National Parks and Wildlife Reserves

It’s no wonder Christopher Columbus called Costa Rica “La Huerta”–the garden, because Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Slightly smaller than the state of Virginia, Costa Rica is packed with lush rainforests and cloud forests, spectacular beaches along the rich coast, active volcanoes and more wildlife than you could ever imagine. One of the best ways to see Costa Rica in all its beauty is to visit some of its many National Parks and Wildlife Reserves.

In the heart of Costa Rica, Volcan Paos National Park is the site for an active volcano that most recently erupted in 1954, with the last major eruption in 1910. An outstanding example of the effects of acid rain is in evidence all around. At nearly a mile across this volcano is the largest crater in the world. The clay-colored robin–Costa Rica’s national bird, the beautiful quetzal along with many other birds can be seen here. Volcan Paos National Park is the country’s second most visited conservation site.Manuel Antonio National ParkFor the true adventure seeker, more than forty limestone caves are the biggest attraction at Barra Honda National Park. Barra Honda is located in a tropical dry forest, which is one of the rarest habitats found on earth. The caverns have vertical entrances, which makes them impossible to access without climbing gear. A trained guide and advance permission from the park service is a must.Manuel Antonio National Park, on the west coast, the smallest of Costa Rica’s National Parks, is also one of the most visited. Scenic mountains, breathtaking beaches and captivating fauna such as raccoons, two-toed sloths, squirrel and white-faced monkeys can all be seen in one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful National Parks. Available activities include hiking, fishing, rafting, kayaking and championship surf tournaments.

Further south, Corcovado National Park contains thirteen ecosytems which include highland cloud forest, lowland rain forest, jolillo palm forest, and coastal marine habitats, with thirteen miles of beaches. In addition to beautiful scenery, many of Costa Rica’s endangered species can be seen here, such as Jaguars, Red-backed squirrel monkeys Baird’s tapirs, Scarlet Macaws, White-lipped Peccaries and Harpy Eagles. Camping equipment is available for rent and tours can be arranged.

On the east coast, the Cahuita National Park and Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is a humid tropical rainforest and is located right along the coast between the mouths of the Cocles and the Sixaola Rivers. Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is just north of Panama and offers hiking trails with opportunities to see more than 360 kinds of bird species, monkeys, sloths, turtles, crocodiles, caimans, dolphins tarpons, and manatees. The most significant thing about this refuge is that it contains the only natural mangrove swamp in the Atlantic. Manzanillo is popular for fishing. Just north of Manzanillo Refuge is Cahuita National Park which offers snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and camping.

The people of Costa Rica have worked hard to preserve the wildlife and natural habitat of this beautiful country. No visit would be complete without seeing at least a few of the many national parks and wildlife reserves offered by Costa Rica, the garden between two oceans.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica

Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea in Limon province, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a vibrant seaside town with magnificent beaches. It has quickly become one of Costa Rica’s number one tourist destinations. International surfers from all over the world come to defeat the famous Salsa Brava waves. Simply referred to as Puerto Viejo by the locals, this quaint village has a relaxed atmosphere with a unique blend of Bribri, Afro-Caribbean and Latino indigenous cultures.

Puerto Viejo features a wide variety of restaurants, discos and bars throughout the village. In addition, there are many good shopping venues. Besides the golden sand beaches and tropical vegetation, there are many interesting attractions, such as the Gandoco Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, the Talamanca Indian Reserve and the Cahuita National Park. Although most of the roads are dirt paved, it adds to the rustic charm of the village.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa RicaWhile many surfers flock to Puerto Viejo for the great surf, there’s a plethora of activities is you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors in the great tropical climate. Horseback tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, mountain biking and kayaking are just a few of the fun activities available in the village. Puerto Viejo’s tropical temperature is approximately 80 degrees year round, which makes it a pleasure to be outdoors.

It was difficult to reach the Talamanca coast until the 1970s. The far distance of San Jose and difficulty of travel by canoe caused the coastal villagers to be somewhat isolated from the mainstream of Costa Rica. As a result, the villagers developed customs and cultures that were unique to themselves. Roads were built in 1979 and connected the village to Limon. Today, it is only a 3 hour drive from San Jose.

In the 1800s, English speaking Afro-Caribbean people came from Jamaica to settle along the Talamanca coast. They brought an African based culture of culinary arts, fishing, and farming that are reflected in Puerto Viejo today. British colonial customs from generations of slavery were retained and cricket and May Pole dances still played a role in their activities. These Caribbean farmers also brought cacao, coconuts and cola nuts. They planted the coastline with these cash crops and facilitated local development by establishing commercial ties.

The interesting cuisine in Puerto Viejo seen today was greatly influenced by the Afro-Caribbeans. Patacone, a French fried style, is still a favorite of the locals and tourists. Spicy patti and jerk chicken is commonly offered by street vendors and restaurants.

With its beautiful beaches and quaint charm, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a great retreat for a perfect vacation.


Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline, the least visited yet maybe the most beautiful section of Costa Rica. Extending from the northern border with Nicaragua southward to the border with Panama, the lush Caribbean region of Costa Rica offers adventure seekers as well as nature lovers a land filled with indescribable natural riches. From unbelievable pristine white sand beaches to lush tropical rainforest teeming with countless species of wild life, the Costa Rica Caribbean coastline is just waiting to be discovered.

The gateway to Costa Rica’s Caribbean region is the port city of Puerto Limon, a three hour drive from Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose will take travelers over the Central Mountain Range, passing through Zurqui Tunnel, the only tunnel to be found in the country, dense tropical rainforest will give way to banana plantations and palm tree lined roads leading to Puerto Limon. Puerto Limon is also home to Costa Rica’s only Caribbean cruise port.

Playa Puerto Viejo, Caribbean, Costa RicaThe Costa Rica Caribbean region can be divided into two main areas; the northern Caribbean coastline is home to some of the best wildlife viewing in all of Costa Rica, home to two of the country’s finest national parks, Tortuguero National Park and Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge. Travel to Tortuguero is mainly from Puerto Limon via excursion boats or from San Jose by air. Several lodges will make arrangements to pick up their guest in Puerto Limon. Tortuguero National Park is inundated year round by migrating turtles, June to November will find upwards of 30,000 green turtles making their way onshore to lay their eggs, while the months of February till July will see Giant Leatherback turtles nesting along the same beaches. Headed north from Tortuguero National Park is Barra del Colorado National Wild Refuge extending north to the Nicaraguan border. With less amenities than Tortuguero the area is mainly known for its fishing.

Suggested Trip Costa Rica Caribbean RegionThe southern Caribbean coastline is known for its clear blue waters attracting snorkelers and beachcombers alike. Cahuita National Park, with its many coral reefs is a big draw. The southern Caribbean area host some of Costa Rica’s most unspoiled rainforests, nature lovers will find Hitoy-Cerere Biological Reserve a treasure drove of wildlife. Puerto Viejo, just 30 minutes south of Cahuita National Park is known for its Caribbean flavor, with descendants of Jamaican heritage that came to work the banana plantations and Costa Rica’s railroad during the late 1800’s , the area is deep in Creole traditions that travelers will find evident in the local food, music and Mardi Gras celebrations. The end of the road leads to Manzanillo, the southernmost reaches of the Caribbean coastline is an area that time has forgotten. Adventure seekers will find Gandoca-Manzanillio Wildlife Refuge the perfect launching point for adventures into the jungles, with boating, horseback riding or just hiking to enjoy this area rich in wildlife and scenery that should wet any appetite.

Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast sees the heaviest of the countries rainfall, over 200 inches of rain a year is not uncommon for this region , yet compared to the rest of the country, the rain is spread out through the year. July and December will find the heaviest months with August through October the least amount. Temperatures will average 75 to 85 degrees year round and are kept pleasant by tropical winds coming from the Caribbean waters.


Cahuita National Park

Costa Rica is world renowned for its bio-diversity which is showcased in the Cahuita National Park. This diverse habitat of pristine beaches, mangroves, marshland and lush rainforest was originally opposed by the local populace. They were persuaded by Alvaro Ugalde to create this sanctuary of botany, culture and wildlife.

One of the least developed areas in Costa Ricais the Cahuita National Park. It is home to numerous species of birds, animals, marine life and is the nesting ground for three species of turtles. Eco-tourists will be awestruck by the endemic flora and fauna. Hike the trails of this nature preserve and catch a glimpse of iguanas, sloths, capuchin monkeys, green ibis, kingfishers and herons. Water enthusiasts can charter a boat and dive on the multicolored reefs that teem with an extraordinary variety of sea creatures such as the blue parrotfish, sea urchins and angel fish. You can also imagine yourself as a treasure hunter while exploring two sunken wrecks that are believed to have carried slaves from Africa. Established in 1970 to protect the offshore coral reef, this sanctuary now includes lowlands, shoreline and rainforests.

Beaches of Cahuita National Park, Costa RicaCultural tourists will enjoy exploring the nearby villages of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. The multicultural backdrop is influenced by a Caribbean flare. The diverse community includes locals and expatriates from North America and Europe. This results in an eclectic mix of cuisine and music. Diners can enjoy French and Italian delights or sample the local spicy seafood dishes while being serenaded by Caribbean rhythms.

To reach the park, rent a car and travel the main highway from the capital of San Jose to Limon before turning south to Cahuita. You can also take one of several daily buses that connect San Jose and Cahuita. The main entrance to the park is approximately four hundred meters south of the village. You can walk, drive or take a local bus to the entrance. There is a secondary gate near the Puerto Vargas Administrative Center. The tropical climate is hot and humid with the dry season extending from mid-February through April.

Cahuita National Park is located in one of the most beautiful and scenic areas along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Visitors to the park will be amazed by the mix of white sand beaches, coconut groves, wildlife and underwater wonders.