Costa Rica is well known for its biodiversity. Facts like having 5% of the worlds biodiversity or that 25% of its land is protected, have resounded deeply. As Costa Ricans these makes us happy and proud; however, as seasoned professionals of the hospitality industry, we have identified some misconceptions we feel important to address with helpful information about what to find where.
One of the most frequent questions visitors have is why havent I seen a slot? Or, where is the jungle? Costa Rica has 12 ecosystems in the country and 6 different types of forests, so it is important to know where to go if you want to see a slot, where to enjoy the rainforest or just lay down on a stunning beach.
On this guide, we will try to simplify a complex topic, showing you the national parks of Costa Rica per province and what you can experience on the main protected areas you can visit. We will cover one province per week, starting with our own favorite which we are privileged to call home:
Located on the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Guanacaste is home to 9 Protected areas:
- Santa Rosa National Park
- Guanacaste National Park
- Las Baulas National Marine Park and Tamarindo Wildlife Refugee
- Barra Honda National Park
- Palo Verde National Park
- Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve
- Ostional Wildlife Refugee
- Bolaos Island Wildlife Refugee
- Rincn de la Vieja National Park (shared between Guanacaste and Alajuela)
Guana, as we Ticos call it, is covered mostly by Tropical Dry Forest but also presents other ecosystems such as humid forests (Tropical and Premontane) and Rain Forest in the highlands (Premontane and Lower Montane). This means that within an area of 3,915 sq. mi. you can experience a wide variety of wildlife. Here are the main protected areas of the province:
Guanacaste Conservation Area
This amazing conservation area covers 2% of the extent of Costa Rica in a single uninterrupted block of protected wildlife area of 402,781 acres, holding 2.3% of the worlds biodiversity. The ACG (acronym for rea de Conservacin Guanacaste) is home of the Santa Rosa National Park and the Guanacaste National Park and has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
The Guanacaste National Park, is a bird paradise with more than 300 species. Other wildlife that can be found here are the tepezcuintle (low land paca), deer, jaguar, the white-faced monkey, cougar, tapir, coatis, the collared peccary, armadillo, the tayra and the two-toed sloth. It is also estimated that more than 5,000 species of butterflies live in this area. The highlands of the Park are represented by the Oros and Cacao Volcanoes. To visit this National Park, a special permit needs to be coordinated because of its incredible natural value.
Santa Rosa National Park has an open paid access with the presence of park rangers, hiking trails, lookout points, parking, camping areas, picnic tables and bathrooms. Santa Rosa is the perfect place for beach lovers: Playa Blanca, Baha Santa Elena, and Baha El Hachal are beautiful and secluded beaches you can visit. The most important ecosystem in this area is the Tropical Dry Forest, holding the one of the largest extension of this type of forest in the world. When visiting Santa Rosa, you could see Howler monkeys, White-faced monkeys, armadillos, deer, tapirs, coatis, collared peccaries, cougars, jaguars, raccoons, more than 250 species of birds, 10,000 species of insects and more than 3,000 species of butterflies.
Rincn de la Vieja National Park
The Rincn de la Vieja volcano is the main attraction of this National Park with its hot spring waters, mud pots and vapor geysers. This area is also great for birdwatching with more than 300 species including toucans. Some mammals that habitat this Park are the mountain goat, the collared peccary, the Central American agouti, the tayra, the armadillo, the anteater, the two-toed sloth and the howler, white-faced and spider monkeys.
Las Baulas National Park and Ostional Wildlife Refugee
If you have always dreamed of watching a sea turtle nest or hatch, these two protected areas are for you. We invite you to read more about these two areas in our past blog post: Sea Turtle Nesting and Hatching in Costa Rica
Barra Honda National Park
For the adventurous, we recommend visiting the caves at Cerro Barra Honda. This important cavern system was formed 60 million years ago by the force of a tectonic fracture making ancient reefs emerge. From a complex system of caverns, only 19 have been explored with depths from 69 ft to 787 ft. La Terciopela is the most interesting and visited cavern with strange formations such as mushrooms, popcorn and more. The protected area also offers hiking trails on which you could see some fauna like coyote, armadillo, collared peccary, white-faced and howler monkeys, ocelot, cougar, lowland paca, deer, jaguarondi, tayra, kinkajou, margay and coatis.
Palo Verde National Park
This amazing protected area is home to 15 different habitats and the most important congregation of water birds in all Central America. September to March is the best season to visit the Park if you are interested in birds as this is when thousands of herons, jabirus, egrets, grebes, ibises, ducks and jacanas converge in the lagoons to feed and reproduce.
Some other animals that can be spotted are crocodiles, howler and white-faced monkeys, coatis, red squirrels and porcupines.
We invite you to explore Guanacaste and its unique biodiversity. Contact us for more information and find more information about Costa Ricas Biodiversity next week.