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 Limon

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, is on the Caribbean coast. It is the capital city of the province of Limon. The city was founded in the 1870s when a railway between the city of San Jose and Puerto Limon was completed. The railway was built so coffee could be transported from the center of Costa Rica to the coast.

Puerto Limon is close to the site where Columbus landed in Costa Rica in 1502. A festival is held in the city every year in October to commemorate this event. It is held close to the anniversary of the day Columbus first landed in America in 1492. The festival celebrates a variety of Caribbean cultures including African, Spanish, Chinese and Italian. The Chinese and Italians worked on the railroad that connected San Joseand Port Limon. Parades, dancing, music and food are part of the festival celebration.Puerto Limon, Costa RicaThe Ethno Historic Museum has exhibits on the history and culture of the Puerto Limon area. The building that houses the museum is an example of the area’s architecture from the colonial period.

There are plenty of things to do outside in the Puerto Limon area. Playa Bonita Beach is two and half miles from downtown Puerto Limon. Surfers, sunbathers and swimmers will enjoy this beach.

The Tortuguero National Park is north of Puerto Limon. A boat ride on the national park gives visitors a chance to see aquatic plants, birds, bats and caymans. Caymans are similar to alligators.

Visitors can see tropical fruits, flowers and spices growing at the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are on a working farm.

Tourists can shop and eat outside in Puerto Limon. Jewelry, leather goods and wood carvings are sold at the outdoor market.

Customers can dine on the beach at the restaurant at the Hotel Playa Westfalia. This hotel has a pool and a spa. The Hotel Cocori Puerto Limon is also on the beach. The Park Hotel is in the center of Puerto Limon.

Travelers can take domestic flights to Puerto Limon from Tobias Bolanos International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. There is bus service to Puerto Limon from San Jose and several other cities in Costa Rica.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is a beautiful park that is known for its biological diversity and is located in the Tortuguero Conservation Area of Costa Rica.  Located on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, this national park is the 3rd most popular park in Costa Rica.Visitors from all over the world come to this park to take in the wide range of habitats that include beaches, lagoons and rain forests. It is the turtles that are the main attraction, however. Getting to Tortuguero National Park is only accessible by airplane or boat from Puerto Limon thus adding to the allure of this Costa Rican Adventure.

Sea Turtle, Tortuguero National Park Costa RicaThe beaches of Tortuguero National Park are home to a wide variety of turtles which are endemic to the area. Some of these turtles include the Hawksbill turtle, Green Sea turtle and the Leatherback turtle. The species were once driven to the point of extinction due to them being poached for their meat and their eggs. They are now protected by the national park and visitors can watch these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Tortuguero National Park also offers visitors a wide variety of hiking trails to enjoy. The most popular of these trails is the El Gavilan, a winding trail that alternates between the beautiful beaches and the dense forest of the park. Another popular trail is the Tortuga Lodge Trail which runs to a height of almost 400 feet and gives visitors an outstanding view of Cerro Bogue Ridge.

Some of the other activities that are popular in Tortuguero National Park include fishing and bird watching. Amateur and professional fishermen often come to this park to catch one of the many fish that inhibit this area, such as Tarpon or Atlantic Snook. Bird watchers come to the park to enjoy the many varieties of birds which include Violet Sabrewings, Green Macaw, Northern Jacanas and Amazon Kingfishers.

Most visitors to Tortuguero National Park begin their trip in Tortuguero Village because of its proximity to the park and the accommodations that can be found in the village. Tortuguero Village also offers many other amenities which include restaurants, quaint shops and tour operators. Once in Tortuguero Village, visitors can visit Tortuguero National Park either by small plane or by chartering a boat at the port of Puerto Limon.

Visitors to this park should be aware that camping isn’t allowed in the park but there are several lodges in the area where one can get accommodations. Some of the more popular lodges in Tortuguero National Park include Laguna Lodge, Turtle Beach Lodge and the Parismina Lodge.