Hacienda Baru is a couple of kms up the coast from Dominical, a small town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, about a 4 hour drive from the San Jose airport. We visited whilst staying in Dominical, in 2019 and again in 2020. The hacienda website can be seen here – https://www.haciendabaru.com/

There are a few ways of getting to Hacienda Baru. If you’re driving, it’s just 2km north of Dominical on the main road to the car park in front of the Hacienda’s ticket office. There are also taxis available from town but you have to book in advance. Ask your hotel about that. Buses are also an option. You can walk on the main road, if you go early there’s not so much traffic.

For this visit, because we’d been to the Hacienda several times and walked back to Dominical via the beach and were pretty confident of the way, we decided to walk there via the beach. We wouldn’t advise this for first time visitors though as there are no signposts from the beach to the Hacienda, and there’s little chance of you knowing where to leave the beach if you don’t already have a good idea where the track to the ticket office begins.

We checked the tides and, seeing that it was low at about 8am, we set off just before that to wade the River Baru, which cuts through the beach just north of Dominical. If it’d been high tide or if it’d rained hard the night before we probably would have taken a taxi instead. But the weather had been fair the night before and it seemed calm now so off we went. It was only about calf deep but it was a very strong current and the rocks underfoot were sharp. If you’re going to do this wear water sandals!

Wading the River Baru

From the north bank of the River Baru we then had a beautiful 2km walk along a completely empty beach. For nature lovers, this is a dream approach to one of the very best wildlife viewing areas in the world.

It was just us 2 on the beach. I dropped behind to take this photo of N walking ahead.

Once at the turn off point we walked up the dirt road to the Hacienda Baru office, got our day passes and then started to walk the lowland trails. We’ve done this before with a guide and recommend signing up for a tour. On this occasion, however, we were in the mood for just being in nature. We had no list of animals we wanted to see, we were going to be happy with whatever crossed out path. We were actually just as interested in seeing the trees as we’d been studying them at home for a few months and were excited to learn more about them as we walked around. We had a couple of books to help us and also we knew there were frequent information boards along the trails that tell you fascinating facts about certain trees, as well as the animals. The first animals we came across were a troupe of white faced monkeys. We’d decided to leave the big cameras at home for this trip and so what you see here is a faithful representation of what you might see yourself if you visit with just a compact camera and a phone.

Socks pulled up as protection against biting insects! I prefer not to wear insect repellent if I can get away with it and in this case there weren’t many insects, and they were only there early and late in the day, so socks pulled up and long sleeved shirt was enough protection.

The next animal we came across was a sloth, it was an excellent sighting. Sometimes you have to look really hard to find them but this one was only about 10 metres off the ground, unsheltered by any foliage, and pretty much unmissable!

There were agouti scampering through the undergrowth. We heard them gnawing on food often, and occasionally they’d scamper across the pathway.

We heard an incredible back and forth bird call conversation as we approached the upland region of the Hacienda. We had binoculars and through them we could see a pair of toucan, far away. We were excited. Later in this trip we were to see plenty of toucan but this was our first sighting ever. They were too far away for a photo, but we stood there for half hour listening to their call. Then we carried on to the viewpoint, where we planned to have a rest and a snack for lunch.

The hike to the viewpoint and upper walking loop.
The viewpoint panorama. The sandy estuary of the River Baru can be seen.

We sat in the shade for an hour or so, enjoying a cool breeze, then walked the upper loop. This was excellent for bird and tree spotting. Then just after 2pm as the heat began to ease off we descended and headed to another forest loop that we hadn’t done before. En route we passed this anole…

…and these mushrooms on top of a huge ants nest….

…before meeting up with another agouti.

We also saw many birds. With our binoculars and the birding pamphlet that we bought from the Hacienda shop we identified a fair few, but we didn’t forget just to be present and enjoy the moment as well. Knowing what something is called is fine, it puts your education to good use and it certainly helps if you’re trying to talk about your experience to others. But it’s also very important for me to experience the moment for what it is, and to see also what it has the possibility to be. The agouti doesn’t know it’s called an agouti, or that it’s part of this genus or that order or family, and it’s good to meet it in that space of being unknowing, but also aware of what’s happening right there at that moment. The moment always has a subtle sort of contentment in it for me. Not perhaps the big emotion that comes with hearing a lion roaring next to your tent or seeing a scarlet macaw explode from the tree above your head, but equal to those things in it’s own way and perhaps even a touch further on the path back towards a more natural interaction. I know, that’s me talking about some golden age that probably never existed. But, it might have done, and if it might have done once it might do once again, if we will it into being, right?

With this in mind I was also trying not to take as many photos as I used to. My normal way of being is to raise the camera each time I see anything at all of interest. On this trip though I tried to experience the sight first, and only when I’d enjoyed that initial looking and experiencing did I start taking photos. I was glad of this change, it seemed a fuller trip because of it.

The last great sight of the day was crossing the River Baru again, this time via the road bridge as the sun dipped into the Pacific.

What a sunset!
The view from outside Cafe Mono Congo.

We headed back for a well earned meal and an early night. We were excited to be going back to Hacienda Baru the next day. I’ll share news of that in due course, for now, if you’d like to learn more about the Hacienda, the website can be seen here – https://www.haciendabaru.com/