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Guanacaste Beach tour Final

Guanacaste Beach tour Final

Gold Coast Beach Tour

Guanacaste is made up of 40 laid back beach towns each with a unique character offering something for everyone

 You have found Tamarindo Beach and its a wonderful escape especially if you were expecting a Miami Beach kind of vibe then you were pleasantly surprised. But if that was a pleasant surprise you are really in for a treat. Travelling in both directions from Tamarindo offers numerous small beach towns and hideaways and these are just the main beach towns described here. We will be travelling north first in this post from Tamarindo, Costa Ricas most popular tourist destination. We will then explore the southern Guanacaste beach towns and introduce you to so much of what the Gold Coast has to offer. So strap on your flip flops and lets get started. Note;  If you really jump off the beaten path there are many hidden coves and jewels which I will eventually cover but even these known beach towns retain a sleepy laid back vibe each with their own character and something to satisfy every taste. I will explore some of the truly offbeat places in another post but these will definitely require an intrepid soul and a good 4 wheel drive vehicle. If you can swing it my best suggestion for a vehicle in Costa Rica is a Range Rover And even in that beast a few rivers and soft beach sand  occasionally got the best of me. (Picture a heavy duty tow truck backing up 2 miles outside of Tamarindo on a tiny jungle back road one day with my buddy Andre who said zig left when I should have zagged right. Anyway we got free paid the driver a fortune and then I  took him and Andre to El Vaquero for sushi and many many beers. All in all a great day. Range Rovers are the perfect vehicle for sure but lets get this party started. The first beach north of Tamarindo is Playa Grande but its actual name is Playa Zapotal but the slang moniker has won precedence over the years.

Playa Grande (Zapotal)

Playa Grande Directory

Playa Grande beach is miles long of fine, pale sand; perfect for those who enjoy a leisurely beach stroll and a warm ocean breeze. It is important to note that the entire beach coast is protected and belongs to Las Baulas National Park, meaning you must take care with the soft upper part of the beach as it may contain delicate turtle eggs waiting to hatch. Additionally, the beach is off limits from 6pm to 6am October through March to avoid disturbing the unique rhythm of sea Turtle nestings; the only exception for night time visitors includes a park guide and turtle watching tours the northern end of Playa Grande to Playa Ventanas and jump into beautiful snorkeling waters. Take care swimming in Playa Grande open sea, as the sea floor does drop steeply and rip currents can be strong.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal Directory

Playa Conchal is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica and in a country loaded with beautiful beaches that is saying a lot. Playa Conchal is also the source of one of my  pet peeves. I lived in neighboring Brasilito beach for years and Playa Conchal was open to 4 wheel drive vehicles and many Brasilito locals plied their wares sold food, beers, tours and even hand made crafts but the owners of Conchal have closed it in recent years making it the exclusive playground for the rich mostly foreigners and basically  screwed the locals. Money versus the people who were born there and money won making it a decidedly less interesting place to spend a Saturday afternoon drinking beers and eating ceviche supporting my many Brasilito friends. In case its not clear this pisses me off and only Conchal’s big bucks pulled this off. You can still walk down there or come in through the resort but prepare to drop some bucks.

Known as one of the most exotic of the Gold Coast’s beaches in Costa Rica. Playa Conchal sees some of the best weather all year round. Unlike other beaches along the Pacific Coast, Playa Conchal is not a sand beach, but rather a beach that consists of millions of tiny crushed shells. The beach is no longer accessible by car, so if you want to spend a day enjoying its beautiful shores, plan to park at Playa Brasilito and walk for about 1km to reach the beautiful Playa Conchal! Playa Conchal is home to l, a luxury 5 Start Marriott Resort Hotel that offers private access to Playa Conchal. 

Brasilito is where I first arrived after my 11 day drive from Boston and  where I spent several weeks looking for a place. Brasilito is where all the employees of the big Conchal resort live and have small businesses and like many areas just outside of a resort its where the service employees come to unwind after work. Brasilito features a number of hole in the wall bars where the natives congregate and the party is occasionally raucous and always runs late sometime supported with man made jet fuel (If you know what I mean) anyway its lively and fun and the Brasilitenos embraced me once I showed my desire to master the local dialect. The Ticos will not correct  bad Spanish ( they consider it bad manners) unless of course you entreat them to do so which I did with a lot of Pilsen beers and a genuine desire to turn my college French into passable Spanish. (An admitted head start.) Once convinced of my sincerity and eagerness to learn I had many willing friends to help. This was not in any way a cultural exercise. I simply wanted to be able to talk to girls. HA!

 Playa Flamingo is the epitome of bliss. The beach truly deserves a spot on the best beaches in Guanacaste. Lying on Costa Rica’s popular Gold Coast Flamingo’s white sands and crystal clear waters sees most of its visitors during December and Easter holiday. 

If you’re looking for an incredible sunset, Flamingo can provide you with the most serene, fiery sunsets on the Gold Coast. Those who love sportfishing will fall in love with Playa Flamingo. Every July, Flamingo hosts an annual sailfish tournament where you’ll find tuna, snapper, sailfish and more!

For those who partake in aquatic activities, Playa Flamingo can provide a variety of ocean excursions for you to enjoy. Scuba diving is offered year-round where the shores are packed with marine life – starfish, coral reef, eels and reef sharks galore. For those who partake in aquatic activities, Playa Flamingo can provide a variety of ocean excursions for you to enjoy. Scuba diving is offered year-round where the shores are packed with marine life – starfish, coral reef, eels and reef sharks galore.

For the nature lovers, check out Santa Rosa National Park, the country’s first national park and home to 115 mammal species, 100 amphibian and reptiles, and 250 bird species.

You won’t find many amenities near Playa Flamingo as it has no village center. So those wanting a variety of restaurants and nightlife should check out the nearby town of Brasilito. 

Puerto Potrero Directory

Potrero is a hidden jewel in north-west of Guanacaste. This rural town embodies the old Costa Rican coast village style and is a tranquil spot away from other touristy places.

The main feature of this town is its inherent and simple beauty. The road remained unpaved for a long time because the locals chose it to stay that way although in recent years with the development of Las Catalinas  located beyond Potrero and formerly almost inaccessible by car the main road through Potrero has recently been paved; on Sundays you can still see children playing soccer in ‘la plaza’ and the locals going to church. Hotels or massive developments haven’t found their way to the Potrero and you can still see people lying in a hammock on their own land, just few steps away from the sea– like it used to be in every Guanacaste coastal village many years ago.

Although there are several small hotels and villas around with their own facilities, there are only few supermarkets and local restaurants to go to in town.  This is the place for people seeking quiet and relaxing time away from all the maddening rush of the city.

Nightlife goers can find a lot of  great bars and clubs in Playa Tamarindo on the south, and Playas del Coco on the north. Both are within an hour or less drive away from Potrero. Unless one considers ladies night at the Las Brisas beachfront bar at the end of Potrero beach which is usually a pretty swinging time.

Enjoy swimming, snorkeling or kayaking  the three Potrero beaches: Prieta, la Penca and Potrero, perfect for people seeking calm beach activities. Bring your own equipment, as you will not find equipment stores and renting services can be sporadic in the area.

Potrero can be reached both by public bus and by car. It’s a 45 min drive from Liberia, Guanacaste’s main hub, or  four to five hours drive from San José, but the trip is worthwhile. It can also be a nice place to start exploring the Papagayo Bay and traveling to other famous beaches like Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal, or visiting Santa Rosa National Park and Palo Verde Natural Reserve that are close by.

 

Playa Danta (Las Catalinas)

Las Catalinas directory

 I used to hike this area before a shovel was ever turned and it was magnificent. It pains me to see it developed but developed it is and the place is still well worth a visit

Playa Ocotal

Ocotal Directory

3 km (1.85 miles) south of Playa del Coco lies Playa Ocotal, which is known to be one of the cleanest and quietest of Guanacaste’s beaches.What’s special about Ocotal is the misty air which has been said to be rich in negative ions, which in turn have positive benefits on the people, animals and plants.

If you’re looking for a great snorkeling location, Playa Ocotal is it. Because of cleanliness of the beach and the crystal clear waters, Ocotal offers great swimming and snorkeling. Here you will most likely be able to spot schools of fish, giant manta rays, turtles and even sharks. Close by you can explore the Catalina Islands which offer amazing scuba diving sites for the avid diver.

Playa del Coco

Playa del Coco is one of my favorites it is a truly bustling fishing village popular with locals and tourists alike offering many lodging and dining possibilities and just about everything else under the sun in Costa Rica including a few discos where the worlds oldest profession is still going strong. 

Playa Papagayo (Lanzarote)

Papagayo directory

In the south of Lanzarote is one of the most popular beaches of the island, Papagayo, a cove of white sand, reduced size and great beauty. Papagayo wins you over with its crystal clear, emerald green water which remains still all day long just like in a swimming pool. It’s perfect for taking up snorkeling and for enjoying the beauty of its depths or for letting the children splash about without having to worry.

Enjoy the Natural Monument of Los Ajaches

Situated in a hollow, which you can get to in just a few minutes by going along a track, it is in almost untamed surroundings but is well sheltered from the wind. In spite of where it is located, in the Natural Monument of Los Ajaches, there is a small beach bar on the hillside where you can buy drinks or have something to eat. The best time to enjoy it is evening. Access to the area for vehicles is not free of charge and there is a car park and camping area nearby.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is one of the more popular beaches in the North of Guanacaste. This is the type of beach to escape to if all you want to do is get some much needed R&R.Hermosa means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish, which is a no-brainer to describe the beauty of this aquatic gem. Although located between Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, Hermosa doesn’t see as many crowds as its close neighbours. Stretching 2 km (1.25 miles) wide, Hermosa boasts plenty of trees for optimal shade.Hermosa means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish, which is a no-brainer to describe the beauty of this aquatic gem. Although located between Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, Hermosa doesn’t see as many crowds as its close neighbours. Stretching 2 km (1.25 miles) wide, Hermosa boasts plenty of trees for optimal shade.

When it comes to sustainability, Playa Hermosa demonstrates high environmental standards and excellent safety facilities, making it a winner of the Bandera Azul or Blue Flag award.

Hermosa has a small selection of dining options for you to choose from, which tend to do be on the higher end in comparison to other spots in Costa Rica.

When it comes to sustainability, Playa Hermosa demonstrates high environmental standards and excellent safety facilities, making it a winner of the Bandera Azul or Blue Flag award.

Hermosa has a small selection of dining options for you to choose from, which tend to do be on the higher end in comparison to other spots in Costa Rica.

Southern Guanacaste Beaches

Take a walk on Guanacaste's wild side

Todays journey begins once again on Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica’s most popular Beach destination and down the Pacific Coast towards the Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste’s southern zone which offers many flavors of beaches.From the wild windswept turtle nesting beaches of Ostional to the  Health & Wellness rich Nosara and Samara both of which have become meccas for Yoga lodges, wellness retreats and a pronounced spiritual and healing community.  Couple that with considerably less developed beach front and a few world class surfing and turtle nesting site beaches, heading south of Tamarindo is really like taking a walk on Guanacaste’s wild side.

