With as little as 84 hectares, the Curu Wildlife Refuge is one of the smallest sanctuaries in Costa Rica. Despite its small size it boasts five ecological habitats with a rich and diverse wildlife. The refuge belongs to a privately owned farm which is carrying out experiments in sustainable agriculture. The farm was established in 1933 by Frederico Schutt and is still family owned. In 1974 part of the hacienda was occupied by squatters who settled around today's village of Valle Azul. Of the 1,214-hectare property,75% is declared protected forest, 5% belongs to the wildlife refuge and 20% is dedicated to agriculture and cattle raising. Part of the refuge still has primary forest, but access is restricted to scientists; but the eleven trails available to the public provide ample opportunity to explore diverse habitats. On the detailed map, handed out at the admission, trails are classified from very easy to difficult. Some paths are usable only seasonally. 232 species of birds have been counted in the refuge, including motmots, white-fronted amazons, laughing hawks, woodpeckers and herons. On the beach leatherback-, pacific ridley and hawksbill turtles lay their eggs. Of vital importance to the marine ecosystem is the fascinating habitat of the mangrove swamps. An immense number of small organisms living in the nutrient-rich mud of these swamps build the basis of the marine food chain. Here are the breeding grounds of many Pacific fish, and crowds of water birds feed and nest in the thickets. All five of Costa Rica's mangrove species are represented in Curu. The entrance to the Curu Wildlife Refuge is located on the road from Paquera to Tambor. As the gate to the refuge is normally closed, call at the house at the side where you also pay the entrance fee of $ 5 (June 2004). From the entrance you drive 2 km on a small private road until you get to the beach and the administration office. Here you can get information about the wildlife and a map showing the different trails. As visitors used to give food to the monkeys which gather around the administration, they have obviously spoiled the character of some individuals. Greedy for food they have been known to steal bags or cameras. Take care of your belongings and lock your car before heading off. When trekking along the small trails, wear long trousers and sleeves to provide protection against thorns and mosquitos. To discourage insects don't use perfumes or fragrant shampoos. It is best to use a repellent.