, is not so difficult to find. Let’s say is the best season. But for this bird water level is a very important point in its behavior.

It is impossible to ensure the precise moment of the year because it all depends on rain and water level.

Yellow-breasted crake: this tiny crack is a resident of Caño Negro. He likes to hide in the dense grass over the lagoons. It is a bird that takes time to spot.

Black-collared hawk: one of the most interesting and possible to spot all year round.

Nicaraguan grackle: a must-see bird in Costa Rica. If you would like to have this bird on your list, Caño Negro is the place to be. It is possible to spot all year, with many more chances between January to May.

Sungrebe: a really beautiful and nice bird to spot in Caño Negro. Is a residential species, very active during the dry season, especially from March to May. Also, the reproduction season, which will occur at the beginning of the rainy season around May to July is very active.

American Pygmy Kingfisher: Of the 6 kinds of kingfisher, the Pygmy Kingfisher is the smallest one. It is also residential and it is possible to observe all year.

Green and Roufus kingfisher: the most difficult kingfisher to spot, and for sure in the list of the hard-to-see birds in Caño Negro. But is there all year long. It is just a matter of time and a bit of luck.

Great and Common Potoo: It is absolutely a gorgeous night bird with a scary sound. If you like to explore for birds during the night, these are the 2 top birds to look for.

And then the list continues, with at least:

Amazon, Ringed Kingfisher, and Belted Kingfisher (January to April), Neotropic Cormorant (here you can find the largest colony in Costa Rica), Anhinga, Southern Lapwing (dry season), Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black-necked Stilt (dry season), Purple and Common Gallinule (best time end of the dry season), Russet-naped Wood-Rail (always), Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Snail Kite, Bat Falcon, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, Nicaraguan Grackle, White-collared Manakin, Slaty Spinetail, Olivaceous Piculet, Lineated Woodpecker, Pied Puffbird, Snowy Cotinga, Striped Cuckoo, Bare-crowned Antbird, Barred Antshrike, Pacific Screech-Owl, Black-and-white Owl, Striped Owl, and Mottled Owl are all possible during a night drive. 

Can I do Photography in Caño Negro?

Definitely! If photography is your passion, and you do not have a very specific object, photography is one of the activities you can do for 365 days. Nature is always there to amaze us. Just keep in mind that during the rainy season, a good camera rain cover is a must.
If photography is your passion, let us know if you have a specific target, or if wildlife photography is what you are looking for.

Is Caño Negro Refuge a good place for Watching Wildlife?

Of course! Caño Negro Refuge is not only about birding, but we offer a large option of wildlife animals: Emerald Basilisk, Green Iguana, Spectacled Caiman, American Crocodile, Nicaraguan Slider-Turtle, Long-nosed Bats, Greater Fishing-Bats, Neotropical River-Otter, Mantled Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Central American Spider Monkey, Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth, and Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth.

The easiest animals to spot in Caño Negro are for sure monkeys and sloths, caimans, iguanas, and basilisks.

In this case, the season may affect the amount of these animals you can see. For example, as low as the water level, much more caimans you can spot. But basilisks are more active on the river during the rainy season when there are fewer congregations of shorebirds along the river.
Monkeys and Sloths are always around. But when the water level is higher, we have much more places to take a boat tour in Caño Negro, raising our chances of a great spot.

Caño Negro boat tour?

Yes! Remember that Caño Negro is the largest wetland in the northern plane of Costa Rica. A boat tour in Caño Negro will be our primary way to discover this marshland, even during the dry season. Because we are going to be on the boat all the time, visiting Caño Negro Refuge, birding, and/or photography is very easy. You will enjoy all the nature without any effort. On a boat tour in Caño Negro you have all the time to spot birds, take the picture of your vacation, relax, and enjoy nature.

Many companies can offer you a one-day tour to explore the Caño Negro Wetlands, particularly from the Arenal Volcano area. However, these operations will only take you into Los Chiles or a nearby location and navigate and watch some wildlife along the Río Frío, and not into the actual refuge of Caño Negro. When you visit this area we take you to the actual refuge and stay at Hotel de Campo Caño Negro. This is the only hotel just in front of the lagoon. Our boat trips are private and flexible, so we truly explore the area.

As we already cite, Caño Negro Refuge is today one of the most visited birding hotspots in Costa Rica. we do not say so, this is what Ebird.org reports. This is probably because of the diversity of ecosystems that Caño Negro Refuge offers. And also because these ecosystems change between dry and rainy seasons.

Another point in favour of Caño Negro Wetland is that birding trips are made by boat. That means we can explore a much wider area than you can normally explore walking around.