Playa Negra

Tamarindo beach does extend further south if you’re walking, melding into Playa Langosta, a sleepy little beach village  featuring a few lovely small hotels right on the beachfront peppered with several rather stunning beachfront Villas and of course The Langosta Beach Club, one of my favorite spots for lunch or dinner or wiling away the afternoon at a table under the palms with several cold Heinekens. I understand that the Beach Club has recently changed management so its hard to say until I revisit if the world class cuisine has maintained the same standards set by Arnaud and his lovely wife. However take heart I just learned that Arnaud has opened the Tamarindo Beach club in the heart of Tamarindo and I cannot wait to get back and sample what I am sure will be a culinary treat.

Playa Avellanas

So trekking to the Southern Guanacaste beaches requires you to jump in the car and come off Tamarindo beach and take the Santa Cruz road heading south. When I arrived 15 years ago this was a rough ride unpaved most of the way and a bumpy  treacherous drive during rainy season but in recent years this road as been paved enabling easy access to this dusty farm land that fronts the southern Guanacaste beaches The first sign of civilization heading south towards Nicoya is Hacienda Pinilla which in recent years has seen many more families residing within its borders and has become a Tamarindo bedroom community for the well to do even though many of the main American schools are a good 20 miles away in Brasilito. Hacienda Pinilla is a huge beach front development that has managed to preserve the untamed backdrop quite nicely and truly has a lot to offer families and vacationers alike principally security and natural beauty situated on one of Costa Rica’s most pristine surf beaches. Of course having a championship seaside golf course  helps maintain the property values along with a 4  star hotel. Add a secure beautiful environment and it is  no surprise that many well to do Expat families have taken up residence within its secure gated borders, fostering a rather cool tightly knit family oriented community that still centers the bulk of its daily activity in Tamarindo.

Hacienda Pinilla Golf course looking East away from the ocean

Playa Lagartillo (little alligator)

When it comes to best secret beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Lagartillo is one of them. Even though it’s just a few minutes drive from the popular Playa Avellanas, it normally doesn’t have more than a handful of visitors, even during the holidays. If you’re exploring this area of Guanacaste, then you definitely need to visit Playa Lagartillo!

Map

Playa Lagartillo map

 

Playa Negra

Playa Negra has always been a pleasant surprise for me and my last trip down there was with my buddy Andre on a rainy windswept day and we felt like we had it to ourselves including the beach front hotel where we managed of course to root up a few Heinekens. Its untamed sleepy quality is always refreshing only a short drive from the hustle & bustle of Tamarindo. I lend kudos to my buddy Larry Graziano who is not only the real estate master down there but one of the nicest soft spoken men you will have the pleasure to meet. Larry had what I consider amazing foresight and settled his family and business down there way ahead of everybody. Of course Larry was attracted by the great surf which Negra has in abundance. Whether its surfing or the slightly untamed peaceful beauty you wish to experience contact Larry at his Playa Negra Realty office and he will happily show you the way.

Playa Negra, Costa Rica is an excellent beach to stay in Guanacaste for those looking to get away from the commercial beach towns. With sweet surfing waves, a laid back atmosphere and beautiful sunsets, visitors can’t go wrong with a few days at the underrated but incredible Playa Negra.

Map

Playa Negra, Costa Rica map

 

 

Negra Beach

Negra in Spanish means black and Playa Negra is certainly a beautiful black sand beach. This beach is extremely rocky so be careful in low tide. It’s not the best for swimming but you can dip your toes in!

Aerial photo of Playa Negra GuanacasteNegra beach

Since it has so many rocky reefs, in low tide you can walk around the tidepools.

Surfing Playa Negra

Playa Negra’s awesome surf break was featured in the Robert August Movie Endless Summer II. The beach has easy access for paddling out (though small take off zone) and very nice, hollow right hand barrels. If you go to surf, high tide is better as low tide exposes the vast rock bottom and is not recommended for anyone. Thanks to the consistent year round waves, pro surfers from all over the world come to surf at Playa Negra and it can get busy during swells.

This surf break is generally not the best for beginners though. It is better to go to Tamarindo to take lessons for first timers or Avellanas or Grande for beginners. However, when waves are small and there aren’t any swells, it is possible for beginners.

Playa Negra Hotels

There are not that many accommodation options in Negra but there are a couple of hotels. Hotel Playa Negra is the only beachfront hotel with bungalows, a restaurant, pool, yoga studio and a rancho. Some other hotels are the Cafe Playa Negra Hotel and Restaurant and Playa Negra Surf Lodge

 

 

 

 

Playa Negra is a great beach for a day trip or for a few days. Surfing is the main activity and you’ll see locals and tourists out there every day catching waves. If you’re not a surfer, unfortunately the beach is not the best for swimming but you can sunbathe, relax, have a drink on the beach and just soak up the sun.

 

Playa Negra is also close to many other beautiful underrated beaches such as Junquillal, Marbella, Callejones, and San Juanillo. Keep going down south and you can visit Ostional Wildlife Refuge and Nosara. Go up north and you’re so close to Marino Las Baulas National Park. Both Ostional and Marino Las Baulas are amazing places to see turtle nestings.

Even though Playa Negra feels like a worlds away, it’s still close to the developed beach towns up north so you have it all. Remote, quiet and beautiful beach but a short drive to tourist amenities and services.

Playa Marbella, Costa Rica (Playa Frijolar)

Although it may seem like Guanacaste beaches are very touristy, there a plethora of beautiful under the tourist radar beaches to discover. One of those beaches is Playa Marbella, about one hour south of Tamarindo and 30 minutes north of Nosara.

It’s a great surfing beach and for anyone looking for a off the beaten path beach to visit for a day. Although locally known as Playa Marbella, the true name of this beach is Playa Frijolar.

Playa Negra

Playa Junquillal

  Playa Junquillal is one of the beaches I visited on my very first visit to Costa Rica in 2002. I stayed in Tamarindo on that trip  as well as La Fortuna and Quepos before passing my first and last night at the Hemenway Inn in San Jose. That day I rented a scooter in Tamarindo and took to the dusty roads in exploration and ranged from Playa Junquillal to Playa Flamingo bar hopping along the way but managing to check on my good friends at the Land Ho Junquillal as these same proprietors own my favorite watering hole of the same name in Orleans on Cape Cod  and where I had some of my first serious conversations about Costa Rica. My friends had discovered Costa Rica and were quite obviously in love with the place tantalizing my intrigue and desire to explore. However I am certain that the scooter ride that day in that land where time  stood still is what captured my heart and whether I knew it at the time or not my every waking moment upon return from that first trip were lent to devouring everything I possibly could about a country I had clearly already accepted on a subconscious level would be my new home. The more I learned about Costa Rica’s commitment to ecological preservation coupled with the astounding variety of wildlife and micro climates  coupled with sublime natural beauty continually served to reinforce this growing love at first sight phenomenon and instant adoption of what would soon become my new home.  One must understand that growing up on Cape Cod which I can only describe as the most magical place on earth makes any place contending for my affection  need approach an almost mystical level and clearly speaks to my soul.  I am most fortunate to have discovered two such places in one lifetime.

LAND HO, Playa Junquillal - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number -  Tripadvisor

                                                                                                          Land Ho Junquillal

LAND HO!, Orleans - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor

Land Ho Orleans Cape Cod

Playa Lagarto

Marbella

Marbella is a sleepy neighborhood in Guanacaste offering easy access to several untamed beaches  I would characterize as “off the beaten path” including:

Playa Pitahaya

Playa Blanca

&Playa Azul

 

This area of southern Guanacaste is quite  wild and untamed and from the Marbella beaches the coast road meanders hugging the coast coming upon the unique geographical point at

San Juanillo

This untamed stretch eventually turns into the Ostional wildlife refuge at

Playa Ostional

this wildlife refuge serves as one of the most important turtle nesting sites in the country

The next important beach town is Nosara. The town, which sits several kilometers away from the beaches has served this community well as it has precluded overdevelopment of the beach area resulting in a pristine laid back, authentic Costa Rica beach with a plethora of wellness and yoga lodges, Nosara is the rugged spiritual heart of Guanacaste and I was always quite impressed with the layout . The beach front businesses are almost hidden from view and I discovered some very relaxing spots exploring on foot and venturing off the beach for a beer or some ceviche. Tranquility pervades the atmosphere here and I absolutely loved it there one day when I took a solo drive down there to explore. A very enjoyable experience.

Playa Guiones 

Located along the stunning coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Guiones serves as a great surfing destination in Costa Rica.

With 7 kilometers of sugar-white sand and ideal conditions for a variety of activities, this small town is a little slice of paradise in Guanacaste.

In fact, a couple hundred meters of the shoreline received a Blue Flag for its pristine, eco-friendly and well-maintained beaches.

Playa Garza

Playa Garza directory

 

This placid fishing village 15 minutes South of Playa Guiones will be memorable. Despite Playa Garza’s increasing popularity with tourists, families, and especially fisherman, visitors are often amazed that they can enjoy the golden sands and calm waters of Playa Garza with hardly another soul in sight.

Rocky headlands to the north and south make Playa Garza a natural harbor. These calm, crystal clear waters are a magnet for snorkelers, divers, kayakers, stand up paddlers and those simply seeking to relax. Playa Garza is famed as the base of operations for the local fishing industry. A variety of fishing charter vessels sit calmly in the middle of the bay waiting to take groups of eager fishermen out to the horizon to reel in the fish of their dreams.

Back on land  the town of Garza features a range of understated, yet warm and welcoming places to eat and relax which unsurprisingly offer up some of the best fish cuisine you’ll find anywhere.

Guanacaste National Parks Tour

Guanacaste National Parks Tour

Guanacaste National Parks

Enjoy any of 10 national parks in Guanacaste Province alone

Pictured:Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills in Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste

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Marino las Baulas National Park, Guanacaste

Leatherback Turtle coming out of ocean

Leatherback Turtle coming out of ocean

Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most important sea turtle nesting sites.

Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast in the Northern Province of Guanacaste near the tourist town and surf mecca Tamarindo, this national park is a significant Leatherback sea turtle nesting spot in the world.

Created in 1990, this national park was made in order to protect the endangered Leatherback turtles, who come every year to nest on the shores of the beautiful Playa Grande.

Location & Size of the Park

Encompassing an area of roughly 445 hectares of mangrove swamps and coastline, the Marino las Baulas National Park is made up of the four beaches, Playa Grande, Playa Langosta, Playa Ventanas and Playa Carbon.

This national park also extends 12 miles off shore as well, to protect the sea turtles from poachers and tourists alike.

 

Marine Turtle Nesting Site

The nesting ground for thousands of Leatherback turtles who make the journey every year to this national park, Marino las Baulas National Park also protects 174 species of birds and a number of different animals that live in the estuaries here.

Home to the white ibis, the cattle egret, the blue-winged teal and the muscovy duck, this park also looks after capuchin monkeys, howler monkies, raccoons, crocodiles, pacas and grey squirrels as well.

The largest marine reptiles in the world, the Leatherback Sea Turtles or Baulas as they are known in Spanish, come here in huge numbers during the months of November to April to mate and lay their eggs. Also the world’s largest turtles, Leatherbacks can weigh up to 1,100 lbs (500 kgs). Unlike other turtle species that have a hard shell, Leatherback turtles have a black tough leathery skin that is almost rubbery.

These amazing marine turtle travel about 3,700 miles from their feeding ground to mate and lay their eggs, making it the furthest migrating sea turtle.

To get to Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park, you can fly into the Liberia International Airport and then drive west toward the town of Tamarindo; from here, you need to go north to Playa Grande by a rough dirt road.

 

It is important that visitors be aware of certain things when touring this national park.

