Playa Matapolo

Continuing south along the coast from Manuel Antonio National Park you cross the Rio Naranjo, which forms the eastern boundary of the National Park. Then we pass less heavily frequented beaches and bays. After the miles-long Playa Savegre the road crosses the river of the same name and reaches Playa Matapolo, a beautiful, long gray sand beach just two kilometers from the coastal road. Thousands of African oil palms grow here, and between them the smoking chimneys of the oil factories can be seen.

Just a few kilometers north of Dominical is a 320-hectare private nature preserve called Hacienda Baru. Meadow land, plantations and mangrove swamps surround the preserve, which contains 80 hectares of virgin rain forest at an altitude of 320 meters above sea level. The area also includes 75 hectares of rain forest that was cut in the 1970s, and which is now covered by secondary growth forest.

Jack and Diane Ewing (not to be confused with the fictional Ewings of the American television series Dallas) have been the owners of the hacienda since they moved to Costa Rica in the 1970s. Pre-Columbian settlements and cemeteries have been discovered in their park, along with a very rare Indian grave, one of the few in the country that has not been plundered by grave robbers.

Visitors to the park can also see no fewer than 10 very clear petroglyphs carved into the rock, and the remains of an old ceremonial site that was in all probability destroyed when the Spanish conquistadors swept through the area in the 16th century.

More than 300 different kinds of birds are found in the reserve, including spoonbilled herons, frigate birds, falcons, cormorants, darters and owls. There are also 23 different species of bat in the Hacienda Bare Nature Preserve. On the guided tours provided by the Hacienda Bard, visitors can see frogs, turtles and snakes, many of which have to this day not been classified. In addition, there are anteaters, ocelots, kinkajous, tayras, capuchin monkeys, jaguarundis and freshwater turtles.

The Ewings also offer special tours for bird watchers and riding adventures for horse lovers. There are no overnight accommodations at the hacienda. However, two kilometers away, a gas station owned by Hacienda Baru provides clean restrooms, a rarity in the area, usually found only in good hotels. It is also possible to buy food, drinks, supplies and hiking needs at the station.

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