About us

Our History

The Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laguna Urpiano is a flora and fauna conservation project located in the canton of Matina in the province of Limón, Costa Rica.

Our emblematic animal is the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) that nestles in our beach which is one of the most important beaches in the world for the nesting of this specie in danger of extinction. In addition, although in much smaller quantity, we also can see green turtle and hawksbill turtle nesting.

In the last forty years, the beaches of the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica have been protected from the looting of eggs and the killing of turtles until they reach almost total monitoring and protection. Our beach section has been the last one to join the turtle protection and research project system in 2014, which is why it has been and is being especially difficult. The concentration of poachers in this area is very high because it has been the only site without constant vigilance for years.

Matina is an area of ​​banana exploitation which is the main source of employment. This project was set up with the idea of ​​offering alternatives to the coastal population encouraging them to protect the sea turtles as an essential resource of the area.

Johnny, the director and owner of the place, is a native from these beaches and he has seen with his own eyes the rapid decline of the sea turtle population.

Since the 1990s, the first tortugueros headed by John Dehan, the late founder and mentor of the Pacuare Reserve, arrived in the area. His entire life has been linked to the protection of sea turtles. It was in 2004 when along with Stanley Rodriguez, they started working actively on beach conservation and forging the idea of ​​establishing his own project in this area that was unprotected.

After a lot of effort and with the help of his partner Barbara, in 2014 Johnny officially began the counting and protection of the Matina beach, complex task because this is the last area without protection.

And so bit by bit, with the help of foundations and individuals, volunteers, family and friends, what for so long was a just dream, today our project is growing around the Laguna Urpiano.

Where are we


The Team

Johnny Hurtado Aguilar 

Johnny is a native of the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica and he is passionate about its environment. He decided to fight against the extinction of turtles after seeing with his own eyes the drastic decline of the nesting population. A professional fisherman in the high seas since he was 14, he is familiar with the maritime and coastal ecosystem of Costa Rica as well as with all its changes and problems. Since the 1990s he has collaborated and worked on various turtle projects in Costa Rica and Panama.

In 2013, he decided to start protecting sea turtles in his own home directing the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laguna Urpiano. This is not only a conservation project for fauna and flora but also a work solution for the future of the local population and awareness of new generations.

Barbara Barrera Vilarmau

Barbara is a Spanish biologist who after completing her studies at the University of Salamanca in 2010, embarked on the adventure of the sea turtles in Costa Rica, the paradise of biodiversity. After working on various projects of sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica and Panama, she undertook the scientific direction of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laguna Urpiano. There, in addition to following the population study of the largest colony of leatherback turtle in the Caribbean coast and trying to protect clutches of eggs from the big human oppression, Barbara manages various tasks such as forest ecosystem, fauna conservation and environmental education for the local and visiting population.

Emilia Hurtado Aguilar 

She is the best cook who makes us all feel like at home and always remember how well you eat in the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laguna Urpiano. Luxury restaurant food taking advantage of everything that our land provides us wonderfully.

Felix Pedro Ramirez Segura 

Pedro is our official fisherman. He is the oldest collaborator of the project and native of these beaches. Because of all this, he is the ideal person to go with you on your walks on the trail or on fishing in the afternoons in the lagoon or on the seashore.

Máximo Diáz Vargas 

With him you will always feel safe in the night patrols or in the hatchery because he has a long career as a ranger in numerous sea turtle projects in the area. He is also an expert sawyer taking advantage of the wood that the sea gives us.


He is a Nicaraguan ex-soldier, in his first year as park ranger he has been of great help for our security.

Minor Hurtado Batista 

In addition to being part of the team of guards, he is in charge of the plantation of ecological banana at the station.

Danicsia Castillo Saborío 

She is the youngest of the team, boxer and beach research assistant. She is hardworking and quiet, but always smiling.

Alan Venegas

Alan grew up in Costa Rica but he was born in Nicaragua. He came as a security guard but attracted by the beach job he was trained as a research assistant to help in the night patrols.

Briant Carmnona Calvo 

This research assistant is the one who, on the back of our horse Relampago, carries out the census every morning along the 4 km of beach to verify the total nesting of each night.

Maylin Pereira Diaz 

Always with the music at full volume and working with a smile, Maylin is the last research assistant to join the team, she learns quickly and always has to a good conversation.

Doña Juana Aguilar y Nahomi 

Vitality and joy, wisdom and innocence. Our precious neighbors who make us happy every day with their visits and company.