Jaguar Rescue Center – Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

This is the first part of a two part series. We were offered the opportunity to participate in Gecko Trail Adventures popular 3 in 1 tour in Puerto Viejo. Due to the sheer awesomeness of this tour, I couldn’t justify putting all of it in just one post.


Fleur de Lans snake – you do NOT want to run into one of these guys in Costa Rica.

JaguarRescueCenter-1Contrary to popular belief, there are no jaguars in the Jaguar Rescue Center. Long story to be honest – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to hit this place up.

It was a gloomy, rainy day – something we had gotten used to over the past 3-4 months following rainy season south. I really didn’t know what to expect for the morning and to be honest, it was hard to get out of bed. I was ready to get the hell out of Costa Rica.

We pulled up to the Jaguar Rescue Center for their 9:30 tour. They only have 2 a day to make sure they don’t exhaust their animals. This place is not a zoo but a place for rehabilitation. Our tour guide is freakin’ hilarious and made sure to hit the creepy crawlies (including their extensive collection of pit vipers).

To offset the fact that most of us had the heebie jeebies we headed into the baby monkey enclosure.

JaguarRescueCenter-8We were allowed inside to play with the baby monkeys.

This was a DREAM of mine.

We walk in and it immediately becomes a madhouse. Monkeys start climbing all over Shaun jumping from shoulder to shoulder, swinging from ropes and jumping on their trampoline. One female howler crawled into my arms, wrapped her beautiful arms around my neck and laid her head against my chest. She didn’t care to play, she just wanted to cuddle. How can I say no?

Did you know that the bottom of their tails are made from the same tissues as their fingers? They aren’t all fluffy. It is how they hold onto branches. It really is like another hand.

They are like puppies trying to wrestle with each other everywhere and we were just as playful giving little growls and tugs. At the end of 10 minutes or so I realized that Shaun, me and only 2 other people had stayed in the enclosure. Apparently they were a bit too energetic for people.

I loved it. I wanted to stay here. I wanted to volunteer.

Every day they take the monkeys out into the forest and let them play in the trees. Their hope is that the neighboring howler monkey troop will take them in after a while. They have already had success with others. When the babies are tired they come back down from the trees and take a nap on the blanket the volunteers have spread out. Many are carried home in their exhaustion.


After a tour of the rest of the property with sloths, wild cats, owls, and tree frogs, I fell in love with Costa Rica even more.

We seriously considered staying another month to volunteer at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

Thank you Gecko Trail Adventures for making one of my dreams come true.

And on Monday… more chocolate and waterfalls (no, not chocolate waterfalls, sorry)!


Disclosure: We did receive the tour as a complimentary service from Gecko Trail Adventures. While this may be true, all opinions are our own.


40 Responses to “Jaguar Rescue Center – Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica”

  1. Sarah Wu November 14, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Aww what a fun tour. I’m thinking of taking this tour in Honduras where take you to see baby monkey too. I can’t wait next month 🙂

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

      @Sarah: Ooh! That sounds like fun! 😀

  2. Mica November 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    This looks awesome. I love monkeys too. Maybe one day you can go back. You look so cute with the little monkey in your arms!

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      @Mica: I would love to go back and volunteer one day. We’ll see – so much of the world left to experience!

  3. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista November 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    How sweet was the monkey! I think there are a lot of people who have wanted to have a monkey for a pet. You’ve lived a dream for us all 🙂

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      @Debbie: She was just darling. I could feel her little heart beat and everything.

  4. Leslie November 14, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Omg those animals are too cute! You look so natural with that monkey baby — were you getting maternal instincts? 😉

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      @Leslie: Thank you. I was weirding out a whole bunch of people with how natural I was with animals. I had to explain that Shaun and I are animal people and even considered going to vet school or studying zoology.


  5. Amanda November 15, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Cuddling with baby monekys?? OMG, that is too freakin’ cute. I am so jealous right now.

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      @Amanda: YES. It was fantastic and I wish I had another hour or so with them. Too fun!

  6. Jaime November 15, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Awww I wanna do that… that looks like so much fun and just too damn cute!

    FYI damn girl you are looking good!!!

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

      @Jaime: Thank you! You should come back this way! Baby monkeys are calling you! 😀

  7. Emily in Chile November 17, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    The thought of exhausted baby monkeys made me “awww” out loud! That is adorable, I would definitely have stayed and played with them.