 

Do not use cameras with flashes or flashlights, do not approach the turtles and do not walk on the dry sand that lies above the high tide markings.

In order to see the turtle you will have to go on a tour with a certified guide, without a guide you will not be allowed on the beach at night, as this is when the turtles come to nest.

Marino las Baulas National Parks is a great place to visit with family, this national park also has a turtle museum and certified night tours during the turtle nesting season.

 

Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve

Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature reserve protects semi dry tropical forest on the southern tip of the Nicoya Penisula, Costa Rica.  The 2 mile long (3 km) trail crosses a ridge and drops down to Playa Banco on the tip of the Nicoya Penisula.

The visitors entrance to Cabo Blanco is on the east side of the Peninsula near Cabuya, south of Montezuma. Open 8 am – 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) Access on the western side of Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco) is restricted to the tiny but strikingly beautiful Playa Cuevas. There are no public trails from this entrance.

Barra Honda Caverns National Park

The area of the Tempisque Basin where the Nicoya Peninsula joins the mainland has a foundation of relatively soft limestone. Water has cut extensive caves through Cerro Barra Honda and the other small mountains creating the best know feature of this National Park. However, the park also has well maintained hiking trails. The protected tropical dry forest (though mostly secondary) within its borders is some of the last in the world, and very different from the rain and cloud forests that attract many ecological tourists to Costa Rica.

The Caverns

Descending into Terciopelo CavernThe soda straws, pearls, roses, needles, cave grapes, curtains, terraces, stalactites, stalagmites and other calcareous formations of the more than 40 limestone caverns are the main attraction at Barra Honda National Park.

The caves are all in relatively good condition because their vertical entrances are difficult to negotiate. This is also why you need climbing gear, a guide, and permission from the Parks service in advance to enter them.

Ticos call them PapayasThe caves range from a few feet to over 780 feet (240 meters) deep. Pozo Hediondo (Fetid Pit) Cave was named for the aroma of the guano deposited by thousands of resident bats.

Until the caverns were discovered and explored in the late sixties, many believed that Cerro Barra Honda was a volcano because of the roaring sounds made by the bats as they departed the caverns en masse, and the fumes from the caves they occupied.

Hiking at Barra Honda

View from Cerro Barra HondaThe network of hiking trails used to access the caverns are great for exploring one of the rarest habitats on earth, tropical dry forest. The juxtaposition of capuchin monkeys and cactus seems odd, and some of the trees flower only after they’ve dropped all their leaves. Any time of year you can hope to see howler monkeys, deer, racoons, peccaries, kinkajous, agoutis, and anteaters.

Maps are available at the ranger station. The main trail is an undriveable continuation of the entrance road that leads through mostly secondary forest to cerro Barra Honda (1,450 feet, 442 meters) where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Tempisque valley.

When to Visit and Where to Stay at Barra Honda

The caves are not open in the wet season because of the danger of flooding by the torrential rains that carved them from the stone. If you are a spelunker the dry season is your best bet.


or see summary

Use the drop down menu to select any month of the year for a summary of the typical rainfall and weather patterns.

Cabinas and Camping – If you are traveling on a budget, spend the night. It’s one of the few places you can get a bed and a roof inside a National Park. At the ranger station a few minutes up a good gravel road from the entrance (closed from about dusk until 8:00 am) there are four rustic cabinas with bunks for six or eight each.

These provide an excellent opportunity for travelers who don’t have either camping equipment, or the money for a lodge or ecocamp, to spend the night in the forest. When we stayed we had the place to ourselves and were on a hiking trail by around 5:15 am (about 15 minutes before sunrise) in order to catch the increased activity of the forest’s residents. We also felt comfortable walking on the broad main trail after dark, when you hear and see a whole new group of birds, insects and animals.

There is a camping area next to the ranger station, across the road from the cabinas.

If you don’t stay in the park, Nicoya is the closest alternative with lodging options in most price categories (nothing on the top end however).

Getting There

Barra Honda national Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barra Honda national Park Location

Driving directions
From San José, take the Interamerican Highway (1) north just past the turn for Las Juntas de Abangares. Turn left on 18 towards San Joaquín and then follow the signs for the spur to the new Tempisque bridge. Once you rejoin the main road, continue southwest about 10 km then turn right towards the villages of Barra Honda and (also known as Nacaome) Santa Ana, and follow signs for the park entrance. The park headquarters is through the gate (closed at dusk) less than a mile up a good gravel road (4WD not required) on the left.

Bus
Unfortunately there is not a direct way to reach Barra Honda by bus. You can get a bus from San José to Nicoya, then there is one bus a day (12:30 p.m.) from Nicoya to Santa Ana which is about a 30 minute walk from the entrance.

Daily departures from San José, Terminal Alfaro at 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 156 km, 6 hours, $5.20, Alfaro Bus, telephone (506) 2222-2666

Quick Facts about Barra Honda National Park

The protected area is 5,600 acres (2,300 hectares, 8.75 square miles, 7 times the size of central park NYC) with elevations ranging from 20 to 442 meters (66 to 1450 feet). The habitats represented here are margin/edge and regenerating tropical dry forest.

Hours
The gate is open from 8:00 a.m. until dusk, if you are staying in the park, the rangers leave the station door open until they go to bed around 8:30 p.m.

Hiking trails
Maps are available at the ranger station. The main trail is an undriveable continuation of the entrance road that leads through mostly secondary forest to cerro Barra Honda (1,450 feet, 442 meters) where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Tempisque valley.

Habitats
Tropical lowland dry forest, pasture, limestone caves

 

 

 

 

 

Tamarindo Day Trip: Guide to Diria National Park

Howler Monkey

How about a howler monkey welcome to Diria National Park?

Guanacaste is home to eight national parks, each known for their vast habitats, natural beauty, and varied wildlife. You’ve probably heard of many of them: from leatherback turtle beaches at our own Las Baulas National Marine Park to the canals of Palo Verde National Park, Guanacaste is famous for its parks. Except one. One that flies decidedly under the radar.

Welcome to Guanacaste’s best-kept secret. Kick off your flip-flops and get out your hiking shoes. We’re going to Diria National Park!

Here, what was once a protected area is now a national park – an upgrade courtesy of Diria National Park’s varied ecosystems, strong conservation efforts, and entertainment value. That’s right, Diria is not only beautiful but also a fun place to visit: Filled with crystal-clear river waters, a majestic waterfall, interwoven trails, and an abundance of birds, mammals, and other animal species.

Diria National Park Overview: 

Location: 10 miles south of Santa Cruz

Founded: 1991 (became a national park in 2004)

Maximum Altitude: 5,905 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level

Area: 13,410 acres

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Telephone: 2686-4968 / 2686-4970

Entrance Fee: $6 adults / $5 children

Attractions:

One of the most lovely things about Diria National Park is its dedication to different. In comparison to many of Guanacaste’s national parks, which unroll over hot and arid lowlands, Diria’s scenery is much more diverse – and altitudinal!

Nearly 10,000 of Diria’s acreage is comprised of tropical dry forest, which then climbs to fresh, sky-high premontane tropical wet forest for the remaining 3,500 acres. All this boils down to cooler temperatures, higher elevations (up to nearly 6,000 feet), and varied habitats – a trifecta that creates not only lush scenery, but an important transitional zone for Costa Rica’s plants, birds, mammals and reptiles.

Trails:

hiking trails at Diria National Park

There are three separate hiking trails at Diria National Park. Enjoy!

Diria National Park is a park in process – ever developing. That said, as of 2018 there are three hiking trails: one short walking loop, one long loop, and a trail that leads to Brazil Waterfall, which only flows in the rainy season.

The short loop takes about 30-40 minutes to hike, offering three lookout points along the way. The longer loop requires a total 1-1.5 hours and extends off the short loop, weaving through dry forest and two more lookout points to the surrounding mountains, before doubling back to the short loop; alternately, you can take the steep return descent along a gravel road.

The waterfall trail passes two more lookout points and also offers access to the seasonal Brazil Waterfalls and a natural swimming hole. This hike can be physically demanding and is thus recommended only for hikers in good physical condition.

Biking Trails:

As of 2018, Diria National Park is working hard to build a series of mountain bike trails – and their accompanying mountain bike tours – as part of a community tourism project and sustainable effort. The long, demanding trails will highlight the park’s broken terrain, which can soar more than 3,000 feet in just 7.5 miles.

Flora and Fauna:

coatis in Costa Rica

Will you spot a coati (or many) on your hike?

And that brings us to the reason you’re here: flora and fauna, plants and animal life. And in this case, you’re in luck. Diria National Park is home to important virgin forest which, unlike secondary (regenerative) forest, has never been cut, farmed, or otherwise changed from its natural state.

All good things for local plant and animal life, which have populated these forests for centuries.

Among other impressive tree species, you may spot the iconic Guanacaste, rosewood, gumbo limbo, ash, and the spiky pochote. Trails are labeled with plaques to identify the trees, so be sure to have a look.

That said, we know you’re probably here for the wildlife, so you should know that Diria houses an exhilarating variety of large mammals, including howler monkeys, coatimundi, coyotes, white-faced monkeys, anteaters, boar, possums, and occasional jaguarondi. Snakes, reptiles, and amphibians are also common sightings, as are all manner of butterflies. (Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the ethereal blue morphos, which often flutter in eye-catching groups!)

All that said, Diria’s real stand-out claim-to-fame is its birding. This is paradise for birdwatchers, who flock (see what we did there?) to the park to spot at least 134 bird species that live here. Among the possible sightings are the squirrel cuckoo, turquoise-browed motmot, collared aracari, stub-tailed spadebill, ivory-billed woodcreeper, plain chachalaca, broad-winged hawk, elegant trogon, olive sparrow, long-tailed manakin, barred antshrike, a great kiskadee, masked tityra, and banded wren, among many others.

How many will  you check off your list?

Spotlight on: Blue Morpho Butterfly

blue morphos are popular at Diria National Park

Did you know? Blue morpho butterflies aren’t actually blue!

Blue morphos are a common sighting at and around Diria National Park. Did you know:

  • There are several blue morpho butterfly species. “Morpho” is actually the genus, which breaks down to nearly 30 different morpho species, including several of which that are blue.
  • Speaking of, only the males are blue! Well, usually. Females tend more toward brown, yellow, and black shades.
  • And even more mind-bending, they’re not actually blue. A blue morpho’s wings are not pigmented blue, but rather are composed of diamond-shaped scales that refract light to look blue.
  • They have brilliant camouflage. To counterbalance their iridescent blue color, which could create problems with predators, blue morphos are brown on their top side. They also feature “eye” spots and emit a stink when they feel threatened.
  • They don’t eat. But they do drink! Their favorites include tree sap, decomposing fruits (and even animals), fungi, and wet mud.
  • And the love the light! And because they refract light so well, you can see them from far away. Pilots have even reported seeing large groups, flying through the sun-drenched canopy.

Recommendations: 

To hike Diria National Park, you’ll need hiking shoes or, in the dry season, at least a pair of sturdy, closed-toed shoes (preferably sneakers). It is never advisable to hike in sandals or open footwear, in case of a close snake encounter. Additionally, be sure to pack plenty of sunblock and insect repellent, as well as sun protection (like hats).

Facilities at Diria are sparse; at times, even the ranger cannot be found. Be sure to take plenty of water, snacks, and other refreshments. (You can stock up in Santa Cruz, where you can also grab a quick meal at a local soda, or mom-and-pop restaurant.)

