Costa Rica National Parks
Costa Rica is famous for its national parks and protected areas. This fame is at very least warranted when one takes into consideration that this small country has set aside a higher percentage of protected land than any other. When one also takes into account the raw beauty and incredible biodiversity protected by its national parks, it is of no wonder why 1000s of tourists visit Costa Rica each year.
Ballena Marine National Park
One of two parks entirely dedicated to marine environments, this one is for the whales; the Humpbacked variety that journey to its warm, calm tropical waters to give birth. Aside from whale watching opportunities, people journeying to Ballena also have kilometers of quiet beaches and gorgeous coral reefs awaiting them.
Barbilla National Park
A park for the adventurous, this large area of lowland Caribbean slope rainforest has almost no facilities. However, it does provide the chance to find your own jungle waterfall and see rare wildlife in a habitat that has become difficult to find in Costa Rica. If you are looking for rainforest discovery, this wilderness is less than a three hour drive from San Jose.
Barra Honda National Park
Costa Rica has so much to offer that if you would like to go spelunking one day and watch monkeys the next, you can do it at this national park. Barra Honda is the only national park established for its caverns. Not exactly a walk in the park, descent into these caves requires a professional guide.
Cahuita National Park
One of the smallest but also one of the most beautiful, Cahuita invites with Caribbean flavor. Stroll along beautiful beaches with a rainforest backdrop. Take in the beauty of its coral reef on a snorkeling trip. Visit the town of the same name for Caribbean food and culture. Cahuita offers this and more.
Cocos Island National Park
Cocos Island is famous for rumors of buried pirate treasure and amazing marine life. Although the rainforest is too dense and terrain too difficult to search for treasure, the spectacle of marine life is true and you will be rewarded with schools of Hammerhead Sharks and more on a dive trip to this world heritage site.
Juan Castro Blanco National Park
Protecting the cloud forests between Poas Volcano and the Tilaran mountain range, this national park acts as a biological corridor between Braulio Carrillo National Park and the forests of Arenal and Monteverde. The cloud forests of Juan Castro Blanco hide one of Costa Rica’s tallest waterfalls and Platanar Volcano; active enough to keep the nearby springs hot.
Diria National Park
Santa Cruz is a city in Guanacaste frequented for its cultural festivals. Most folks overlook the national park that tops the nearby hills. If headed to Tamarindo Beach, Diria is right on the way and provides a pleasant stop with trails through old growth forest, a beautiful waterfall and fantastic scenery.
Guanacaste National Park
Come to Guanacaste Park to experience a tropical forest type that has been overlooked as a conservation priority; the tropical dry forest. This large park offers the chance to speak with researchers, view a variety of wildlife, take long hikes through dry and cloud forest and is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can see petroglyphs.
Braulio Carrillo National Park
One of the closest national parks to San Jose, because of its steep terrain it’s also very little known. This is one of the most biodiverse parks in Costa Rica. An incredible number of species are protected in dense forests that extend from close to 3,000 meters atop Barva Volcano down to the steamy lowlands. A couple of well maintained trails access this wilderness.
La Amistad International Park
The largest park in Costa Rica is also one of its most important in terms of the biodiversity it protects. It’s so big that Panama shares part of this international park. Covering much of the high areas of the Talamanca Mountain Range, La Amistad offers wilderness hikes through virgin montane rain forest with Quetzals, Tapirs and other amazing wildlife.
La Cangreja National Park
Protecting some of the last virgin forest of Costa Rica’s south Pacific slope, La Cangreja is a site for several plants found nowhere else, has excellent birding and is transected by clear bubbling streams. The seldom visited park of La Cangreja is also just a 2 hour drive from San Jose and an excellent place to work as a volunteer.
Las Baulas National Marine Park
This is the other park dedicated to protecting marine life; the Leatherback Turtle in particular. Although most of the park is in the ocean, you can see some serious turtle action as this largest of sea turtle species comes to nest on the beaches of Las Baulas from October to March. They nest at night so you have all day to relax on the beach or learn how to surf in nearby Tamarindo.
Palo Verde National Park
Nestled between rivers at the head of the Nicoya Gulf in the dry northwest, Palo Verde is a paradoxical wetland park in dry forest. The wetlands are some of the most important in the country and provide habitat for 1000s of birds. The open nature of the marshes and forests of Palo Verde make it a great place for wildlife viewing.
