La Cangreja National Park
The rain forests of the southern Pacific slope in Costa Rica form their own bioregion. Their isolation from other rain forests by mountains and dry habitats has allowed many endemic species to evolve. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these forests have been cut down for cattle farms and oil palm plantations. The Costa Rican government has recognized the biological importance of these rare forests and has given most of the remaining virgin areas protected status. One of the newest national parks, La Cangreja, protects around 2,000 hectares of this threatened habitat. Although close to San Jose, this park is little known and rarely visited making La Cangreja ideal for an adventurous escape from the city.
Location and how to get there
La Cangreja National Park is located near Puriscal, on the other side of the mountains found to the south of San Jose. From San Jose, head towards Ciudad Colón and Puriscal. Once Puriscal is reached, follow signs to Parrita and Quepos. Eventually you will see signs for La Cangreja National Park. The whole trip takes about 2 hours.
La Cangreja protects very wet (4 meters of annual rainfall) and pre-montane rain forest. La Cangreja National Park has a high level of biodiversity and is especially important for plant species. Of the 2,000 plant species expected to occur, several were described from the park and some have been found nowhere else. Although the small size of the park doesn’t support populations of larger animals such as tapir and jaguar, populations of smaller mammals such as Ocelot, Margay and White-faced Capuchins occur. There are around 300 bird species present including a small population of Scarlet Macaws and Sunbittern along the crystal clear streams. The parks connection between high and low elevations is also important for animals that need to migrate up and down-slope such as parrots and other frugivorous birds.
Hiking in la Cangreja National Park
Although La Cangreja has very little in terms of facilities, there are a few trails that can be hiked and used to explore this beautiful rain forest. Birding is especially good at la Cangreja; bird activity always seems to be high with flashy species such as manakins and trogons fairly common. Monkeys and sloths are also common and the primary forest crossed by streams and rivers with breathtaking waterfalls.
Interning at Rancho Mastatal
Rancho Mastatal is an environmental learning center and lodge dedicated to conservation of the La Cangreja area. Interns can help with reforestation, carry out biological surveys and get first-hand experience of working with local communities on sustainable use projects. They also have an extensive network of trails in the forest.
The hilly roads in the area that pass through pasture and forest are excellent for mountain biking. Traffic is light and the scenery fantastic.
Rancho Mastatal is the closest accommodation and is mid-range to expensive in price. There are a few hotels in Puriscal (a 1 hour, 20 minute drive) and many in Escazu and San Jose (2 hours drive).