If you’re visiting during the dry season, when every last drop of water has evaporated from the surrounding scenery, then your best chance of spotting wildlife is at river mouths and other wet areas: birds, mammals, and reptiles often gather here, sipping from the oft-trickling waters of the riverbed.

Weather:

While you can visit Diria National Park any time of year, for best bird-watching, aim for the dry season (December through April). Otherwise known as North America’s winter, this is the season for both resident birds and migratory species alike.

That said, in green season, Diria’s rivers flow freely and the Brazil Waterfall roars to life. Note that in the highlands of Diria, rain falls fast and heavy, and roads, trails, and paths can be very slippery. Do not attempt to cross rivers, creeks, or other unknown bodies of water, if you can’t measure their depth.

Facilities & Services: 

As Costa Rican national parks go, Diria’s facilities are rather sparse. Officially, you’ll find potable water, lookout points, camping areas, restrooms, and parking.

Unofficially, Diria is one of Costa Rica’s least-visited national parks. The on-duty ranger is often out in the field, rather than manning a front desk that receives few daily visitors. If you arrive and no ranger is on duty, you may consider leaving your entrance fee at the front desk.

How to Get to Diria National Park: 

4wd in mud

4WD required! (At least, during green season.)

Diria National Park is located near the city of Santa Cruz, about 50 kms (~31 miles) southeast of Tamarindo.

To Drive: From Tamarindo, take Route 152/Route 160 east to Santa Cruz. From there, take Route 21 south to Arado; in Arado, the road becomes gravel for the final 6 kms. Follow signs to Diria National Park. A 4WD vehicle is highly recommended. You must cross a riverbed to reach the park entrance; in rainy season, the river can be high. Some choose to park and wade across the river.

Private Transportation/Tours: If you’re not quite up for the adventure of tackling Costa Rica’s backroads on your own, but you still want to hike, then your best option is to hire a driver or book a guide to Diria National Park. With either option, a guide will pick you up in Tamarindo and ferry you to the park in an air-conditioned 4×4. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Need Help? 

If you’d like help arranging a tour to Diria National Park, a rental 4×4, or private transport, please get in touchwith our concierge, Cris! Her services are free and we promise, she’ll hook you up with the best option to match your adventure style.

 

 

 

 

Santa Rosa National Park

Tropical Dry Forest

Infant spider monkey

 

 

Infant spider monkey

Santa Rosa National Park protects some of the last remaining tropical dry forest in the world. The small patch of oak forest near the entrance to the Comelco Ranch is probably representative of the original habitat of much of the park. Ranchers burned most of the plateau region, and African pasture grass (Hyparrenia rufa) and the fire resistant Bignoniaceae trees define the current landscape. Nearer the beaches the habitat becomes more native-like.

Guanacaste National Park was created in 1989 to connect Santa Rosa National Park with the high elevation cloud forest of Orosi and Cacao volcanoes and across the continental divide to the Caribbean rainforest of Northern Costa Rica. The hope is that together these two parks protect enough land to ensure sufficiently large habitats for wide-ranging species such as jaguars and mountain lions while simultaneously creating a biological corridor for birds and insects to make local seasonal migrations between the dry forest and the evergreen cloud and rain forests.

Playa Hachal Murcialago Santa Rosa

 

 

Playa Hachal Murcialago Santa Rosa

Beaches-Turtles, Scuba and Surfing

There are two important sea turtle nesting beaches in Santa Rosa, Naranjo and Nancite. The latter is one of two beaches in Costa Rica (the other is Ostional) where Pacific Ridley Sea Turtles come ashore each year in large arribadas to lay their eggs.

These mass arrivals can include thousands of individuals in a single night, usually on a new moon in late summer.

Sunset Cuajiniquil at the north border of Santa Rosa

 

 

Had to include this sunset at Cuajiniquil on our way out of the park because it’s just awesome

The beach at Naranjo is also famous for surfing, and the area near witch’s rock was a filming location for the cult surfing classic ‘Endless Summer II.’ There is a campground at Naranjo beach.

From outside the park you can arrange scuba-diving trips to Islas Murciélago, (the Bat Islands), off the Santa Elena Peninsula.

Hiking Trails and Maps

There are a number of excellent trails in Santa Rosa National Park for day or overnight trips.

1:50,000 Topographical maps are available online from Omni Maps (sheets CR50 3048 I, and CR50 3048 IV cover most of the park, but CR50 3048 II, and CR50 3048 III are required for the southern edges)

When to Visit

This is one of the hotter drier areas of Costa Rica, and the whole Guanacaste region has more predictable seasons than the rest of Costa Rica. The chance of rain is much less during the dry season from December to April.

Although it is fairly likely that it will rain on any given day during the rainy season (AKA the green season), it is also fairly likely that it will be a short shower in mid-afternoon. The rainy season which lasts from May until November is also usually interrupted by a two or three week dry spell in late July or August called the veranillo de San Juan (little summer).


or see summary

Use the menu to check the seasonal information to help you decide the best month for your visit.

Getting There

Fording German Creek

 

 

Fording German Creek

Location – Santa Rosa National Park is located at the northwestern tip of Costa Rica 118 miles (190 km) northwest of San José (136 miles, 219 km by road). Nearest towns Liberia & La Cruz.

Driving directions – From San José, take the Interamerican Highway (1) north 136 miles (219 km) passing through San Ramon, Cañas, and Liberia to the signed left turn at the entrance road.
Bus – Unfortunately there is not a direct way to reach the Santa Rosa Ranger Station by bus. Buses from San José or Liberia to La Cruz and the Nicaraguan border will drop you at the turnoff from the PanAmerican Highway and you’ll have to walk or hitch-hike the 4miles (7 km) to La Casona.
Air – The nearest airport is LIR outside Liberia.

Quick Facts Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Rosa National Park Location

One of Costa Rica’s larger parks, Santa Rosa covers 49,515 hectares with a wide range of habitats including beach, mangrove estuary, marine, pasture/farm, and tropical dry forest.

History at Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa may owe its early designation as a National Park to an attempted invasion by U.S. troops. The battle that occurred here is a source of great pride in Costa Rica, and the historical significance of the park helped win its protection by executive decrees in 1970 and 1977.

La Casona Santa Rosa National Park

 

 

La Casona

William Walker was an American lawyer who had designs on an empire. In June of 1855 he arrived in Nicaragua, propped up a failing regime, and set him self up as Commander-in-Chief. With this tenuous authority, he planned to convert all of Central America into slaving territory and use the slaves to build a canal from Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific (the San Juan River is navigable from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean so this canal would have linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as the Panama Canal does today).

Museum Santa Rosa N.P.

 

 

Museum Santa Rosa N.P.

With the financial backing of the Confederate Union of the southern United States, Walker sent an international army of mercenaries into Costa Rica. When word of the invasion reached the capital, President Juan Rafael Mora organized 9,000 civilians to march to Guanacaste. At the hacienda of Santa Rosa on March 20, 1856, the mercenaries were routed in a 14 minute battle. The victorious Ticos pushed Walker’s forces across the border into Nicaragua where they made another stand in a wooden fort in Rivas. On April 11, 1856 a drummer boy named Juan Santamaría, from Alajuela volunteered to set the fort afire, and although he successfully flushed the mercenaries he lost his life in the battle. He is remembered as a hero.

Saws and Wheels Santa Rosa la CasonaSaws and Wheels

Walker returned to the United States, where he practiced law for a while before returning to Central America in another takeover attempt. In 1860, he was captured by the Honduran government, found guilty of treason and shot. Interestingly, another central figure in this history met a similar fate. President Mora lost political favor and his job after the battle. When he tried to regain control of the country in a military coup, he was captured, tried for treason and died in front of a firing squad the same year as Walker.

Amazingly, this single incident encompasses much of the military history of Costa Rica. While Ticos are proud of their war heroes, and established Santa Rosa National Park in part to protect La Casona and the other buildings where the victory occurred, they are even prouder of their remarkably peaceful history.

La Casona Hacienda was the site of the most famous battle in Costa Rican history. Now it’s a museum and part of Santa Rosa National Park. This historic building was the site of the ‘epic’ Battle of Santa Rosa in 1856 and has been preserved as a monument. There are displays of military paraphernalia and everyday life at a Tico Hacienda in the mid 1800’s. Keep an eye out for the Long-tongued Bats that roost in the eves of the buildings.

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park has a uniquely dichotomous character.  It’s simultaneously a spectacular wetlands and one of the best examples of tropical dry forests remaining anywhere in the world.  This dual nature is a result of the Río Tempisque flooding over land located in a relatively arid climate region.

Water hyacinth that has run out of water

 

 

Water hyacinth that has run out of water

The park, like many in Costa Rica’s system consists largely of reclaimed pastureland. Fortunately, in the case of Palo Verde, the haciendas that preceded the park were somewhat different than the clear-cut ranches of the volcanic highlands. The underlying limestone, and the drier climate of the region gave rise to native forests where trees were sparser and there was more grass and forage in the natural ecosystem. Clear-cutting was not always necessary to ranching, and the park escaped it’s tenure as pasture with less damage than most.

Birds Dry Season and Rainy

Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills

 

 

Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills

Birds are the biggest attraction at Palo Verde National Park. In the wet season the floodwaters of the Río Tempisque spread to form extensive marshes that welcome migrant birds from the Americas at the onset of winter. As the December through May dry season (called summer in Costa Rica) progresses the marshes shrink to isolated patches and pools, and the migrants depart for their summer nesting grounds in temperate climates.

Many of the resident tropical bird species nest on a small mangrove island in the Río Tempisque. Isla de Pajaros (bird island), as it is known provides a safe place for Cattle Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Green-backed Herons, Anhingas, Great Egrets, and Black-crowned Night-Herons to breed. Other birds you can expect to see in the park include White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Snail Kite, American Widgeon, Northern Shoveler, and Blue-winged Teal.

Cattails with hills in the backgroundIn the dry season, many of the trees have dropped their leaves, and the wildlife is concentrated around the ever-shrinking water sources.  One of the best strategies for spotting the many species of mammals that Palo Verde National Park protects is to sit quietly near a water source. You may spot Variegated Squirrels, Howler Monkeys, White-nosed Coatis, White-tailed Deer, White-throated Capuchin Monkeys, and Collared Peccaries.

Rio tempisque from the shore in Palo Verde National ParkCycling Across the Park

Palo Verde National Park is one of our favorites. When we first visited, there was a little known and unused back entrance to the park, across the Bebedero river. We rode and carried our bicycles across the whole park to the campground near the ranger station (Read about Biking Palo Verde Park).

The entrance and the trails it serves are now closed except for official research, but you can rent mountain bikes from the Organization for Tropical Studies station to explore other parts of the park.

Getting to Palo Verde

Palo Verde national Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palo Verde national Park Location

Although the back door from Bebedero has been effectively closed, there is another very interesting way to enter the Park. On the Nicoya side of the Río Tempisque, you can hire a boat at the dock in the pueblo of Puerto Humo and power your way upriver to the Park. Arrange with your boatman ahead of time to get a close-up look at the Isla de Pajaros (Bird Island), and perhaps continue upriver past the park where the vegetation closes in and you are sure to see crocodiles.

