Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2013
Playa Hermosa is best known for its consistent waves that attract seasoned surfers from around the world. The quiet gray sand beach is much less developed than neighboring Playa Jaco, and is part of the Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge.
Location : Playa Hermosa, 3 miles south of Jaco
Altitude : Sea level
Area : 109 acres
Telephone : 2643-1066 or 2416-7068
Entrance Fee : Free
The Tulin River, home to crocodiles and other freshwater creatures, weaves through the refuge before spilling out into the Pacific Ocean. Playa Hermosa Refuge protects several habitats – ocean, beach, secondary forest and mangrove estuaries – that are home to a variety of species.
The Olive Ridley sea turtle, one of the world’s smallest marine turtles, counts Playa Hermosa as a minor nesting site in Costa Rica. Their nesting season occurs from June through November, while September, October and November see the largest numbers of turtles. Nesting behavior depends heavily on weather and other conditions, so visitors interested in observing sea turtles should always confirm with park staff in advance.
Rangers work to protect the turtle eggs from predators, and help hatchlings survive their journey to the ocean – the refuge currently boasts a 92% survival rate. For a chance to see nesting mothers or tiny hatchlings, evening turtle tours depart from Jaco. After receiving instructions, visitors search the beach for nesting females, and may be asked to take fresh eggs to the nursery, or escort baby turtles out to sea. For a more in-depth experience, volunteer opportunities are also available.
Bird & Wildlife Watching
Playa Hermosa’s forest and mangrove swamp are home to many animal species. A small web of hiking trails winds through the reserve, but be sure to inquire about path conditions before setting out. Depending on the weather, rowboat tours are also available along the area’s river. In addition to its natal beach for Olive Ridley turtles, the refuge is home to caimans, coatimundis, marine snakes, raccoons, boa constrictors and crocodiles. Scarlet macaws, roseate spoonbills, herons and caracaras are some of the native and migratory avian species found in the refuge.
With six miles of hard-braking waves and one of Costa Rica’s biggest beach breaks, Playa Hermosa is one of Costa Rica’s premier surf spots. In fact, Playa Hermosa has become so popular that it regularly hosts surf competitions, including the 2009 World Surfing Games.
Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge accepts volunteers on an as-needed basis. Volunteers donate their time – from three days to three months – to help the refuge in many ways. During turtle season, volunteers may aid in turtle protection, egg collection and hatchling release. Between January and May, when few turtles are nesting, volunteers may help maintain trails, work in the onsite turtle nursery, weave baskets for egg collection, and aid in other daily tasks. Volunteers must make a mandatory $15/day donation to cover food and lodging. Stays must be arranged through the park administrator at 8891-6522.
There are no public facilities at the refuge. However, a rustic beachfront building provides the headquarters for refuge staff and volunteers.
Places to Stay:
Many small hotels and guesthouses cater to surfers, and their beachfront location is ideal for grabbing your board and heading straight into the surf. Note that most Playa Hermosa lodging is budget to mid-range, and some businesses may not accept credit cards. For a more urban experience, head three miles north to Jaco, a hub for restaurants, nightlife and lodging that caters to budgets from shoestring to lavish.
From San Jose, take the Caldera highway west toward the central Pacific coast. After passing signs for Orotina, exit and follow signs to Jaco. Expect to pay around $3.50 in tolls. Just before reaching Jaco, you will cross the Tarcoles River Bridge where dozens of enormous crocodiles can be seen. From Jaco, follow signs three miles south to Playa Hermosa.