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Established in 2005, Maquenque Wildlife Refuge is one of few remaining nesting sites of the endangered great green macaw.

Located north of Boca Tapada and close to the mouth of the Rio San Carlos, on the border with Nicaragua, it is situated in Costa Rica’s northern lowland region. 

The refuge was established with the specific objective of protecting the unique almond tree habitat of the great green macaw, as well as other endangered or vulnerable species such as the manatee, jaguar and gaspar fish that inhabit this large area of fragile wetland and tropical rainforest. It forms part of the proposed Nicaragua-Costa Rica Border Corridor National Wildlife Refuge, along the Rio San Juan – the natural border with Nicaragua. A large part of the region is virgin, with lagoons, swamps, and tropical wet forest, characterised by high biodiversity.

It is a mix of habitats on either bank of the San Carlos River, with sections of former pastureland that are now being reforested. Some 40 hectares of secondary forest border the western side, while to the east, it borders another protected area that contains hundreds of hectares with some of northern Costa Rica’s oldest forests. Around 139 mammals, 135 reptiles, 80 amphibians and 424 birds have been recorded here, and the wetland is an important habitat for water birds; those seen near the large lagoon and along the San Carlos River include the scaly-throated leaftosser, blue dacnis or turquoise honeycreeper and black-and-yellow tanager.

The climate is tropical and rainy with an average temperature of 27⁰ Celsius; the wettest months fall between May and December, but occasionally last until February. 

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: great green macaw, agami heron, roseate spoonbill, green ibis, sunbittern

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Wildlife Photography in Costa Rica’s Rainforests

Costa Rica has long been an established wildlife destination, renowned for its remarkable biodiversity. Join acclaimed photographer Nick Garbutt on this unique itinerary that offers extended stays in prime locations to discover some of the country’s best preserved ecosystems.

  • When to go: Apr-May
  • Duration inc. flights: 19 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,995 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Maquenque Ecolodge

This characterful, relatively new property (a working cattle ranch) lies in a remote spot across the Rio San Carlos. Adjacent to the private Maquenque Wildlife Reserve, its 15 well-appointed rooms offer comfortable accommodation in an extremely peaceful setting and relaxed atmosphere.