Best Time to Visit

Palo Verde is located in one of the driest regions of Costa Rica but when it does rain here the roads can be impassable.  Birdwatching is also better in the dry season because there are many migrants who arrive from up north to escape the snow in December through May.


or see summary

Stay in the Park – OTS Lodge and Camping

There are a few parks and reserves in Costa Rica where it’s possible to spend the night in relative comfort and thanks to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Palo Verde is one of them.  Lodging, meals and guide services are all available by reservation (See details – OTS Palo Verde Lodge).

If you’ve got the gear, camping is also an option.  The campground near the ranger station provides access to potable water, showers and restrooms.

Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Boiling mud pots at Rincon de la Vieja Las Pailas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boiling mud pots

There are two places in the area where you can visit Yellowstone like geothermal sites. Boiling hot mud springs, sulfur springs, steam vents, and fumaroles are abundant at Las Pailas and Las Hornillas (not to be confused with Las Hornillas on the slopes of volcán Miravalles, near the village of La Fortuna de Bagaces) on the southern slope of the volcano inside the park.

The activity isn’t far from the surface anywhere in the region.  One of the largest geothermal electricity generation projects in the world is scattered through the valley between Rincón de la Vieja and volcán Miravalles. Driving near Guayabal or La Fortuna de Bagaces you can’t help but notice the stainless steel steam delivery pipes that snake their way from wells driven into the earth to the turbines in the generating stations.

Natural mineral hot springs 4km from the Las Pailas entrance at Rincon de la Vieja are a great place to soak but be sure you’re at the correct spot because some pools are near boiling and much too hot to enter.

The name, Rincón de la Vieja, translates to English as ‘the old woman’s corner.’ According to locals, the indigenous people of the Guatuso tribe named the volcano thus for one of two reasons. Either there was an old witch on top of the mountain who sent columns of smoke into the air when she was angry, or there was a kindly old woman occupying the same nook, and the smoke was from her cooking fire as she prepared meals for weary travelers. Maybe it’s both because the Rincón de la Vieja crater has had at least eight periods of intense volcanic activity, and still bubbles and steams.

Hiking Trails and Campgrounds

The Peaks – Rincón, Von Seebach & Santa Maria

Grasslands at Rincon de la ViejaNote: In 2014 the trails to the peaks were closed intermittently due to increased volcanic activity.  In 2015 permanent signs went up the trails to the top are off limits through 2020 (see volcano closures)

The climb to the top of volcán Von Seebach and Rincón de la Vieja is steep and strenuous, but very rewarding.  Starting from the mid elevation tropical dry forest transition zone near Las Pailas ranger station the trail aims straight for the peak.

It climbs into premontane wet forest where the trees covered with epiphytic vegetation hunch closer to the ground in the harsher climate.

The final ascent over bare volcanic rock to the summit of Von Seebach (6,217 feet) is often in the clouds as is the trail down and around the rim to volcán Rincón.

crater rim of Rincón de la Vieja

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crater rim of Rincón de la Vieja

It is possible to continue west from the crater of Rincón to volcán Santa Maria and down the slope to that ranger station and there is also a trail from the rim to Dos Ríos on the north edge of the park.

It’s strongly recommended to hire a guide to attempt either of these trails and please note that in 2014 and 2015 the trails to the peaks have been closed intermittently due to abnormally high levels of activity.  Have a backup plan – like the hot springs maybe?

The Traverse – Las Pailas Station to Santa María Station

Another main trail in the park is a traverse along the slopes of volcán Santa María between the Las Pailas (aka Las Espuelas) and Santa María stations.

Much less challenging but every bit as rewarding in different ways.  You stay mainly in the dry forest and rainforest crossing streams and rivers each of which offers a side trail to an amazing waterfall or two or natural back country hot springs.


…roots, rock, reggae?…keep your eye on the roots. It’s not a trick of the light, the roots really are rocking and moving as the wind twists this giant tree on a windy day on the traverse trail.

The Geothermal Features

Note: the new trails around Las Pailas and the new visitors center are intended to be wheelchair accessible and all season.

Las Pailas – the cauldrons is the name of the western entrance to Rincón de la Vieja National Park and also for the boiling mud pots, steam vents and mini-geysers near the ranger station.  A loop trail with interpretive signs leads from the ranger station past an interesting selection of geothermal features but our favorites -natural hot springs, mini geysers and fumaroles – are a little farther afield on the Crater Traverse trails.

Sue at the Catarata Bosque Encantado

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue at the Catarata Bosque Encantado

Waterfalls & Miradors

Other trails from each station lead to miradors and yet more waterfalls and anywhere you walk in the area you’ll see birds and other wildlife.

Santa Maria Campground

Campgrounds at the Hacienda Santa Maria

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campgrounds at the Hacienda Santa Maria

The campground at Santa María station is simple but one of the nicest of any Costa Rican national park.  Grassy tent sites, picnic tables, shade trees, fresh water, showers and outhouses. It was renovated in 2019 and costs $4 per person per night (plus the $15 park entry fee).  See other Costa Rica national parks with camping.

When to Visit

The park is open six days a week (CLOSED MONDAYS) year round including holidays.

This is one of the hotter drier areas of Costa Rica, and the whole region around Rincón de la Vieja has more predictable seasons than the rest of Costa Rica. The chance of rain is much less during the dry season from December to April, but the higher you climb, the more likely you are to get wet… any time of the year.

Although it is fairly likely that it will rain on any given day during the rainy season (AKA the green season), it is also fairly likely that it will be a short shower in mid-afternoon. The rainy season which lasts from May until November is also usually interrupted by a two or three week dry spell in late July or August called the Veranillo de San Juan (saint Joseph’s little summer).


or see summary

Use the drop down menu to see weather patterns and other seasonal information for the month you are thinking about visiting.

Nearby

One of the best things about this National Park are the excellent lodges nearby.  Both RDLV Lodge and Hacienda Guachipelín are highly recommended and the adventure pass activity package is a perfect adrenaline filled compliment to a day of quiet hiking and wildlife watching on the trails.


Adventure Pass – Zip wires through the rain forest, rappelling into a canyon, sloshing and careening down a river in a tube, plus rock climbing, horseback riding and waterfall jumping…

 

Quick Facts Volcán Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Rincon de la Vieja National Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rincon de la Vieja National Park Location
Guanacaste National Parks Tour

Guanacaste National Parks

Guanacaste National Parks

Enjoy any of 10 national parks in Guanacaste Province alone

Pictured:Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills in Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste

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Marino las Baulas National Park, Guanacaste

Leatherback Turtle coming out of ocean

Leatherback Turtle coming out of ocean

Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most important sea turtle nesting sites.

Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast in the Northern Province of Guanacaste near the tourist town and surf mecca Tamarindo, this national park is a significant Leatherback sea turtle nesting spot in the world.

Created in 1990, this national park was made in order to protect the endangered Leatherback turtles, who come every year to nest on the shores of the beautiful Playa Grande.

Location & Size of the Park

Encompassing an area of roughly 445 hectares of mangrove swamps and coastline, the Marino las Baulas National Park is made up of the four beaches, Playa Grande, Playa Langosta, Playa Ventanas and Playa Carbon.

This national park also extends 12 miles off shore as well, to protect the sea turtles from poachers and tourists alike.

 

Marine Turtle Nesting Site

The nesting ground for thousands of Leatherback turtles who make the journey every year to this national park, Marino las Baulas National Park also protects 174 species of birds and a number of different animals that live in the estuaries here.

Home to the white ibis, the cattle egret, the blue-winged teal and the muscovy duck, this park also looks after capuchin monkeys, howler monkies, raccoons, crocodiles, pacas and grey squirrels as well.

The largest marine reptiles in the world, the Leatherback Sea Turtles or Baulas as they are known in Spanish, come here in huge numbers during the months of November to April to mate and lay their eggs. Also the world’s largest turtles, Leatherbacks can weigh up to 1,100 lbs (500 kgs). Unlike other turtle species that have a hard shell, Leatherback turtles have a black tough leathery skin that is almost rubbery.

These amazing marine turtle travel about 3,700 miles from their feeding ground to mate and lay their eggs, making it the furthest migrating sea turtle.

To get to Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park, you can fly into the Liberia International Airport and then drive west toward the town of Tamarindo; from here, you need to go north to Playa Grande by a rough dirt road.

 

It is important that visitors be aware of certain things when touring this national park.

 

Do not use cameras with flashes or flashlights, do not approach the turtles and do not walk on the dry sand that lies above the high tide markings.

In order to see the turtle you will have to go on a tour with a certified guide, without a guide you will not be allowed on the beach at night, as this is when the turtles come to nest.

Marino las Baulas National Parks is a great place to visit with family, this national park also has a turtle museum and certified night tours during the turtle nesting season.

 

Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve

Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature reserve protects semi dry tropical forest on the southern tip of the Nicoya Penisula, Costa Rica.  The 2 mile long (3 km) trail crosses a ridge and drops down to Playa Banco on the tip of the Nicoya Penisula.

The visitors entrance to Cabo Blanco is on the east side of the Peninsula near Cabuya, south of Montezuma. Open 8 am – 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) Access on the western side of Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco) is restricted to the tiny but strikingly beautiful Playa Cuevas. There are no public trails from this entrance.

Barra Honda Caverns National Park

The area of the Tempisque Basin where the Nicoya Peninsula joins the mainland has a foundation of relatively soft limestone. Water has cut extensive caves through Cerro Barra Honda and the other small mountains creating the best know feature of this National Park. However, the park also has well maintained hiking trails. The protected tropical dry forest (though mostly secondary) within its borders is some of the last in the world, and very different from the rain and cloud forests that attract many ecological tourists to Costa Rica.

The Caverns

Descending into Terciopelo CavernThe soda straws, pearls, roses, needles, cave grapes, curtains, terraces, stalactites, stalagmites and other calcareous formations of the more than 40 limestone caverns are the main attraction at Barra Honda National Park.

The caves are all in relatively good condition because their vertical entrances are difficult to negotiate. This is also why you need climbing gear, a guide, and permission from the Parks service in advance to enter them.

Ticos call them PapayasThe caves range from a few feet to over 780 feet (240 meters) deep. Pozo Hediondo (Fetid Pit) Cave was named for the aroma of the guano deposited by thousands of resident bats.

Until the caverns were discovered and explored in the late sixties, many believed that Cerro Barra Honda was a volcano because of the roaring sounds made by the bats as they departed the caverns en masse, and the fumes from the caves they occupied.

Hiking at Barra Honda

View from Cerro Barra HondaThe network of hiking trails used to access the caverns are great for exploring one of the rarest habitats on earth, tropical dry forest. The juxtaposition of capuchin monkeys and cactus seems odd, and some of the trees flower only after they’ve dropped all their leaves. Any time of year you can hope to see howler monkeys, deer, racoons, peccaries, kinkajous, agoutis, and anteaters.

Maps are available at the ranger station. The main trail is an undriveable continuation of the entrance road that leads through mostly secondary forest to cerro Barra Honda (1,450 feet, 442 meters) where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Tempisque valley.

When to Visit and Where to Stay at Barra Honda

The caves are not open in the wet season because of the danger of flooding by the torrential rains that carved them from the stone. If you are a spelunker the dry season is your best bet.


or see summary

Use the drop down menu to select any month of the year for a summary of the typical rainfall and weather patterns.

Cabinas and Camping – If you are traveling on a budget, spend the night. It’s one of the few places you can get a bed and a roof inside a National Park. At the ranger station a few minutes up a good gravel road from the entrance (closed from about dusk until 8:00 am) there are four rustic cabinas with bunks for six or eight each.

