Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Reserve
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This jewel of nature at the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is where Costa Rica’s quest to bank its natural resources for the future began.
The 1,250-hectare Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco (8 A.M.–4 P.M. Wed.–Sun., $10 adults, $1 children)—the oldest protected area in the country—was created in October 1963 thanks to the tireless efforts of Nils Olof Wessberg, a Swedish immigrant commonly referred to as the father of Costa Rica’s national park system (see David Rains Wallace’s excellent book The Quetzal and the Macaw: The Story of Costa Rica’s National Parks).
Olof Wessberg was murdered in the Osa Peninsula in the summer of 1975 while campaigning to have that region declared a national park. A plaque near the Cabo Blanco ranger station stands in his honor.
The reserve, which includes 1,800 hectares out to sea, is named Cabo Blanco (White Cape) after the vertical-walled island at its tip, which owes its name to the accumulation of guano deposited by seabirds, including Costa Rica’s largest community of brown boobies (some 500 breeding pairs).
Two-thirds of the reserve is off-limits to visitors. One-third is accessible along hiking trails, some steep in parts. Sendero Sueco leads to the totally unspoiled white-sand beaches of Playa Balsita and Playa Cabo Blanco, which are separated by a headland (you can walk around it at low tide).
A coastal trail, Sendero El Barco, leads west from Playa Balsita to the western boundary of the park. Check tide tables with the park rangers before setting off—otherwise you could get stuck. Torrential downpours are common April–December.
Isla Cabuya, about 200 meters offshore, has been used as a cemetery for the village of Cabuya. You can walk out to the island at low tide.
The ranger station (tel. 506/2642-0093 or 2642-0096, cablanco [at] ns [dot] minae [dot] go [dot] cr) has self-guided trail maps. Camping is not allowed, even at the ranger station.
Getting to Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Reserve
The bus to Cabuya continues to Cabo Blanco. Sun Trails Montezuma (tel. 506/2642-0802, www.montezumatraveladventures.com) offers transfers by reservation ($6 round-trip). Collective taxis depart Montezuma for Cabo at 7 and 9 A.M., returning at 3 and 4 P.M. daily ($1.50 pp). A private taxi costs about $12 one-way.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition