Pack your bags nature lovers and adventure junkies, because the Central and South Pacific parts of Costa Rica are about to make your wildest dreams come true. And I mean wild in the most literal sense. Picture an enchanting wet rainforest that starts at Carara National Park and continues on in a glorious display of biodiversity that would put Noah’s Ark to shame. For those looking to dabble in the untamed world of Manuel Antonio and beyond, there’s no shortage of wildlife refuges and national parks that will keep you perpetually in awe.
Now, let me introduce you a place that sounds like it’s straight out of an Indiana Jones movie – Hacienda Baru. This 330-hectare (815 acres, for those of you struggling with the metric system) wonderland is nestled in the heart of Dominical, offering an epic fusion of adventure, wildlife and sustainability. This place is so crammed full of activities, it’s like Mother Nature’s personal amusement park.
Imagine a place where you can walk seven kilometers of winding trails, through secondary and primary rainforests, each step punctuated by the distant hoots and hollers of hidden wildlife. Here, even the casual bird watcher can pretend to be an ornithologist for a day, and if the sky-high thrill of a canopy tour doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the eco-tram and a heart-racing tree climb.
The journey to Hacienda Baru is as easy as stealing candy from a baby. Just hop on the Costanera Highway from San Jose via Quepos, enjoy the scenic 33-kilometer ride past Quepos Airport, cross a bridge over the poetic sounding Rio Hatillo Viejo, and voila! Hacienda Baru, with its welcoming sign, looms just two kilometers ahead. Just remember, turn right before the gas station, unless you want to chat with a friendly Tico while filling up your tank.
Now let’s talk about the activities that await you in this natural nirvana. The range is almost as diverse as the wildlife itself. Hiking, ziplining, nighttime strolls that will get your heart racing, and an eco-tram that offers more leisurely paced adventure are all on offer. And the beauty of it all? These are suitable for all ages, unless you’re a hundred and fear the rush of adrenaline might be too much for your ticker.
Just a skip and hop from the entrance, you’ll find a butterfly and orchid garden that will make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a psychedelic version of Wonderland. There are so many species fluttering around, you might think you’ve crashed a butterfly party. And the coolest part? You can see the entire butterfly life cycle, from larvae to pupa, and if you’re lucky, you might just catch a butterfly mid-metamorphosis.
Feel like stretching your legs and maybe even breaking a bit of a sweat? The hiking trails at Hacienda Baru are well-marked, catering to all levels of fitness, from the seasoned hiker to the “I only walk from the couch to the fridge” types. You might catch a glimpse of monkeys practicing their acrobatics, sloths giving a masterclass in slow-living, and a colorful array of birds chattering away.
Now, about the canopy tour aptly named ‘Flight of the Toucan’, it’s like being given wings, with eight cables connected to land and tree platforms. The thrilling journey imitates the flight of the Chestnut-mandibuled Toucan, and while it isn’t so high that you can touch the sky or so fast that you’ll feel like Superman, it strikes the perfect balance for both thrill-seekers and novices.
Feeling a bit more adventurous? Then strap yourself to a rope, and get ready to conquer a 30-meter tree climb that gives you a peek into what it feels like to be Tarzan, minus the loincloth (we hope). The view from the top, where ocean meets jungle, is worth every huff, puff, and muttered curse along the way.
And the night is always young in Hacienda Baru, where nocturnal hikes and bird-watching expeditions await. They’ve even got lodges for those who can’t get enough of the wild and wish to stay cocooned in the midst of pristine nature.
In a nutshell, or in this case a coconut shell, if you’re anywhere near Central Pacific or Costa Ballena, you’d be mad not to spend a day at Hacienda Baru, basking in the wild beauty of Costa Rica. Just remember, slap on that sunscreen, dress sensibly, keep that mosquito repellent handy, and stay hydrated. After all, this isn’t Survivor, this is paradise. And yes, don’t forget your adventurous spirit, it’s the only real requirement.