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

      @Emily: I know! I wish I could have seen them taking their naps on the blankets. I mean, can you GET any cuter?!

  8. Camels & Chocolate November 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Oooh I’ll be in Costa Rica in two weeks for SAS–I wonder if sloths and/or jaguars are in my future. (I sure hope so!)

    • Erica November 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

      @C&C: YES! That would be awesome. I’m so sad that we’re missing each other. I’m sure we’ll meet up in the future some time. <3

  9. Emily November 20, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Oh man, these pics are amazing. I wish I knew that you could hold the monkeys in Costa Rica–now I wish I had gone to do something like that when I was there. Such a cool experience!

    • Erica November 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

      @Emily: I had run into several backpackers that were raving about the place or I would have never known about it. We went to Puerto Viejo kinda wanting to go.

  10. dtravelsround November 20, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    I don’t want to know anything else about this. I’m a sucker (as you’ve realized) for animals and volunteer experiences with animals. I am so glad you got to experience this. Now, we have to go to ENP together to hang with elephants!! I love that the little monkey loved you! So cute. And, can you please bring me a pet sloth? That’s the cutest little thing.

    • Erica November 20, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

      @D: I will gladly join you at the ENP. We are planning on volunteering when we get to that part of the world!

  11. Zablon Mukuba November 21, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    i am glad you had a great time volunteering with animals. not many people choose to work with monkeys am sure it was a great experience

    • Erica November 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      @Zablon: Monkeys definitely have a bad rap but these guys were just so awesome!

  12. Raymond @ Man On The Lam November 21, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    That sloth is awesome!! I want one please. Better make it two. Wouldn’t want it to get lonely…

    • Erica November 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      @Raymond: I think sloths are generally left alone. I hear they have razor sharp teeth.

  13. Ayngelina November 21, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    I hate knowing I missed so much in Costa Rica, I may have to go back because you guys did so much great stuff.

    • Erica November 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

      @Ayngelina: It was expensive for sure but I started to understand why people spend so much time there.

  14. Stephanie - The Travel Chica November 21, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    So cool that you got to hold a monkey!

    • Erica November 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      @Stephanie: Definitely one of my favorite moments.

  15. Hogga November 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    YOU GET TO HOLD THE ANIMALS!!??? amazing!

    • Erica November 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

      @Hogga: I know! I didn’t even know it was part of the tour. I nearly shat myself!

  16. Abby November 26, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Awww I didn’t know you were such a monkey lover. They’re so cute, right? There is so much effort to save them right now; the electrocution is issue is heartbreaking. Glad you enjoyed the east side of CR!!

    • Erica November 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

      @Abby: Honestly I didn’t know I was much of a monkey lover either. It is so weird how different east and west is for sure!

  17. Nomadic Samuel November 27, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    What an amazing tour. Whenever you can up close and intimate with animals it’s truly quite special.

    • Erica November 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

      @Nomadic Samuel: I was completely surprised with how intimate we were able to get with the animals. Freaking phenomenal.

  18. Katrina December 8, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    I got to hold a baby chimp once. It was magic, so I totally get you on this. And now I want to go volunteer there!

  19. Skott July 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Why do I suspect that if I show this post to Shawna that we will be forced to make a sudden itinerary change? 🙂

    Awesome pics guys!

    Hey one more question, in that part of the world, what is the skinny with malaria or dengue? Obviously that doesn´t make them, ´no-go´zones, but just curious…

    • Erica July 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      We almost did! Good luck with trying to pass THIS one up.

      As for malaria and dengue – they do have them but it is still pretty rare to contract it as long as you are on it with the bug repellent.

      Basically you have to make the decision yourself:
      1.) Take the meds and deal with the crazy side effects (AND you can still get malaria.
      2.) No side effects and just treat malaria if you happen to get it.

      We went with #2 but the strains in Central and South America are nowhere near as bad as other places around the world.

  20. Nicole @ Green Global Travel May 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    I was at the Jaguar Centre 3 weeks ago! I thought it was an amazing place! I love their commitment to wildlife and I hope to volunteer there one day! Holding the monkey was a definite highlight for me too!

    • Erica May 13, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      We really fell in love with their establishment and considered changing our plans to volunteer with them for a couple of months. Looking back I’m glad we left (for a million other adventures) but we’re still considering heading back.


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