Five Best National Parks in Costa Rica
With over a quarter of its land dedicated to parks and ecological reserves, Costa Rica has more parkland than any other nation. In 1970 this small national began a rigorous program to set aside its special places. For the visitor it comes down to deciding on the type of nature you want to experience, and then finding the closest park.
#1 Parque Nacional Volcán Poás – A volcano conveniently near the city.
Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is only a couple of hours from San Juan, but seems like a another planet. In the 8,900-foot high, mile-wide crater, a green sulfuric lake bubbles and sprays lava, creating geyers up to 590 feet high.
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On my visit the summit was obscured by fog, but the unworldly landscapes, cloud forest, the hummingbirds and rare Poás Squirrels made it worthwhile.
Tours from San Jose are easily arranged at any hotel.
#2 Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio – A compact jungle teeming with life.
Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast is a concentrated coastal jungle, home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and dozens of reptiles. Also there are whales, porpoises, seals and tropical fish off the beautiful beaches.
The best way to see it is with a guide who knows where the creatures are and carries a telescope to view and photograph them. You’ll see Howler, Whiteface, and Squirrel Monkeys, Sloths, Green and Black Spiny Iguanas, Basilisks, Agoutis (giant rodents), Toucans and a wide variety of tropical birds.
#3 Parque Nacional Cahuta – Caribbean coral reef and jungle.
A tropical jungle, alive with pacas, armadillos, sloths, iguanas, and monkeys, plays second banana to Cahuta’s main attraction: 240 hectares of coral reef. You can scuba or snorkel among brain coral and sea fan coral that is home to 500 species of fish, including Parrotfish, Striped Zebra Fish, Puffers, and Groupers.
Cahuta Park is 40 minutes from Limon, and three hours from San Jose. You can stay at Cahuta village outside the park gate, or in nearby Puerto Viejo.
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#4 Parque Nacional Tortuguergo – Sea turtles, mangrove swamp, and jungle.
This section of Caribbean Costa Rica is reserved for nesting sea turtles along a coastline inundated with waterways through mangrove swamp and jungle. Giant Leatherback Turtles, Green Sea and Hawksbill Turtles find this these beaches ideal for egg laying. You can also see manatees, caiman, crocodiles, frogs, monkeys, and a myriad of birds. The best way is from a boat, and tour boats are based in Tortuguera Village which is accessible by sea from Limon or by small plane from San Jose.
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#5 Reserva Biologica Bosque Nubosso Monteverde – Cloud forest bird watcher’s heaven.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is ideal habitat to 2,500 species of flora and fauna. There are over 400 types of orchids alone. Only 160 people are permitted into the park at any time. You may see dozens of types of hummingbirds and maybe even the rare Resplendent Quetazal.
Hiring a naturalist guide will guarantee you won’t miss a thing, not matter how elusive or well camouflaged.
To arrange a visit to any of these national parks, contact South American Vacations , a specialist in trips to Costa Rica .