Costa Rica’s top 5 national parks
From protected rainforests to active volcanoes and cascading waterfalls, Costa Rica has been long-established as a leading destination for outdoor enthusiasts who want to reconnect with nature and awaken their spirit of adventure
Costa Rica is home to five per cent of the world’s known biodiversity and has held a longtime commitment to preservation, with 26 per cent of its land mass under national protection. Of the Central American nation’s impressive 28 national parks and eight biological reserves, ITB Berlin News takes a closer look at the five most popular ones:
Manuel Antonio National Park: Annual visitors 360,176
Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio National Park lures travellers to its beautiful beaches and tropical shoreline. The area is characterised by dense vegetation, which spills onto the beaches’ clean sand, offering a rejuvenating swim for visitors. With annual temperatures ranging in the 70s, the beaches of Manuel Antonio make for a pleasant stop year round. Another major attraction at Manuel Antonio is its rainforest, home to several unique species of flora and fauna. In fact, Manuel Antonio is the perfect place to encounter white-faced and squirrel monkeys, as well as a variety of birds and sloths. Iguanas, pelicans, frogs, butterflies and crabs are just a few more creatures that can be appreciated during a visit to its hiking trails.
Poás Volcano National Park: Annual visitors 339,542
Located 30 minutes from San Jose in the Alajuela province, Poás is one of Costa Rica’s largest and most active volcanoes, rising up to 8,885 feet with jaw-dropping views. The volcano contains one of the most acidic lakes on Earth, Laguna Caliente, which often changes colour in a matter of hours, ranging from emerald to grey-white. One of the volcano’s dormant craters has transformed into the cool-water, jade-coloured Laguna Botos, which is surrounded by a breathtaking cloud forest.
Irazú Volcano National Park: Annual visitors, 139,862
Just a 1.5 hour drive from San Jose in the Cartago province is the Irazú Volcano, Costa Rica‘s highest volcano, standing 11,260 feet high and located within Irazú National Park. The volcano has several craters, two of which are the principal attractions. The larger of the two delves 900 feet deep, as steam rises up into the air giving visitors at nearby viewing stations an amazing sight to behold. The smaller crater, Diego de la Haya, which dips below the surface 300 feet.
The landscape of Irazú Volcano National Park flourishes on 5,705 acres of immaculate mountain forest, mainly comprised of primary, secondary and cloud forest. At the summit, travellers can enjoy amazing views of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on a clear day. Although wildlife is often difficult to see because of the constant volcanic activity, many small animals make their home within the park’s perimeters including coyotes, squirrels, rabbits, owls and woodpeckers.
Marino Ballena National Park: Annual visitors, 143,861
Named after the humpback whales that migrate to the park in mid-July and October, and again in December through March, the Marino Ballena National Park is located in the South Pacific coast in the province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Established in 1990, Marino Ballena’s is one of the country’s newest national parks and is committed to the conservation of the rich marine ecosystems found within its boundaries. In fact, the park contains some of the largest coral formations on the Pacific side of Central America.
One of the park’s biggest attractions is “El paso de Moises” translated to the “Passage of Moses” in English. This phenomenon happens at low-tide when the water gets so low it creates a passageway like the one from the Biblical story. For years, scientists and visitors alike have been captivated by this unique sight
At the north end of the park is Uvita, a small community with gorgeous beaches and incredibly clear-blue water. Playa Uvita is a good place for horseback riding, swimming or just walking on its sandy beach.
Tortuguero National Park: Annual visitors, 57,658
Tortuguero National Park is located in the Limon province of Costa Rica. Created to protect the endangered baula, carey, cahuama, green and lora turtles that spawn on the country’s Caribbean Coast from July to October, the park is one of Costa Rica’s most important conservation sites. It houses and protects 46,815 acres of natural wildlife habitat including over 20 miles of coastline in which turtles lay eggs.
The area’s high rainfall and rich environment where freshwater meets the sea makes the beaches, canals, lagoons and wetlands of the park one of the most biodiverse regions in Costa Rica, and a truly memorable experience for nature lovers.