The National Parks of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is famous for it's world class National Park system. There are approximately three dozen parks composed of national parks, biological reserves, wildlife refuges, monuments and recreational areas. These make up almost 12% of Costa Rica.

Forest reserves and indigenous reservations protect additional land areas. This raises the total amount of protected area to 27% of Costa Rica. This remarkably enlightened view has produced a wide variety of benefits, for the wildlife, of course, but also for visitors and the local populace that work in tourism and conservation related activities. This kind of far reaching thinking has paved the way for countries around the world and has shown how to do the same in a sustainable way.

There is a plan to link some of these protected areas into so-called regional conservation units. By joining national parks, private conservation areas and others, bridges can be created which would allow wildlife to migrate, and move through larger areas that protect their natural territories.

There are several private conservation efforts in Costa Rica, several with lodging and tour facilities. These are efforts to create a sustainable protection program where tourim pays for the ongoing conservation of the land. This model has proven to be very effective and it is being introduced slowly throughout the region.

New Wildlife Refuge in Sarapiqui Costa Rica

A brand new nature refuge has been created in the Northern area of Sarapiqui Costa Rica called Taripia. At 129 hectares, the reserve has 22 mammal species and 142 types of trees.
This adds to Costa Rica's extensive protected wildland areas comprised of 161 areas which add up to more than 25% of the country's territory.

Arenal National Park

Size: 2920 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste Province, north of Tilaran Mountains, in the cantons of Tilaran, San Carlos and San Ramon.
Description: Cloud forest, premontane tropical forest.
Number of visitors: No statistics available.
Services: None.

Barra Honda National Park

Size: 2,295 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste Province, 22 kilometers north of Nicoya.
Description: Important limestone reef formations from when area was submerged 60 million years ago, as well as extensive system of caves. Must go with guide.
Number of visitors: 2,389.
Services: Information, restrooms, potable water.

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Size: 45,899 hectares.
Location: Northeast of Central Valley, between Poas and Irazu volcanoes, extending from Alto de la Palma to La Selva Biological Station in Sarapiqui.
Description: 4500 mm of rainfall per year fill this park with innumerable rivers and waterfalls, as well as over 6500 species of plants and animals. Its size and proximity to San Jose make it an ideal destination.
Number of Visitors: 11,513.
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, restrooms, potable water, exhibits.

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

Size: 1,172 hectares land and 1790 hectares marine.
Location: Puntarenas Province, south tip of Nicoya Penninsula.
Description: Refuge for fauna and flora of Pacific dry region, 119 species of trees. Costa Rica's oldest official biological reserve.
Number of Visitors: 8,307
Services: Information, picnic areas, primitive latrines, potable water.

Cahuita National Park

Size: 1,068 hectares land, 22,400 hectares marine.
Location: On Caribbean coast in Limon Province, 42 kilometers south of Limon.
Description: Turquoise water and extensive coral reefs make this the most popular destination of amateur divers. Inability to control maritime access has led to considerable damage to the reef, and experts are concerned that site will be permanently destroyed by poorly trained divers.
Number of Visitors: No statistics available
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, restrooms, showers and parking.

Cangreja National Park

Size: 1973 hectares.
Location: Puriscal, San Jose Province, Costa Rica. Northwest of San Jose.
Description: Lower forest forestation. Although the area is relatively small, because it is a migratory bird refuge it actually has more birds and flora than the Corcovado National Park in the South Pacific of Costa Rica.
Number of visitors: No statistics available.
Services: None.

Research study on Cangreja National Park

Cano Island Biological Reserve

Size: 200 hectares land, 2700 hectares marine.
Location: In Pacific Ocean, 15 kilometers off the coast of Corcovado National Park on Osa Peninsula.
Description: Primarily tropical rainforest, also an important pre-Columbian archeological site. Coral reef, dolphins and whales.
Number of Visitors: 3,325
Services: Information, potable water, restrooms.

Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge

Size: 9,969 hectares.
Location: Northern Alajuela province, Guatuso lowlands, 20 kilometers south of Los Chiles.
Description: Lowland swamp and freshwater drainage basin for the Frio River. Protects thousands of migratory birds, as well as ocelot, jaguar, tapir, peccary and several species of monkey.
Number of Visitors: No information available.
Services: Information, picnic areas.