Piedras Blancas National Park
A large area of lowland rain forest in extreme southwestern Costa Rica, Piedras Blancas is a fantastic place for the naturalist. The birding and herping is excellent in this biological wonderland. If you tire of the wonders of the rain forest, you can always take a kayak tour to see dolphins in the calm waters of the Golfo Dulce.
Poas Volcano National Park
One of the principle volcanoes near San Jose, Poas looms up to the northwest of the city. It is still active and is one of the easiest active craters to visit; just drive on up to the entrance then walk an easy one kilometer to the edge of the crater.
Carara National Park
One of the most accessible lowland rainforests in Costa Rica, Carara is a must for every visitor. The trails through fantastic tall rainforest harbor 100s of bird species including spectacular Scarlet Macaws, Trogons and Manakins as well as monkeys, agoutis and other wildlife. Stop at the Tarcol bridge on the way out to see huge American Crocodiles.
Chirripo National Park
The highest mountain in Costa Rica tops out at 3,820 meters and is a national park. If you are fit enough, do the long hike uphill and look down upon the clouds. On the way up watch for Quetzals and other bird life of the rich montane rain forests. After coming back down, relax those sore muscles in nearby hot springs.
Corcovado National Park
This most famous wilderness of Costa Rica has extensive lowland rain forests filled with animals and immense trees. Brilliant Scarlet Macaws abound, large cats occur and monkeys are very common. Bull Sharks and Crocodiles move up the rivers and the sea is too rough for swimming; best to go with a guide in this wild place.
Santa Rosa National Park
Northwestern Costa Rica is hot, windy and dry for half the year. Santa Rosa National Park epitomizes this and provides a look at what the habitat used to look like in this region. Peccaries and 3 monkey species are common here along with large cats and other animals. While looking for wildlife, check out the historical ranch house.
Tapanti National Park
A cloud forest with a pleasant climate, picnic areas, beautiful scenery and easy access, this national park near Cartago is a great place to bring the family. Watch for hummingbirds visiting the flowering trees and breathe in the fresh, scented cloud forest air. If the kids get bored, bring them to a nearby trout pond for fishing.
Rincon de La Vieja National Park
Long hikes through tropical forest, scenic waterfalls, the ashen slopes near an active volcanic crater, bubbling mud pits, fumaroles and beautiful scenery; Rincon de La Vieja offers all of this and more. You can also go rafting in nearby rivers, horseback riding through tropical grasslands, and the list goes on of things to do around this national park.
Tenorio Volcano National Park
Found off the typical tourist track in northern Costa Rica, Tenorio Volcano National Park has the hot springs, waterfalls and amazing cloud forests of other volcanoes. However, it also has a fantastic river naturally dyed blue by the volcano and a community owned ecolodge with bridges that look into the rainforest canopy.
Turrialba Volcano National Park
This volcano is situated at the eastern end of the central valley near Cartago. It towers over Turrialba town and threatens farm fields near its crater with acidic gases. Obviously these gases can also seriously threaten you which is why visits to the crater and its fantastic scenery are limited to 30 minutes.
Arenal Volcano National Park
This most spectacularly active volcano in a land of volcanoes is a must see for any visitor to Costa Rica. It erupts with rumbling sounds, steam and lava just about every day but is often obscured by clouds. A visit during the drier months of February, March and April are more likely to yield night time views of the glowing lava.
Irazu Volcano National Park
Towering to the northeast of San Jose and above Cartago, Irazu is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica. Enjoy the spectacular scenery on the drive up to the 3,000 plus meter summit and look into its impressive crater filled with green water. Bring a sweater or jacket for the windy, cool mountain weather.
Manuel Antonio National Park
A white sand beach and a turquoise lagoon with a rain forest backdrop; it’s no wonder that so many people visit Manuel Antonio National Park. Swim in the warm tropical Pacific, take a boat for exciting deep sea fishing or eat fresh seafood in one of the many excellent restaurants in the area; this small park is one of the gems of Costa Rica.
Tortuguero National Park
Found on the central Caribbean coast, the beaches of Tortuguero are one of the major nesting sites for the Green Sea Turtle. When not watching for turtles, take a boat ride through the swamp forest here to leisurely watch herons, kingfishers, howler monkeys and sloths high up in the tall trees of the rain forest.