Barbilla National Park
Costa Rica is a country well known for its many protected areas and national parks. Ironically, in the past, it also had the distinction of being the country with the highest degree of deforestation. Most of this deforestation occurred in the easiest places to cut down trees; the flat and rolling terrain of the lowlands. The Caribbean lowlands in particular have been drastically altered with much of the majestic rain forests converted to banana fields and other agricultural landscapes. Most of the remaining forests are found off the beaten track, some protected as national parks. The rugged wilderness of Barbilla National Park is one such area.
Location and how to get there
Barbilla National Park protects nearly 12,000 hectares of lowland and foothill rain forest on the flanks of the Talamanca Mountain Range south of the town of Siquirres. Siquirres is located along the main highway between San Jose and Limon about 30 minutes after Guapiles (1.5 hours from San Jose). Between 3 and 4 kilometers past Siquirres, heading towards Limon, take a right and go 16 kilometers along a rough road to the village of Pacuarito las Brisas. An administrative building is found here for up to date information about park accessibility. Who knows; maybe a ranger will join you for exploration of the Barbilla rain forest.
In light of the amount of forest destruction that has occurred in the Caribbean lowlands, the size of Barbilla National Park combined with its connection to other protected areas gives this national park a very important role in conserving the high biodiversity of the Caribbean lowlands. Although very few surveys have been carried out in the remote forests of Barbilla, the known occurrence of top predators such as jaguars and pumas and large herbivores such as Baird’s Tapir indicates an intact ecosystem. Although 200 bird species have been recorded, over 300 are probable with rare species such as Great Curassow and Great Green Macaw present. Barbilla National Park also hosts thousands of insects and plant species; several of which are probably unknown to science.
Barbilla is a national park for the most adventurous of travelers. The ranger station at Las Brisas encompasses the only facilities (which are basic in nature) while the broken terrain and high rainfall make the few, barely maintained trails difficult for walking. Nevertheless, there are few places in Costa Rica where one can drive to a park to experience virgin Caribbean lowland rain forest. Barbilla offers a rare wilderness experience on the Caribbean slope with little chance you will run into anyone else. It is the type of place where you can discover your own jungle waterfall and have close encounters with rain forest wildlife. It’s also the type of place that should only be visited with serious preparation, including bringing a guide who knows the park.
Barbilla National Park doesn’t have any hotels within its boundaries and the ranger station doesn’t offer lodging. If you like camping, the rangers might let you put up a tent near the station. A few small hotels are found in Siquirres and Guapiles.