Braulio Carillo National Park

 Braulio Carillo National Park is located about 20 miles to the northeast of San José and is an easy day trip from San José, or perhaps a stop along the way to Limón or the Caribbean beaches. At the urging of environment lobbyists, the park was established in 1978 as an effort to prevent development the area around the Limón Highway, which was under construction at that time. The park was named in honor of the third president of Costa Rica whose administration supervised the building of the first highway from San José to the Caribbean coast in the early 19th century.

Trams through the Rain Forest, Braulio Carillo National Park, Costa RicaThe Limón Highway, which bisects the park, is surrounded by virgin forest of both sides. The altitude in this 117,300-acre park ranges from 118 to 9,500 feet so both high-altitude cloud forests as well as tropical lowland rainforest can be found in the park. Home to approximately 500 species of birds and 150 species of mammals, the park boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity in Costa Rica.

Whether you´re interested in walking down a short path from your car to an overlook or waterfall, or spending the whole day hiking 32 miles from Barva to La Selva, Barulio Carillo offers activities for everyone. On the east side of the park, the Aerial Tram takes you on an open gondola ride through two levels of the rainforest canopy. On the way up the mountain, the gondola travels several feet above the ground to allow you to examine the understory and lower canopy. On the way back down, the gondola travels in the treetops, reaching as much as 170 feet above the ground. Several hiking trails with guides are included with the admission and tram ride. Visitors should try to take walks at different elevations to contrast the distinct flora and fauna. Geological features of interest include Barva volcano, which has three crater lakes, and the Sarapiquí River watershed.

Braulio Carillo National Park can be reached by car or by taking any of the buses that travel to Guápiles, Siquirres, or Limón. Many tour operators also offer day trips from San José to Braulio Carillo National Park, including specialized tours like bird watching. There is no overnight accommodation available in the park. Other attractions in the area include Poás Volcano National Park, Irazú Volcano National Park, La Selva Biological Reserve and Lankester Botanical Gardens.

Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu Volcano National Park in Costa Rica, offers visitors a unique chance to see a live volcano. Just 38 miles from San Jose and driving over good roads, makes the park a perfect day trip. Established in August of 1955, the 5,705 acres of Irazu Volcano National Park is home to Irazu Volcano, the tallest volcano in Costa Rica, which towers over the land at a height of 11,260 feet (3,432 meters).

The most spectacular of the volcano’s multiple craters is Diego de la Haya. Visitors come to view this 300 feet deep crater because of its mineral lake that has the ability to change color from a deep emerald green to striking crimson red. The color change is caused by the minerals that are present in the crate lake.

Irazu Volcano National Park, Costa RicaThe last activity of the Irazu Volcano was recorded in 1996 and the last eruption occurred in 1963. The park is located in the higher elevations above the frost line and in some places above the tree line. The higher elevation, which is usually above the clouds, brings chilly temperatures that are near freezing at the rim of the volcano. Visitors to Irazu are warned to prepare for cold wind and freezing temperatures, but the danger of sunburn still exists because of the areas proximity to the Equator, where the sun in more intense.

Tourists to the Irazu Volcano National Park can take the half mile hiking trail path, which winds between the multiple craters of the Irazu Volcano, and loops around giving hikers a closer look at the pyroclastic cone and each crater.

Indigenous wildlife that makes this rugged volcanic terrain their home includes the Volcano Junco, Volcano Hummingbird, Agouti, Armadillo, Coati, and Spiny Green Lizards. There is a great opportunity to see a Three Wattled Bellbird or even a Chestnut Mandibled Toucan when hiking in the park. The lower elevation of the volcano is rich in vegetation which supports indigenous squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, owls and birds like robins and woodpeckers.

The Irazu Volcano National Park has a small Visitor Center where visitors can learn about how a volcano functions and about the local wildlife of the Irazu Volcano. Inside the park, visitors will find public restrooms, tourist information, drinking water, and a gift shop. After hiking in the park, visitors can get a meal at the park snack bar and eat at nearby picnic tables.