These provide an excellent opportunity for travelers who don’t have either camping equipment, or the money for a lodge or ecocamp, to spend the night in the forest. When we stayed we had the place to ourselves and were on a hiking trail by around 5:15 am (about 15 minutes before sunrise) in order to catch the increased activity of the forest’s residents. We also felt comfortable walking on the broad main trail after dark, when you hear and see a whole new group of birds, insects and animals.

There is a camping area next to the ranger station, across the road from the cabinas.

If you don’t stay in the park, Nicoya is the closest alternative with lodging options in most price categories (nothing on the top end however).

Getting There

Barra Honda national Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barra Honda national Park Location

Driving directions
From San José, take the Interamerican Highway (1) north just past the turn for Las Juntas de Abangares. Turn left on 18 towards San Joaquín and then follow the signs for the spur to the new Tempisque bridge. Once you rejoin the main road, continue southwest about 10 km then turn right towards the villages of Barra Honda and (also known as Nacaome) Santa Ana, and follow signs for the park entrance. The park headquarters is through the gate (closed at dusk) less than a mile up a good gravel road (4WD not required) on the left.

Bus
Unfortunately there is not a direct way to reach Barra Honda by bus. You can get a bus from San José to Nicoya, then there is one bus a day (12:30 p.m.) from Nicoya to Santa Ana which is about a 30 minute walk from the entrance.

Daily departures from San José, Terminal Alfaro at 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 156 km, 6 hours, $5.20, Alfaro Bus, telephone (506) 2222-2666

Quick Facts about Barra Honda National Park

The protected area is 5,600 acres (2,300 hectares, 8.75 square miles, 7 times the size of central park NYC) with elevations ranging from 20 to 442 meters (66 to 1450 feet). The habitats represented here are margin/edge and regenerating tropical dry forest.

Hours
The gate is open from 8:00 a.m. until dusk, if you are staying in the park, the rangers leave the station door open until they go to bed around 8:30 p.m.

Hiking trails
Maps are available at the ranger station. The main trail is an undriveable continuation of the entrance road that leads through mostly secondary forest to cerro Barra Honda (1,450 feet, 442 meters) where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Tempisque valley.

Habitats
Tropical lowland dry forest, pasture, limestone caves

 

 

 

 

 

Tamarindo Day Trip: Guide to Diria National Park

Howler Monkey

How about a howler monkey welcome to Diria National Park?

Guanacaste is home to eight national parks, each known for their vast habitats, natural beauty, and varied wildlife. You’ve probably heard of many of them: from leatherback turtle beaches at our own Las Baulas National Marine Park to the canals of Palo Verde National Park, Guanacaste is famous for its parks. Except one. One that flies decidedly under the radar.

Welcome to Guanacaste’s best-kept secret. Kick off your flip-flops and get out your hiking shoes. We’re going to Diria National Park!

Here, what was once a protected area is now a national park – an upgrade courtesy of Diria National Park’s varied ecosystems, strong conservation efforts, and entertainment value. That’s right, Diria is not only beautiful but also a fun place to visit: Filled with crystal-clear river waters, a majestic waterfall, interwoven trails, and an abundance of birds, mammals, and other animal species.

Diria National Park Overview: 

Location: 10 miles south of Santa Cruz

Founded: 1991 (became a national park in 2004)

Maximum Altitude: 5,905 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level

Area: 13,410 acres

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Telephone: 2686-4968 / 2686-4970

Entrance Fee: $6 adults / $5 children

Attractions:

One of the most lovely things about Diria National Park is its dedication to different. In comparison to many of Guanacaste’s national parks, which unroll over hot and arid lowlands, Diria’s scenery is much more diverse – and altitudinal!

Nearly 10,000 of Diria’s acreage is comprised of tropical dry forest, which then climbs to fresh, sky-high premontane tropical wet forest for the remaining 3,500 acres. All this boils down to cooler temperatures, higher elevations (up to nearly 6,000 feet), and varied habitats – a trifecta that creates not only lush scenery, but an important transitional zone for Costa Rica’s plants, birds, mammals and reptiles.

Trails:

hiking trails at Diria National Park

There are three separate hiking trails at Diria National Park. Enjoy!

Diria National Park is a park in process – ever developing. That said, as of 2018 there are three hiking trails: one short walking loop, one long loop, and a trail that leads to Brazil Waterfall, which only flows in the rainy season.

The short loop takes about 30-40 minutes to hike, offering three lookout points along the way. The longer loop requires a total 1-1.5 hours and extends off the short loop, weaving through dry forest and two more lookout points to the surrounding mountains, before doubling back to the short loop; alternately, you can take the steep return descent along a gravel road.

The waterfall trail passes two more lookout points and also offers access to the seasonal Brazil Waterfalls and a natural swimming hole. This hike can be physically demanding and is thus recommended only for hikers in good physical condition.

Biking Trails:

As of 2018, Diria National Park is working hard to build a series of mountain bike trails – and their accompanying mountain bike tours – as part of a community tourism project and sustainable effort. The long, demanding trails will highlight the park’s broken terrain, which can soar more than 3,000 feet in just 7.5 miles.

Flora and Fauna:

coatis in Costa Rica

Will you spot a coati (or many) on your hike?

And that brings us to the reason you’re here: flora and fauna, plants and animal life. And in this case, you’re in luck. Diria National Park is home to important virgin forest which, unlike secondary (regenerative) forest, has never been cut, farmed, or otherwise changed from its natural state.

All good things for local plant and animal life, which have populated these forests for centuries.

Among other impressive tree species, you may spot the iconic Guanacaste, rosewood, gumbo limbo, ash, and the spiky pochote. Trails are labeled with plaques to identify the trees, so be sure to have a look.

That said, we know you’re probably here for the wildlife, so you should know that Diria houses an exhilarating variety of large mammals, including howler monkeys, coatimundi, coyotes, white-faced monkeys, anteaters, boar, possums, and occasional jaguarondi. Snakes, reptiles, and amphibians are also common sightings, as are all manner of butterflies. (Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the ethereal blue morphos, which often flutter in eye-catching groups!)

All that said, Diria’s real stand-out claim-to-fame is its birding. This is paradise for birdwatchers, who flock (see what we did there?) to the park to spot at least 134 bird species that live here. Among the possible sightings are the squirrel cuckoo, turquoise-browed motmot, collared aracari, stub-tailed spadebill, ivory-billed woodcreeper, plain chachalaca, broad-winged hawk, elegant trogon, olive sparrow, long-tailed manakin, barred antshrike, a great kiskadee, masked tityra, and banded wren, among many others.

How many will  you check off your list?

Spotlight on: Blue Morpho Butterfly

blue morphos are popular at Diria National Park

Did you know? Blue morpho butterflies aren’t actually blue!

Blue morphos are a common sighting at and around Diria National Park. Did you know:

  • There are several blue morpho butterfly species. “Morpho” is actually the genus, which breaks down to nearly 30 different morpho species, including several of which that are blue.
  • Speaking of, only the males are blue! Well, usually. Females tend more toward brown, yellow, and black shades.
  • And even more mind-bending, they’re not actually blue. A blue morpho’s wings are not pigmented blue, but rather are composed of diamond-shaped scales that refract light to look blue.
  • They have brilliant camouflage. To counterbalance their iridescent blue color, which could create problems with predators, blue morphos are brown on their top side. They also feature “eye” spots and emit a stink when they feel threatened.
  • They don’t eat. But they do drink! Their favorites include tree sap, decomposing fruits (and even animals), fungi, and wet mud.
  • And the love the light! And because they refract light so well, you can see them from far away. Pilots have even reported seeing large groups, flying through the sun-drenched canopy.

Recommendations: 

To hike Diria National Park, you’ll need hiking shoes or, in the dry season, at least a pair of sturdy, closed-toed shoes (preferably sneakers). It is never advisable to hike in sandals or open footwear, in case of a close snake encounter. Additionally, be sure to pack plenty of sunblock and insect repellent, as well as sun protection (like hats).

Facilities at Diria are sparse; at times, even the ranger cannot be found. Be sure to take plenty of water, snacks, and other refreshments. (You can stock up in Santa Cruz, where you can also grab a quick meal at a local soda, or mom-and-pop restaurant.)

If you’re visiting during the dry season, when every last drop of water has evaporated from the surrounding scenery, then your best chance of spotting wildlife is at river mouths and other wet areas: birds, mammals, and reptiles often gather here, sipping from the oft-trickling waters of the riverbed.

Weather:

While you can visit Diria National Park any time of year, for best bird-watching, aim for the dry season (December through April). Otherwise known as North America’s winter, this is the season for both resident birds and migratory species alike.

That said, in green season, Diria’s rivers flow freely and the Brazil Waterfall roars to life. Note that in the highlands of Diria, rain falls fast and heavy, and roads, trails, and paths can be very slippery. Do not attempt to cross rivers, creeks, or other unknown bodies of water, if you can’t measure their depth.

Facilities & Services: 

As Costa Rican national parks go, Diria’s facilities are rather sparse. Officially, you’ll find potable water, lookout points, camping areas, restrooms, and parking.

Unofficially, Diria is one of Costa Rica’s least-visited national parks. The on-duty ranger is often out in the field, rather than manning a front desk that receives few daily visitors. If you arrive and no ranger is on duty, you may consider leaving your entrance fee at the front desk.

How to Get to Diria National Park: 

4wd in mud

4WD required! (At least, during green season.)

Diria National Park is located near the city of Santa Cruz, about 50 kms (~31 miles) southeast of Tamarindo.

To Drive: From Tamarindo, take Route 152/Route 160 east to Santa Cruz. From there, take Route 21 south to Arado; in Arado, the road becomes gravel for the final 6 kms. Follow signs to Diria National Park. A 4WD vehicle is highly recommended. You must cross a riverbed to reach the park entrance; in rainy season, the river can be high. Some choose to park and wade across the river.

Private Transportation/Tours: If you’re not quite up for the adventure of tackling Costa Rica’s backroads on your own, but you still want to hike, then your best option is to hire a driver or book a guide to Diria National Park. With either option, a guide will pick you up in Tamarindo and ferry you to the park in an air-conditioned 4×4. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Need Help? 

If you’d like help arranging a tour to Diria National Park, a rental 4×4, or private transport, please get in touchwith our concierge, Cris! Her services are free and we promise, she’ll hook you up with the best option to match your adventure style.

 

 

 

 

Santa Rosa National Park

Tropical Dry Forest

Infant spider monkey

 

 

Infant spider monkey

Santa Rosa National Park protects some of the last remaining tropical dry forest in the world. The small patch of oak forest near the entrance to the Comelco Ranch is probably representative of the original habitat of much of the park. Ranchers burned most of the plateau region, and African pasture grass (Hyparrenia rufa) and the fire resistant Bignoniaceae trees define the current landscape. Nearer the beaches the habitat becomes more native-like.

Guanacaste National Park was created in 1989 to connect Santa Rosa National Park with the high elevation cloud forest of Orosi and Cacao volcanoes and across the continental divide to the Caribbean rainforest of Northern Costa Rica. The hope is that together these two parks protect enough land to ensure sufficiently large habitats for wide-ranging species such as jaguars and mountain lions while simultaneously creating a biological corridor for birds and insects to make local seasonal migrations between the dry forest and the evergreen cloud and rain forests.

