The Iguanita National Wildlife Refuge was created on May 13th, 1994 by Executive Order 23217 from MIRENEM (now MINAE) and the ICT, in order to protect a wide variety of wildlife, marine and cultural resources, including beach, estuary, mangrove, gallery forest, wooded cliffs and archaeological sites within the lower basin of Quebrada Grande, as well as to provide opportunities for research, protection and sustainable management of natural and cultural resources through small, low-impact tourism projects. This occurred in 1993 thanks to local leaders, who concerned about conservation and community development, proposed turning the area into a refuge.
The refuge is located on the Nacascolo peninsula where Iguanita beach offers placid tranquil swimming due to the Culebra Bay being a calm bay protected from the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. Within its territory contains 35.8 ha of restricted area (31% of total area) in a strip of land surrounding the mangrove forest.
The Iguanita National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area in northwestern Costa Rica, so it has an average temperature ranging between 22ºC (70ºF) and 34ºC (90ºF), which includes primary forest, dry tropical forest, mangrove and bay offshore.
The region contains a wealth of tourist, educational and scientific attractions, which thanks to its proximity to the Liberian community, it allows a development for the local people in the context of sustainable management of natural and cultural resources, so it can protect the refuge, while maintaining the tradition of community use of the beach.
The Iguanita National Wildlife Refuge has recorded about some 67 marine species, including some of commercial interest as snapper, lobster and cambute, 110 species of birds such as the Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus), the Orange-fronted Parakeet or Orange-fronted Conure (Aratinga canicularis) and the Clay-colored Thrush or Yigüirro (Turdus grayi(Turdus grayi), of which 27% are migratory; some 10 species of terrestrial mammals such as Howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) and White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), as well as Black Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis), iguanas and a variety of snakes, including depleted, threatened or endangered, so they have recommended increasing protection efforts in this area in the long term. Within the flora that has been recorded, there are about 118 species of trees and shrubs, including Jobo (Spondias mombin), Gumbo-limb (Bursera simaruba), the Ronron (Astronium fraxinifolium) and the Tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae).
Iguanita National Wildlife Refuge is interested in protecting, rescuing and using their pre-Hispanic cultural resources in their natural environment, which were key components in the social, economic, and religious networks, which linked more than 65 prehispanic villages and towns around Culebra Bay, with pre-Hispanic towns of Tempisque Valley and Guanacaste Cordillera, resources that must be protected and preserved in accordance with the National Archaeological Heritage Act.
The Refuge is located within the framework of the Papagayo Gulf Tourist Polo (Polo Turístico Golfo de Papagayo), a boom area in the development of tourism infrastructure as well as being an area of great beauty and diversity of natural and cultural resources, so there is interest and social concern regarding the conservation of the area and also in maintaining permanent access and the right to enjoy Iguanita Beach for all Costa Ricans, especially the Guanacaste people, who by financial constraints can not afford their stays or visits to tourism developments.
In addition, the refuge carries out activities of maintenance, cleaning paths, control patrols, cleaning the beach and work with the community school to provide environmental education.
There are no public facilities at Iguanita National Wildlife. Other nearby parks include the Costa Esmeralda National Wildlife Refuge, Las Baulas National Marine Park and Santa Rosa National Park.
Getting to Iguanita Wildlife Refuge:
From San José
Drive north to Puntarenas and then follow the Pan-American highway until you reach Liberia. There, turn right, continue for 8 km (5 miles), turn right at the DO IT Center towards the Four Seasons Hotel and follow the road for about 6 km (3.7 miles), turn left on a gravel entry to Iguanita Wildlife Refuge and continue for 7.5 km (4.5 miles) until you reach Iguanita Wildlife Refuge. The last 7km of the road are in poor condition, so a 4×4 vehicle is essential to reach this beach. This route requires a total of 5 to 6 hours from San José.
From Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR)
Drive south to Santa Cruz for 8 km (5 miles), turn right at the DO IT Center towards the Four Seasons Hotel and follow the road for about 6 km (3.7 miles), turn left on a gravel entry to Iguanita Wildlife Refuge and continue for 7.5 km (4.5 miles) until you reach Iguanita Wildlife Refuge. The last 7km of the road are in poor condition, so a 4×4 vehicle is essential to reach this beach.
There are no buses that comes to Iguanita Wildlife Refuge, however you can take a bus from the route San José – Liberia, which takes about 5 hours (Pulmitan, 2222-1650) and then you can rent a car and drive or take a taxi to Iguanita beach, which takes about 40 minutes. We recommend buying the ticket the day before to ensure your space.
There are also several private transport services (shuttle buses) that can take you either from San Jose to Papagayo or from Liberia to Papagayo.
You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to the Daniel Oduber airport at Liberia, either with Sansa or Nature Air airlines every day. From here you can rent a car and drive or take a taxi to Iguanita beach, which takes about 40 minutes.
Location: Culebra Bay, district: Nacascolo, canton: Liberia, province: Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Zone postal code: 50104.
GPS coordinates: 10.632392,-85.629158 (10°37’56.61″N, 85°37’44.97″W)
Size: 114 ha (282 acres)
Altitude: sea level
Guanacaste Conservation Area Telephone (ACG): + (506) 2666-5051
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192