The closest tourist center to Hacienda Barú is Dominical which is located on the other side of the Barú River. The town Dominical caters mainly to sun and fun tourism including beaches, bars and dance halls. Surfing is the predominant activity. This atmosphere tends to bring social problems such as drugs, prostitution, noise pollution and delinquency. Since 1987 Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge has provided an alternative, ecological tourism. Many small business, all of them located in outlying areas, have followed this example by offering ecologically oriented tours. The area has gradually built a reputation for friendly, well organized, nature tours.
At the wildlife refuge a visitor has a variety of activities from which to choose, including guided hikes, birdwatching, self guided trails, or rainforest canopy exploration. Guests can hike into the jungle with an experienced local guide eat and sleep comfortably in a campground ideally located for the observation of wildlife. Another option is to climb into the treetops with an expert guide or simply be hoisted 34 meters into the top of an enormous rainforest tree to a platform suspended there. Learning about tropical nature while zipping through the forest on a system of cables known “The Flight of the Toucan” is Hacienda Barú’s most popular tour. A nocturnal tour along the mangrove and later camping between the estuary and the beach is another favorite.
This type of activity is a healthy alternative that can be enjoyed by the entire family. In addition to the cabin guests many of the guests from other hotels and cabins in the area visit the Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge. Many people come from as far away as Quepos and Manuel Antonio to see the great variety of tropical habitats and the wildlife which frequent them.
Hacienda Barú offers something similar to the Manuel Antonio National Park with two main differences. Hacienda Barú isn’t isolated and has a larger variety of flora and fauna. The other difference is that the hacienda offers a larger variety of activities than the national park. For these reasons plus the years of experience in ecological tourism and the national and international fame of the reserve, the Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge plays a very important role as a well known tourist destination in the region.
The activities mentioned above are priced between $6 for the self guided trails and $60 for the Night in the Jungle. There is something affordable for everyone. National tourists visit the refuge as well as visitors from many foreign countries mainly, especially North America and Europe.
Lodging is also available in large cabins with two bedrooms, private bath, kitchenette, living room and porch. They are ideal for families but many of the guests are couples and student groups. There is a dining room where typical local food is available at reasonable prices.
The management of Hacienda Barú has always given special attention to the impact of its infrastructure and activities. The trails are planned and built so as to avoid erosion which will not only damage the land but will also contaminate the streams and rivers. Pesticides are almost never used and, when absolutely necessary, are applied with great caution and care not to contaminate the environment. Environmentally friendly products such as biodegradable soaps and detergents are used where ever possible. This strict control has earned the Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge an excellent reputation in the ecotourism industry.