Costa Rica’s Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge borders Nicaragua on the northernmost part of Costa Rica’s eastern Caribbean Coast. The tiny village of Barra del Colorado located on the northern coast of the Wildlife Refuge is a worn, dilapidated collection of raised stilt houses that is home to Afro-Caribbean and Miskito Indians, Nicaraguan emigrants, and commercial fisherman who come and go with the seasons.
Tourists come to Barra Del Colorado for the fishing. Close to shore, snook and tarpon are abundant and relatively easy to catch. Deep-sea fishing farther out on the open ocean can net the experienced sport fisherman barracuda, mackerel, tuna, wahoo, marlin, dorado, or sailfish. Fishing is done both in the freshwater canals, at the mouth of the canals near the ocean, and offshore as far as the fishing adventurer wishes to go.
To fish in Costa Rica’s Barra del Colorado waters, both a freshwater and saltwater license is necessary. The freshwater license runs $25 USD; the saltwater license $30. Most lodges in the area include fishing packages with the room rates, or else they can hook the visiting sport fisherman up with a professional package easily.
Most anglers use rod and reel or even fly rods to fish these waters, but visitors who do not own this equipment can rent it with a fishing package. Many wealthy sport fisherman who own their own boats and extensive equipment fish here, so if meeting fishing celebrities appeals to you, you just might run into a few here.
On the down side, no roads lead into or out of Costa Rica’s Barra del Coloradoa Wildlife Refuge or the small town of Barra del Colorado itself. However, Barra del Colorado does run a busy airstrip and chartering a flight to this secluded fishing haven is fairly easy. The town can also be reached by boat.
Visitors who are not fond of fishing or who need some other form of adventure while the family fisherman is out catching tuna will find plenty of wildlife in the Barra del Colorado Refuge. Bird watching is popular, and many exotic animals and rare turtles can be spotted if you know where to look.
The flora and fauna in Barra del Colorado are very similar to the plants and animals that can be spotted in nearby Tortuguero National Park, but Barra del Colorado is much more secluded. Canoes and kayaks for exploring the canals and backwaters of the Wildlife Refuge can be rented at most local hotels, but hiring a guide is a good idea for all but the most experienced naturalists.
The two main lodges in Barra del Colorado are Rio Colorado Lodge and Silver King Lodge. Both are comfortable and pricey, although Rio Colorado is a bit more upscale. Rio Colorado features a large outdoor deck that juts out into the water, which is a nice feature at the end or beginning of a day of outdoor adventure.
Expect muggy, steamy weather year round at Barra del Colorado, and pack accordingly. Light, breathable, easy to wash and dry layers are best, and a good crushable hat (preferably with an optional mosquito net) is a good idea too.