Playa Hachal Murcialago Santa Rosa

 

 

Playa Hachal Murcialago Santa Rosa

Beaches-Turtles, Scuba and Surfing

There are two important sea turtle nesting beaches in Santa Rosa, Naranjo and Nancite. The latter is one of two beaches in Costa Rica (the other is Ostional) where Pacific Ridley Sea Turtles come ashore each year in large arribadas to lay their eggs.

These mass arrivals can include thousands of individuals in a single night, usually on a new moon in late summer.

Sunset Cuajiniquil at the north border of Santa Rosa

 

 

Had to include this sunset at Cuajiniquil on our way out of the park because it’s just awesome

The beach at Naranjo is also famous for surfing, and the area near witch’s rock was a filming location for the cult surfing classic ‘Endless Summer II.’ There is a campground at Naranjo beach.

From outside the park you can arrange scuba-diving trips to Islas Murciélago, (the Bat Islands), off the Santa Elena Peninsula.

Hiking Trails and Maps

There are a number of excellent trails in Santa Rosa National Park for day or overnight trips.

1:50,000 Topographical maps are available online from Omni Maps (sheets CR50 3048 I, and CR50 3048 IV cover most of the park, but CR50 3048 II, and CR50 3048 III are required for the southern edges)

When to Visit

This is one of the hotter drier areas of Costa Rica, and the whole Guanacaste region has more predictable seasons than the rest of Costa Rica. The chance of rain is much less during the dry season from December to April.

Although it is fairly likely that it will rain on any given day during the rainy season (AKA the green season), it is also fairly likely that it will be a short shower in mid-afternoon. The rainy season which lasts from May until November is also usually interrupted by a two or three week dry spell in late July or August called the veranillo de San Juan (little summer).


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Use the menu to check the seasonal information to help you decide the best month for your visit.

Getting There

Fording German Creek

 

 

Fording German Creek

Location – Santa Rosa National Park is located at the northwestern tip of Costa Rica 118 miles (190 km) northwest of San José (136 miles, 219 km by road). Nearest towns Liberia & La Cruz.

Driving directions – From San José, take the Interamerican Highway (1) north 136 miles (219 km) passing through San Ramon, Cañas, and Liberia to the signed left turn at the entrance road.
Bus – Unfortunately there is not a direct way to reach the Santa Rosa Ranger Station by bus. Buses from San José or Liberia to La Cruz and the Nicaraguan border will drop you at the turnoff from the PanAmerican Highway and you’ll have to walk or hitch-hike the 4miles (7 km) to La Casona.
Air – The nearest airport is LIR outside Liberia.

Quick Facts Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Rosa National Park Location

One of Costa Rica’s larger parks, Santa Rosa covers 49,515 hectares with a wide range of habitats including beach, mangrove estuary, marine, pasture/farm, and tropical dry forest.

History at Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa may owe its early designation as a National Park to an attempted invasion by U.S. troops. The battle that occurred here is a source of great pride in Costa Rica, and the historical significance of the park helped win its protection by executive decrees in 1970 and 1977.

La Casona Santa Rosa National Park

 

 

La Casona

William Walker was an American lawyer who had designs on an empire. In June of 1855 he arrived in Nicaragua, propped up a failing regime, and set him self up as Commander-in-Chief. With this tenuous authority, he planned to convert all of Central America into slaving territory and use the slaves to build a canal from Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific (the San Juan River is navigable from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean so this canal would have linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as the Panama Canal does today).

Museum Santa Rosa N.P.

 

 

Museum Santa Rosa N.P.

With the financial backing of the Confederate Union of the southern United States, Walker sent an international army of mercenaries into Costa Rica. When word of the invasion reached the capital, President Juan Rafael Mora organized 9,000 civilians to march to Guanacaste. At the hacienda of Santa Rosa on March 20, 1856, the mercenaries were routed in a 14 minute battle. The victorious Ticos pushed Walker’s forces across the border into Nicaragua where they made another stand in a wooden fort in Rivas. On April 11, 1856 a drummer boy named Juan Santamaría, from Alajuela volunteered to set the fort afire, and although he successfully flushed the mercenaries he lost his life in the battle. He is remembered as a hero.

Saws and Wheels Santa Rosa la CasonaSaws and Wheels

Walker returned to the United States, where he practiced law for a while before returning to Central America in another takeover attempt. In 1860, he was captured by the Honduran government, found guilty of treason and shot. Interestingly, another central figure in this history met a similar fate. President Mora lost political favor and his job after the battle. When he tried to regain control of the country in a military coup, he was captured, tried for treason and died in front of a firing squad the same year as Walker.

Amazingly, this single incident encompasses much of the military history of Costa Rica. While Ticos are proud of their war heroes, and established Santa Rosa National Park in part to protect La Casona and the other buildings where the victory occurred, they are even prouder of their remarkably peaceful history.

La Casona Hacienda was the site of the most famous battle in Costa Rican history. Now it’s a museum and part of Santa Rosa National Park. This historic building was the site of the ‘epic’ Battle of Santa Rosa in 1856 and has been preserved as a monument. There are displays of military paraphernalia and everyday life at a Tico Hacienda in the mid 1800’s. Keep an eye out for the Long-tongued Bats that roost in the eves of the buildings.

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park has a uniquely dichotomous character.  It’s simultaneously a spectacular wetlands and one of the best examples of tropical dry forests remaining anywhere in the world.  This dual nature is a result of the Río Tempisque flooding over land located in a relatively arid climate region.

Water hyacinth that has run out of water

 

 

Water hyacinth that has run out of water

The park, like many in Costa Rica’s system consists largely of reclaimed pastureland. Fortunately, in the case of Palo Verde, the haciendas that preceded the park were somewhat different than the clear-cut ranches of the volcanic highlands. The underlying limestone, and the drier climate of the region gave rise to native forests where trees were sparser and there was more grass and forage in the natural ecosystem. Clear-cutting was not always necessary to ranching, and the park escaped it’s tenure as pasture with less damage than most.

Birds Dry Season and Rainy

Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills

 

 

Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills

Birds are the biggest attraction at Palo Verde National Park. In the wet season the floodwaters of the Río Tempisque spread to form extensive marshes that welcome migrant birds from the Americas at the onset of winter. As the December through May dry season (called summer in Costa Rica) progresses the marshes shrink to isolated patches and pools, and the migrants depart for their summer nesting grounds in temperate climates.

Many of the resident tropical bird species nest on a small mangrove island in the Río Tempisque. Isla de Pajaros (bird island), as it is known provides a safe place for Cattle Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Green-backed Herons, Anhingas, Great Egrets, and Black-crowned Night-Herons to breed. Other birds you can expect to see in the park include White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Snail Kite, American Widgeon, Northern Shoveler, and Blue-winged Teal.

Cattails with hills in the backgroundIn the dry season, many of the trees have dropped their leaves, and the wildlife is concentrated around the ever-shrinking water sources.  One of the best strategies for spotting the many species of mammals that Palo Verde National Park protects is to sit quietly near a water source. You may spot Variegated Squirrels, Howler Monkeys, White-nosed Coatis, White-tailed Deer, White-throated Capuchin Monkeys, and Collared Peccaries.

Rio tempisque from the shore in Palo Verde National ParkCycling Across the Park

Palo Verde National Park is one of our favorites. When we first visited, there was a little known and unused back entrance to the park, across the Bebedero river. We rode and carried our bicycles across the whole park to the campground near the ranger station (Read about Biking Palo Verde Park).

The entrance and the trails it serves are now closed except for official research, but you can rent mountain bikes from the Organization for Tropical Studies station to explore other parts of the park.

Getting to Palo Verde

Palo Verde national Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palo Verde national Park Location

Although the back door from Bebedero has been effectively closed, there is another very interesting way to enter the Park. On the Nicoya side of the Río Tempisque, you can hire a boat at the dock in the pueblo of Puerto Humo and power your way upriver to the Park. Arrange with your boatman ahead of time to get a close-up look at the Isla de Pajaros (Bird Island), and perhaps continue upriver past the park where the vegetation closes in and you are sure to see crocodiles.

Best Time to Visit

Palo Verde is located in one of the driest regions of Costa Rica but when it does rain here the roads can be impassable.  Birdwatching is also better in the dry season because there are many migrants who arrive from up north to escape the snow in December through May.


or see summary

Stay in the Park – OTS Lodge and Camping

There are a few parks and reserves in Costa Rica where it’s possible to spend the night in relative comfort and thanks to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Palo Verde is one of them.  Lodging, meals and guide services are all available by reservation (See details – OTS Palo Verde Lodge).

If you’ve got the gear, camping is also an option.  The campground near the ranger station provides access to potable water, showers and restrooms.

Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Boiling mud pots at Rincon de la Vieja Las Pailas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boiling mud pots

There are two places in the area where you can visit Yellowstone like geothermal sites. Boiling hot mud springs, sulfur springs, steam vents, and fumaroles are abundant at Las Pailas and Las Hornillas (not to be confused with Las Hornillas on the slopes of volcán Miravalles, near the village of La Fortuna de Bagaces) on the southern slope of the volcano inside the park.

The activity isn’t far from the surface anywhere in the region.  One of the largest geothermal electricity generation projects in the world is scattered through the valley between Rincón de la Vieja and volcán Miravalles. Driving near Guayabal or La Fortuna de Bagaces you can’t help but notice the stainless steel steam delivery pipes that snake their way from wells driven into the earth to the turbines in the generating stations.

Natural mineral hot springs 4km from the Las Pailas entrance at Rincon de la Vieja are a great place to soak but be sure you’re at the correct spot because some pools are near boiling and much too hot to enter.

The name, Rincón de la Vieja, translates to English as ‘the old woman’s corner.’ According to locals, the indigenous people of the Guatuso tribe named the volcano thus for one of two reasons. Either there was an old witch on top of the mountain who sent columns of smoke into the air when she was angry, or there was a kindly old woman occupying the same nook, and the smoke was from her cooking fire as she prepared meals for weary travelers. Maybe it’s both because the Rincón de la Vieja crater has had at least eight periods of intense volcanic activity, and still bubbles and steams.

Hiking Trails and Campgrounds

The Peaks – Rincón, Von Seebach & Santa Maria

Grasslands at Rincon de la ViejaNote: In 2014 the trails to the peaks were closed intermittently due to increased volcanic activity.  In 2015 permanent signs went up the trails to the top are off limits through 2020 (see volcano closures)

The climb to the top of volcán Von Seebach and Rincón de la Vieja is steep and strenuous, but very rewarding.  Starting from the mid elevation tropical dry forest transition zone near Las Pailas ranger station the trail aims straight for the peak.

It climbs into premontane wet forest where the trees covered with epiphytic vegetation hunch closer to the ground in the harsher climate.

The final ascent over bare volcanic rock to the summit of Von Seebach (6,217 feet) is often in the clouds as is the trail down and around the rim to volcán Rincón.

crater rim of Rincón de la Vieja

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crater rim of Rincón de la Vieja

It is possible to continue west from the crater of Rincón to volcán Santa Maria and down the slope to that ranger station and there is also a trail from the rim to Dos Ríos on the north edge of the park.

It’s strongly recommended to hire a guide to attempt either of these trails and please note that in 2014 and 2015 the trails to the peaks have been closed intermittently due to abnormally high levels of activity.  Have a backup plan – like the hot springs maybe?