Carara Biological Reserve

Size: 4,700 hectares.
Location: Puntarenas Province, southeast of Orotina.
Description: Transitional zone between dry and humid forest. Human encroachment along perimeters, illegal mining, poorly controlled tourists and fires have taken major toll on this tiny patch of forest surrounded by development.
Number of Visitors: 26,754.
Services: Information, primitive latrines, potable water, parking.

Chirripo National Park

Size: 50,150 hectares.
Location: Part of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, in Talamanca mountain range, 20 kilometers northeast of San Isidro de El General.
Description: Includes the highest mountain peak in the country at 3,820 meters above sea level. Extremely difficult terrain and few visitors make it a paradise for hard core hikers and climbers.
Number of Visitors: 1,862.
Services: Information, picnic areas, restrooms.

Cocos Island National Park

Size: 2400 hectares land, 97,235 hectares marine.
Location: Pacific Ocean, 532 kilometers off the coast of Cabo Blanco.
Description: Accessible only by ocean going boats, this uninhabited island, surrounded by an extraordinarily transparent turquoise sea is Costa Rica's "Treasure Isle." Several tour companies offer multi-day tours.
Number of Visitors: 347
Services: Information, restrooms, potable water.

Corcovado National Park

Size: 54,538 hectares land, 2400 hectares marine.
Location: Puntarenas Province on Osa Peninsula.
Description: Pacific tropical rainforest with 5000 mm annual rainfall. This virtually unaltered primary forest has tropical ecosystems found nowhere else and is one of the most important protection sites in the world for a number of mammals on the verge of extinction. Difficult access has kept the number of visitors down.
Number of Visitors: 8,009
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, restrooms, showers, potable water.

Diria National Refuge - New!

Size: 4,000 hectares
Location: Guanacaste Province Santa Cruz.
Description: Dry tropical forest and in it's higher parts humid tropical forest. This forest protects the aquifers that form the fountainheads of the Diria, Enmedio, Tigre and Verde rivers.
There is an important variety of fauna such as deer, howler monkeys, anteaters and peccary as well as 134 species of birds. There are also several precious wood tree species. It was first named a protected zone on July 9th, 1991 and then two years later it was declared a National Wildlife Refuge.
Number of Visitors: Opened July 25, 2004
Services: Information.

Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge

Size: 5,013 hectares land, 4,436 hectares marine.
Location: Southern border of Costa Rica and Panama on the Caribbean coast.
Description: Forest, grassland and mangrove swamp, but known for the five kilometers of coral reef popular among snorkelers.
Number of Visitors: No information available.
Services: Information, picnic areas, primitive latrines.

Guanacaste National Park

Size: 32,512 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste Province, 36 kilometers north of Liberia.
Description: Ranges widely from tropical dry forest to cloud forest. Origin of the Rio Tempisque, principal freshwater source for Guanacaste Province. Important protection for large felines, as well as 300 species of birds and 5000 species of butterflies.
Number of visitors: No statistics available.
Services: Information, primitive latrines, scientific station and potable water.

Guayabo National Monument

Size: 218 hectares.
Location: Cartago Province, 19 kilometers northeast of Turrialba.
Description: Considered the country's most important archeological site, with significant structures dating to 1000 years before Christ. Some consider Guayabo an important New Age spiritual center.
Number of Visitors: 20,945.
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, primitive latrines, archeological research station, showers, potable water, exhibits, parking.

Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve

Size: 9,154 hectares.
Location: Part of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, southeast of Valle de la Estrella, 45 kilometers from Limon.
Description: Abrupt topography with more than 3500 mm of rainfall per year leave this mountainous tropical forest full of dangerous rivers and waterfalls. Protects the Bribri indigenous reserve.
Number of Visitors: No statistics available, but very few.
Services: None.

Irazu Volcano National Park

Size: 2,309 hectares.
Location: Along Central Volcanic Chain, 31 kilometers northeast of Cartago.
Description: Active volcano with spectacular views of both coasts and Braulio Carrillo National Park from the peak.
Number of Visitors: 111,770.
Services: Information, picnic areas, restrooms, parking.

Isla Guayabo Biological Reserve
Islas Negritos/Isla de los Pajaros

Location: Gulf of Nicoya, at the extreme ends
Description: Chain of uninhabited islands designated to protect sea bird habitat.
Number of Visitors: Closed to public
Services: None

Juan Castro Blanco National Park

Size: 14,258 hectares.
Location: Alajuela Province, east of Ciudad Quesada.
northern zone, with origins of the Platanar, Tora, Aguas Zarcas, Tres Amigos and La Vieja rivers. Large tracts of primary forest. One of the newest parks, dedicated in June, 1992.
Number of Visitors: No statistics available.
Services: None.

