While you’re in Monteverde, make sure to visit the Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge. Meaning “Golden Enclousure” in Inca, this beautiful nature reserve is located in the Arenal-Tempisque conservation area. The land it’s located on was owned by the Lowther family in the 1970’s, who used half of the property for grazing land while leaving the other half (a virgin rain forest) intact. The Lowthers then decided that they wanted to contribute to conservation efforts and for the next 45 years, they allowed for the forest to regrow naturally. In 1997, the land was declared protected by the Costa Rican government, but it wasn’t until 2011 that it was opened to the public in its current form.
Spreading over 83 hectares (205) acres, Curi-Cancha Wildlife Refuge sits at some of the highest elevations in Monteverde, ranging between 4,750 and 5,300 feet above sea level. The land is made up of roughly half primary forest and half secondary-growth forest. There are also lush, green open areas with a great variety of plants. Curi-Cancha is a first-class site for hiking and bird watching. There are seven kilometers of nature trails with stunning flora and fauna that are great for exploring. Curi-Cancha Wildlife Refuge’s limits the number of visitors to 50 at once, allowing for a more enjoyable experience on the nature trail, as well as lowering the environmental impact on the forest.
Curi-Cancha is one of the wildlife-viewing spots in Costa Rica due to its variety of habitats. The mixture of thick forest and open areas are perfect for species, allowing them to hide in thick forest and gather food from the open areas when it is safe. While visiting the park, you will see strategically-placed flowering and fruiting plans in the open areas, as well as a garden with humming bird feeders and flowering hedges that enhance the habits and guest experience.
There are about 250 species of birds that call Curi-Cancha home, making it a great spot for birdwatchers. Considered one of the top places in Costa Rica for bird-watching, the reserve is home to species like the the Three-Wattled Bellbirds, Blue-Crowned Motmots, Orange-Bellied Trogons and the iconic Resplendent Quetzal. There is also a variety of hummingbirds, including the endangered Coppery-headed Emerald and Magenta-throated Woodstar. Curi Cancha also offers bird-watching tours with guides who have particular expertise in finding and identifying local birds.
Curi-Cancha is also home to a variety of mammals, including the Armadillo, Coati, Agouti, Kinkajou, Ocelot and Two-Toed Sloth. You can even see three different monkey species: the Mantled Howler, White-faced Capuchin, and Spider Monkey.
Visitors are welcome to browse the trails by themselves or take a guide to enhance the experience. You can choose between taking the 3.5 hour guided tour or explore the refuge on your own. In addition to this, there is also a night tour that allows you to experience the forest after the sun goes down.