The Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve protects tropical forest and beach areas at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, in Costa Rica. Cabo Blanco received its protected status in October 21st, 1963, due primarily to the efforts of the late Olof Wessberg, who a decade earlier had come to Costa Rica from his native Sweden. Living on a farm in the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, Wessberg was saddened by the amount of deforestation in the region and took steps to interest the government in doing something to save a patch of remaining forest. He was instrumental in gaining the financial support of conservation organizations in Sweden, England, Austria and the United States. Enough funds were contributed to allow the purchase and administration of what is now the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve. Cabo Blanco is the only government protected area created before the inception of the park service in 1970 that has survived to this day.
The absolute part comes from the fact that for the first 25 years of its existence Cabo Blanco was absolute and completely a nature reserve and nothing else, where no visitors were allowed. Offshore from the point lies the Cabo Blanco Island (“White Cape”), from whence the area’s name is derived. This rugged piece of rock is devoid of plant life, but harbors abundant roosting seabirds. It is estimated that more than 800 Brown Boobies alone live here, making it the largest colony of this species in Costa Rica. The accumulated guano from so many birds causes the white color visible from the mainland.
Even though this sector of the Nicoya Peninsula receives an average of 2.3 meters of rain annually, making it the wettest part of the region, there is still a pronounced dry season from December through April. In fact, the southern zone of the peninsula receives more rain than the area to the north which results in a different look and feel to the forest, with some 2300mm (58in) more than the rest of the area. Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve is characterized by tropical moist forest with many evergreen areas, although numerous plant species found in the tropical dry forest also occur here. One of these is the spiny cedar, or “Pochote”, which can be identified by the sharp, conical spines protruding from the bark, with white “shaving brush” flowers are pollinated at night by bats.
About a15% is primary forest, with the remaining secondary forest some 50 years old. Around 150 trees have been identified in the zone; evergreen species predominate, but dry forest types are found as well. Among the most common trees are Bastard Cedar, Wild Plum, Gumbo-limbo, Lancewood, Frangipani and Spiny Cedar – mentioned before.
The forest is home to a wide variety of animals, including Howler, Capuchin and Spider Monkeys, Armadillos, Coaties, Anteaters, Agouties, Porcupines, Kinkajous, Curassows, Crested Guans, Brocket Deers, Collard Peccaries and Raccoons. Smaller cats such as the Ocelot and Margay leave traces, but are unlikely to be seen, and with some luck even the Jaguarundi, the most diurnal of Costa Rica’s six species of wild cats. The shoreline is inhabited by many sea birds, such as Brown Pelican, Laughing Gulls and Frigatebirds, while Cabo Blanco Island is the nesting site of up to 800 pairs of Brown Boobies. The forest contains a rich array of birds, such as the Magpie-Jay, Motmots, Long-tailed Manakin, Crested Caracara, Elegant Trogon, White-bellied Chachalaca and Sulphur-winged Parakeet. Butterflies, such as the Blue Morpho and Owl Butterfly are common. Beware of snakes, Boa Contrcitor have been reported.
There is an area along the beach at the southern end of the cape where marine fossils dating back at least 20 million years can be found in the exposed rocks, where an extinct species of giant oyster is among the more common fossils.
The rich concentration of nutrients from the seabird colony on Cabo Blanco provides for abundant fish life around the point and ocean currents bring in pelagic species such as billfish and tuna making for excellent sport fishing opportunities.
Despite its restrictive sounding administrative category, visitors allowed into the reserve are only permitted to use one of the existing trails that run for 5km (3 miles) down through the forest to the beach. Visitors to Cabo Blanco are limited to 40 a day, so it is better if you book in advance and report to the Ranger Station.
There are trails that lead between the Administration Station and Cabo Blanco Beach, Balsitas Beach and the San Miguel Station – the San Miguel Biological Station of Costa Rica was developed to promote and support teaching, research, and environmental education, taking advantage of the well-protected tropical marine and dry forest habitats present on site. Potable water and restrooms are available at stations, picnic areas and showers at Playa Cabo Blanco and the San Miguel Biological Station include classrooms, laboratories and a reference library. Camping permits are limited.
Getting to Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve:
From San Jose take the Pan-American Highway to Puntarenas, passing through San Ramon and Barranca. Probably the easiest way to get there is by taking the Ferri to Tambor or Paquera. (Tambor Ferri is the largest and most comfortable, we recommend you get to Puntarenas an hour before the ferry leaves), and then drive through Tambor, Cobano and Cabuya. The Administration Station is 2 miles south of Cabuya. To get to Montezuma, continue south for approximately 40 km from Paquera. The reserve lies 11 km south of the funky beach village of Montezuma (the nearest accommodations). From Montezuma, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is practically a necessity, even during the dry season. Now you can also take the new Caldera Highway, until you get to Puntarenas. The Caldera trip takes about 3 hours from San Jose while the other takes about 5 hours.
From Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR), drive south through Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Nandayure, Lepanto, Paquera, and then drive through Tambor, Cobano and Cabuya. The Administration Station is 2 miles south of Cabuya. It is a very scenic trip as you go down the coast (this route exemplifies rural Costa Rica and is very beautiful).
Take a local bus from San Jose – Malpais – Montezuma, which takes about 5 hours (Transportes Rodriguez, 2642-0219). We recommend buying the ticket the day before to secure your space.
You can also take a shuttle bus that goes several times a day from Montezuma to the park entrance.
You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to the Tambor Airport, either with Sansa Airlines or Nature Air every day. From here you can rent a car and drive, or take a bus or taxi to Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, which is about 15 minutes.
Location: 11km (7miles) from Montezuma, in Puntarenas province.
GPS coordinates: 9.562392,-85.112881 (9°33’44.61″N, 85°06’46.37″W)
Puntarenas Ferry GPS Coordinates: 9.977431,-84.848553 (9°58’38.75″N, 84°50’54.79″W)
Size: 1175ha (2903 acres)
Altitude: sea level to 150m (942ft)
Ranger Station Schedule: from Wednesday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve Telephone: +(506) 2642-0093
San Miguel Station Telephone: +(506) 2645-5277 / 2645-5890
Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) Telephone: +(506) 2686-4967 / 2686-4968
Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) Fax: +(506) 2686-4969
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192