Palo Verde National Park
The air shimmers in waves of heat over the plains, meanderings of air currents revealed by the bowing and quivering of the grass. The heat waves hide the true nature of white dots and blobs scattered across the fields. The swift flight of a hawk and the white objects are suddenly up and flying. As they rise above the hot air, they are revealed to be hundreds of birds; egrets, herons, storks, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, even pink Roseate Spoonbills. They were feeding in the grass, wetlands actually, of Palo Verde National Park, Costa Rica.
Location and how to get there
Palo Verde National Park is found off the beaten track in northwestern Costa Rica, just north of the Nicoya Gulf about 30 kilometers southwest of Bagaces. From San Jose, drive north along the main highway towards Liberia. Near Bagaces, watch for signs that indicate the turn-off to Palo Verde. From here, much of the road is dirt and likely impassable during most of the wet season (May-November). Continue to follow signs for the national park until the entrance is reached. Past the entrance, a few dirt roads provide access to Palo Verde National Park. The whole trip takes around 4-5 hours from San Jose.
A RAMSAR site, or wetland of global importance, Palo Verde is the largest and most important wetland on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica. This national park is of vital importance for the survival of the huge Jabiru Stork in Costa Rica. These largest of American stork species require extensive wetlands such as Palo Verde. This national park is also a stronghold for several other bird and animal species dependent upon freshwater wetlands in Costa Rica such as Spectacled Caiman, Roseate Spoonbill and several herons. Palo Verde National Park also protects large tracts of dry forest with a small population of Scarlet Macaws, Jaguars and Pumas.
Boat ride down the Tempisque River
Palo Verde National Park is essentially in the heart of the floodplain for the Tempisque River. A boat ride down the Tempisque is a great, relaxed way to see lots of waterbirds, caimans and other wildlife. Inquire at the park headquarters for this exciting trip.
Palo Verde is one of the wilder, more isolated national parks in Costa Rica. The low population density in the surrounding areas makes Palo Verde a core sector of a larger area used by wildlife. This fact combined with the open nature of the forest and wetlands makes Palo Verde one of the best places to see wildlife in Costa Rica. Aside from the easy viewing of literally 1,000s of waterbirds in the vicinity of the park buildings, coatis, deer, armadillos, even wild cat species and more are all possible along the roads and trails. Night hikes are especially productive for wildlife viewing at Palo Verde since most of the animals are nocturnal to avoid the intense tropical sun.
Palo Verde is one of the few national parks that offers lodging within its boundaries. This lodging, however, can be full with student groups as it is part of the Organization for Tropical Studies research station at Palo Verde. Ensenada Lodge is an ecolodge near the southern border of the park. Several hotels are found around Liberia; an hour to two hours drive from the headquarters.