The Traverse – Las Pailas Station to Santa María Station

Another main trail in the park is a traverse along the slopes of volcán Santa María between the Las Pailas (aka Las Espuelas) and Santa María stations.

Much less challenging but every bit as rewarding in different ways.  You stay mainly in the dry forest and rainforest crossing streams and rivers each of which offers a side trail to an amazing waterfall or two or natural back country hot springs.


…roots, rock, reggae?…keep your eye on the roots. It’s not a trick of the light, the roots really are rocking and moving as the wind twists this giant tree on a windy day on the traverse trail.

The Geothermal Features

Note: the new trails around Las Pailas and the new visitors center are intended to be wheelchair accessible and all season.

Las Pailas – the cauldrons is the name of the western entrance to Rincón de la Vieja National Park and also for the boiling mud pots, steam vents and mini-geysers near the ranger station.  A loop trail with interpretive signs leads from the ranger station past an interesting selection of geothermal features but our favorites -natural hot springs, mini geysers and fumaroles – are a little farther afield on the Crater Traverse trails.

Sue at the Catarata Bosque Encantado

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue at the Catarata Bosque Encantado

Waterfalls & Miradors

Other trails from each station lead to miradors and yet more waterfalls and anywhere you walk in the area you’ll see birds and other wildlife.

Santa Maria Campground

Campgrounds at the Hacienda Santa Maria

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campgrounds at the Hacienda Santa Maria

The campground at Santa María station is simple but one of the nicest of any Costa Rican national park.  Grassy tent sites, picnic tables, shade trees, fresh water, showers and outhouses. It was renovated in 2019 and costs $4 per person per night (plus the $15 park entry fee).  See other Costa Rica national parks with camping.

When to Visit

The park is open six days a week (CLOSED MONDAYS) year round including holidays.

This is one of the hotter drier areas of Costa Rica, and the whole region around Rincón de la Vieja has more predictable seasons than the rest of Costa Rica. The chance of rain is much less during the dry season from December to April, but the higher you climb, the more likely you are to get wet… any time of the year.

Although it is fairly likely that it will rain on any given day during the rainy season (AKA the green season), it is also fairly likely that it will be a short shower in mid-afternoon. The rainy season which lasts from May until November is also usually interrupted by a two or three week dry spell in late July or August called the Veranillo de San Juan (saint Joseph’s little summer).


or see summary

Use the drop down menu to see weather patterns and other seasonal information for the month you are thinking about visiting.

Nearby

One of the best things about this National Park are the excellent lodges nearby.  Both RDLV Lodge and Hacienda Guachipelín are highly recommended and the adventure pass activity package is a perfect adrenaline filled compliment to a day of quiet hiking and wildlife watching on the trails.


Adventure Pass – Zip wires through the rain forest, rappelling into a canyon, sloshing and careening down a river in a tube, plus rock climbing, horseback riding and waterfall jumping…

 

Quick Facts Volcán Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Rincon de la Vieja National Park Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rincon de la Vieja National Park Location

Guanacaste Travel Blog

Guanacaste Travel Blog

Guanacaste Travel

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Top things to see on your Guanacaste Vacation

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was the number one response I received when I began to discuss my plan of closing  the family shop in my native Cape Cod, picking up everything and starting a new life in Costa Rica. Fortunately I had discovered Costa Rica 

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Top things to see on your Guanacaste Vacation

Top things to see on your Guanacaste Vacation

The province of Guanacaste is situated on Costa Rica’s northwest shoulder, bordered by Nicaragua in the north and the Nicoya Peninsula in the south. Growing in popularity, the region’s “Gold Coast” boasts a variety of beautiful beaches and rich culture.

Top Things to Do in Guanacaste

Santa Rosa National Park

Guanacaste Costa Rica’s dry, flat plains merge with tropical dry forests to create landscapes akin to the American “wild west” and African savannas. This region supports Costa Rica’s beef and sugarcane production, and has several national parks and wildlife reserves.

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste

Guanacaste cacti

Costa Rica’s national tree, the Guanacaste, naturally thrives in the region’s arid climate. Cowboys and Campesinos of the cattle-country celebrate the Guanacaste for its abundant shade and the comfort it represents. The region of Guanacaste hasn’t yet forgotten its roots as a ranching area – topes, or rodeos, can be found nearly every weekend night during the summer months (between February and April).

Top Things to Do in Guanacaste

Liberia International Airport

The Daniel Oduber International Airport – one of two international airports in Costa Rica – is located in Guanacaste’s capital city of Liberia. The region’s best resorts and beaches are just an hour away by car.

Discover Top Guanacaste Beaches

Just west of Liberia lies the exclusive Peninsula Papagayo. This region features two of the most luxurious resorts in the country: the Andaz Papagayo and the Four Seasons. The 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course is also situated on the peninsula capturing breathtaking views of the Pacific.

Top Things to Do in Guanacaste

Playa Hermosa

Just south lie the grey-sands of Hermosa Beach which translates to “beautiful beach.” The waters here are generally calm making it a great family vacation spot. The nearby brown sands of Matapalo Beach host the guests of the all-inclusive RIU Guanacaste and RIU Palace which has created a more private resort experience for its visitors

Within Guanacaste Costa Rica is the popular town of Tamarindo which offers impressive restaurants and a bustling nightlife. The beaches of Tamarindo are some of the most popular in Costa Rica. Playa Tamarindo is a popular surfing destination, spread out beside the fast-growing beach town that was once a quiet fishing community, while the neighboring white sands of Langosta Beach are quieter and better suited to swimming.

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste

Conchal Beach

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Further south are the unique Flamingo Beach and Conchal Beach. The pinkish white sand of Flamingo Beach makes up a large section of Potrero Bay. All of the hotels on Flamingo Beach sit on a beautiful cliff overlooking the beach and ocean below. Conchal Beach, as the name suggests, was once composed primarily of crushed seashells, but have since been removed to be utilized in building and construction projects. Nearly all of Conchal Beach backs up to the Westin Playa Conchal Resort complex.

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste

Playa Mansita

Further south, Mansita Beach hosts the guests of the JW Marriott Guanacaste. Additionally, JW vacationers enjoy the amenities of Hacienda Pinilla, an exclusive resort and residential community featuring golf, tennis, stables, a beach club, and various dining options.

Related Article: Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Explore Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is famous for Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, it’s active crater, and the active landscape of geysers, mud pots, hot springs, and fumaroles surrounding them. Additionally, there are waterfalls, a lake, and wildlife to be found within the park. There are hiking trails within the park. One of the nicest trails within the park is the 1.75-mile Las Pailas loop.  It begins at the park entrance and leads you along some of the bubbling landscape. It’s possible to hike up to the summit, but it takes 7 hours for a total of just over 10 miles. Another hike is the La Cangrejo Waterfall and Blue Lake hike which is about 6 miles.

Tenorio Volcano National Park & Rio Celeste Waterfall

The remote Rio Celeste Waterfall is a naturally occurring brilliant turquoise waterfall within Tenorio Volcano National Park. Minerals in the volcanic soil combine to create the waterfall’s beautiful colors attracting travelers from around the world. It’s a roughly tw0-hour hike each way to reach Rio Celeste Waterfall.

Sea Turtle Nesting

The leatherback sea turtle, the largest in the world, returns to Playa Grande each year to bury its eggs in the sand. Sea turtle nesting times can be difficult to predict. Tours generally occur at night and must be organized with a guide to preserve these fragile ecosystems and keep the turtles coming back each year.

Santa Rosa National Park

Established in 1971, Santa Rosa National Park was the first national park in Costa Rica. It was initially founded to preserve La Casona, a ranch house celebrated for its role in Costa Rica’s independence. Today, it’s also known for its dry forest, beautiful beaches, birding, and surf. Sea turtles can also be seen nesting ashore Naranjo and Nancite Beach within the park. Nancite Beach is one of two locations in Costa Rica where Olive Ridley Sea Turtles come to shore for the annual arribada or mass sea turtle nesting.

Palo Verde National Park Wetlands

Palo Verde National Park is known for its wetlands with a large population of aquatic bird species and its tropical dry forests. This park is remote with over 300 species of tropical birds and alluvial planes from the Tempisque River attracting over 250,000 species of migratory geese, ducks, and other waterfowl. The park also has the only scarlet macaw colony to permanently inhabit a dry forest.

More Guanacaste Attractions & Things To Do:

  • White Sand Beaches
  • Surfing
  • SCUBA Diving
  • Fishing
  • Golf

Guanacaste Travel FAQ:

Guancaste is known for its long summer days, cowboy culture, and its unique desert flora and fauna paired with picturesque beaches.

It is mostly dry year-round, but greenest June through November (green season). It can occasionally rain in the afternoons during the green season, and in the dry season might see no rain for several months.

95°F average high

 Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia has come a long way since opening in 2012.

 Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia has come a long way since opening in 2012.

The  terminal at the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, capital of the northwest province of Guanacaste, opened its doors to the public in 2012 Tourists  were finally able to enjoy the $41 million project by concessionaire Coriport. To say that the International airport has changed the face of Tourism for Guanacaste’s Pacific Gold Coast would be a vast understatement. In fact the airport met with such high demand that an expansion project began in  2016 only 4 years after opening its doors and was completed in late 2017.

Airport administrator Corporación Interamericana de Inversiones (CORIPORT) invested $10.3 million to expand the terminal and increase its  capacity by about 20 percent.

The project consisted of building new boarding gates, VIP lounges, shops and offices over an area of 2,633 square meters (some 28,340 square feet). It also involved the renovation of 1,485 square meters (16,000 square ft) of current waiting and baggage claim areas.

The company  installed a new X-ray system, new video and audio systems for passenger information, and an improved wireless network for Internet access.

CORIPORT General Manager César Jaramillo said in a news release that the company hoped all these improvements will allow it to continue offering first-class service for travelers. The expansion enabled the terminal to receive new flights from at least five more airlines in the short term, he said.

 The Covid Crisis  put a real damper on the tourism trade but the Airport which is located in Liberia, The capital city of the Guanacaste province has since resumed and even expanded incoming flights. 

Starting September 13, United Airlines flies daily from Houston, Texas to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San José, and thrice weekly to Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, Guanacaste.

In addition, United Airlines increased its October offerings from Newark, New Jersey, to Costa Rica. The airline projects daily service to SJO, and Saturday flights to LIR.

At the end of October, United Airlines  launched a flight to Costa Rica from Denver, Colorado, according to the ICT, which coordinates with airlines and the Civil Aviation Administration (DGAC).

Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR). Liberia, Guanacaste

 The possibilites available upon touching down have expanded greatly since the Airport’s inception in 2012 offering a wide array of tourism activities and of course Guanacaste’s renowned perfect winter weather and abundant wellness and ecologically friendly offerings.

 An important thing to remember when planning your Costa Rican vacation  is choosing the right airport to diminish overall travel time during your visit your stay. If the cooler central valley weather and cultural offerings of the capitol of San Jose are more your wont, then the Juan Santa Maria airport in San Jose is your best bet, however if you are after the water activities of the Guanacaste Gold Coast beaches then the Liberia International Airport is the correct choice, remember the beaches of the northern Pacific coast are a 6 hour drive from the capitol city so choose your landing city carefully. 

 The Liberia airport website is a great resource providing many options for getting you from the airport to many of the favorite destinations on the gold coast

Christies Tamarindo Real Estate

Contact Christies Tamarindo

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Pacific Park, Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

+506-8353-8999

brian@tamaluxury.com

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