Piedras Blancas National Park
The forests around the Golfo Dulce of southwestern Costa Rica have high levels of biodiversity and endemism; two factors that make sustainable use and protection of this area a priority. When a natural area is both under threat and a link between other important natural areas, its protection becomes urgent. Such was the case of Piedras Blancas National Park. Piedras Blancas protects a large area of lowland rain forest (14,000 hectares) that forms a vital link between Corcovado Park and Golfito Wildlife Refuge. Created in 1991 as a sector of Corcovado, it was named a national park in 1999 to better combat the illegal logging and ownership issues it faced.
Location and how to get there
Piedras Blancas National Park is found along the Golfo Dulce in extreme southwestern Costa Rica. The village of La Gamba is the main entrance to this park while Golfito is the principle town in the area. The easiest way to arrive is by plane to the Golfito airfield, then by boat to one of the lodges found along the beaches of the park. The long route is by car from San Jose. An 8 hour drive along the Pan-American highway, the road goes up and over the 3,000 meter plus Cerro de la Muerte and passes through San Isidro del General and Palmar Sur before reaching the turn-off for the village of La Gamba.
Piedras Blancas is a park of high importance for Costa Rican and global diversity. Over 350 bird, 140 mammal, 40 plus reptile and 1,000s of insect species are known from Piedras Blancas. This is a key area for sustaining populations of animals and plants restricted to the Golf Dulce forests such as the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager and Golfo Dulce Poison Dart Frog. It’s also very important for animals that require large areas of forest such as Jaguar, White-lipped Peccary and Harpy Eagle. This park is especially important for the latter two species as the forests of the Golf Dulce/Corcovado area represent their last known strongholds in Costa Rica. Floral diversity is also very high with some studies showing more species of trees (140 tree species per hectare) than Corcovado National Park.
Rain forest adventures
Although Piedras Blancas National Park lacks facilities for the general public, most of the lodges in the park offer a variety of exciting tours that also provide income to locals who would otherwise be logging and hunting within the park. Hiking within this beautiful rainforest with a local guide will likely be an experience of a lifetime with views of 4 monkey species as well as many other animal species. Other animals common in Piedras Blancas are sloths, small anteaters, opossums, peccaries, toucans, parrots, manakins, and much more. A night hike is recommended as Piedras Blancas is an especially good place to see reptiles and amphibians. Other than experiencing the rain forest, some of the other tour possibilities are kayaking and snorkeling in the Golfo Dulce, mountain biking and cultural tours to the village of La Gamba.
Most of the accommodation options are top end bungalows and ecolodges found in the park along the beach such as the Golfo Dulce Lodge, Saladero Lodge and Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge. The community based Esquinas Rainforest Lodge is found near La Gamba.