La Amistad International Park

Size: 193,929 hectares.
Location: Talamanca mountain range.
Description: A crown jewel of international cooperation, with Panama protecting another 207,000 hectares on its side of the border. Declared a "biosphere reserve" by UNESCO in 1982 and a "world patrimony site" in 1983. One of the largest unaltered tropical forests in the world, encompassing climate zones from 100 meters to 3549 meters above sea level, and protects a number of Indian reserves. An "umbrella" protection area for several national and private parks.
Number of Visitors: No statistics available.
Services: None.

Las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park

Size: 112 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast, 10 kilometers north of Tamarindo on Playa Grande.
Description: Dedicated in 1991 to protect one of last nesting sites in the world for leatherback turtles.
Number of Visitors: No information available.
Services: Information, picnic areas, potable water, parking.

Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve

Size: 2,279 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste Province, 15 kilometers southwest of Bagaces.
Description: Tropical dry forest, significant for fresh water springs and a large number of tropical hardwoods in danger of extinction, such as ron ron, pochote, cristobol and cocobolo.
Number of Visitors: No statistics available.
Services: Information, picnic areas, potable water, parking.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Size: 683 hectares land, 55,000 hectares marine.
Location: Puntarenas Province, 157 kilometers south of San Jose, 7 kilometers south of Quepos.
Description: This tiny patch of beautiful land with its palm lined beaches and titi monkeys has been trampled by nearly a quarter million travelers a year.
Number of Visitors: 191,493.
Services: Information, picnic areas, primitive latrines, showers, potable water.

Marino Ballena National Park

Size: 100 hectares land, 5375 hectares marine.
Location: Puntarenas Province on Pacific coast, from Punta Uvita to Punta Pinuela.
Description: Considered a critical breeding habitat for a number of marine species. Also contains protected beach habitat and some of the only coral reefs on the Pacific coast.
Number of Visitors: No statistics available, but very few due to difficult access.
Services: Information only.

Palo Verde National Park

Size: 16,804 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste Province, 30 kilometers west of Canas.
Description: One of most diverse ecological locations, with 15 different topographical zones from mangrove swamps to evergreen forests. One of the most important migratory zones in Central America for waterfowl.
Number of Visitors: 2,580.
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, scientific station, potable water and restrooms.

Poas Volcano National Park

Size: 5,600 hectares.
Location: Along the Central Volcanic Chain, 37 kilometers north of Alajuela.
Description: Famous for beautiful scenery and variety of habitats including cloud forest. One of the most heavily visited sites in the country. The volcano has been active since 1894, causing extensive environmental damage to surrounding area. Check with Park Service before visiting for park hours or inquire with the link below.
Number of Visitors: 174,396.
Services: Information, picnic areas, primitive latrines, exhibits, parking.
Find out about Poas lodging and tours

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Size: 14,083 hectares.
Location: Guanacaste and Alajuela provinces, 27 kilometers northeast of Liberia.
Description: Includes Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, a freshwater volcanic lagoon, is one of the country's most important preservation area for large felines.
Number of visitors: No statistics available.
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, potable water, restrooms.

Santa Rosa National Park

Size: 37,117 hectares land, 78,000 hectares marine area.
Location: Guanacaste Province, 36 kilometers north of Liberia.
Description: Dry Pacific forest with important marine turtle nesting sites.
Number of visitors: 37,914.
Services: Information, picnic areas, camping, scientific station, primitive latrines, showers, potable water, exhibits and parking.

Tapanti National Park

Size: 6,080 hectares.
Location: Part of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve in District of Orosi, Paraiso of Cartago.
Description: Converted from a national wildlife refuge in 1992, varies from low mountain forest to premontane forest, enjoys up to 8000 mm of rainfall every year. Well maintained dirt roads make it a popular destination for mountain bikers.
Number of Visitors: 18,408
Services: Information, picnic areas, restrooms, potable water, exhibits and parking.

Tortuguero National Park

Size: 18,946 hectares land, 52,265 hectares marine.
Location: Limon Province on Caribbean coast, 80 kilometers north of Limon.
Description: Tropical lowland park lying across a system of natural lakes and canals, one of the last remaining and most important breeding grounds for the green turtle.
Number of Visitors: 19,741
Services: Information, primitive latrines. Accessible only by boat; tour companies operating in the park provide complete services.

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