Los Quetzales National Park

Los Quetzales National Park was declared a national park in Costa Rica in July 2005, making it the most recent addition to the country’s already large national park system. Los Quetzales National Park stretches across 5,000 hectares of land and includes what was formerly known as Los Santos Forest Reserve. The park is also set along the Talamancan mountain range and the Rio Savegre, providing an astounding view for visitors and encompassing some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful landscape.

Los Quetzales National Park is composed of three different types of rain forest and fourteen ecosystems, making it home to a diverse flora and fauna. The most popular animal that visitors come to see is the quetzal bird, for which the park is named. The green and the red quetzal are two of the primary types of quetzal bird found in the park, and both are part of a rare tropical species of bird in this region. Other popular birds in this region are the colibri, known for making cone-shaped nests, and the hummingbird.

Quetzal Bird, Los Santos Forest Reserve, Costa Rica Photo by DeepstoatThe elevation level of the park changes dramatically depending on the different sections; near the Talamancan mountain range, elevation can reach as high as 3,000 meters. A good portion of the park is composed of cloud forests, lakes, and rivers, although there are oak, cypress, and aguacatillo trees in abundance as well. Since there are so many different ecosystems and types of rain forest found in Los Quetzales National Park, there is a lot of variation when it comes to scenery, flora and fauna, and activities available. Many people enjoy coming to the park to hike, explore the terrain of the region, birdwatch, take photographs, fish, raft, or go for a horseback ride with friends or family.

Los Quetzales National Park is located 47 miles southeast of San Jose and is fairly easy to reach from Manuel Antonio. It can also be reached from Jacó, about a two-hour journey. Although the park is relatively new, several businesses have sprung up around the area to offer lodging, dining, and other activities to help you in your visit to Los Quetzales National Park.

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica is a reserve which was created to protect nine miles of coastline and 613 acres of habitat living in the ocean and on land. This refuge which also reaches out 300 miles into the sea is a famous protective area for the marine Olive Ridley turtle, and is the most significant nesting beach for the species in the world. In addition to the Olive Ridley turtle there are many other animal species which can be viewed in this important refuge. This refuge includes three beaches, Playa Ostional, Playa Nosara and Playa Guiones.

Playa Ostional, Guanacaste, Costa Rica Photo by Triss.MattEvery year between the months of July and December, an important event know as “arribas” (the arrival) takes place in which massive numbers of Olive Ridley sea turtles come out of the sea and onto the shore to lay their eggs. The arribas take place every three to four weeks beginning with the last quarter of the full moon, and each one lasts for about a week. This is quite a sight to see, as during certain times the beach is covered with thousands of turtles. It is also amazing to see the turtles hatch–45 to 60 days later–when the baby turtles immediately make their way to the sea. The Olive Ridley is one of only two turtle species that synchronizes their nesting, and Ostional is one of the few nesting places in the world where this stunning event takes place.

There are many other animals that make their home at Ostional Refuge, such as the leatherback turtle, the Fishing Bulldog bat, iguanas, monkeys, the Brown Pelican, the Magnificent Frigatebird and at least one hundred other species of birds. In addition to many species of turtle, other sea creatures include red rock crabs, sea urchins, anemones and starfish.

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is located in the province of Guanacaste and can be accessed through the cities of Nosara or San Juanillo. For those who want to visit Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, it is advisable to fly into San Jose, and then take a local flight to Nosara. Getting to the refuge can be difficult, especially during rainy season. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can be rented or there are company tours available. Once you arrive, there is a small entry fee.

If planning a trip to the Guanacaste region in Costa Rica, Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is one destination that you will not want to miss. The “arribas” is a phenomenon few people get to see in their lifetime.

Curu Wildlife Refuge


The Curu Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica is a dry tropical forest on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The first private National Wildlife Refuge established in 1983, it has sandy beaches and an estuary as well as beautiful views from the surrounding hills. Wildlife is the main attraction in Curu and there is plenty of it.

There are well maintained trails for walking tours around the area and visitors get constant sightings of the plentiful birds in the habitat. Brown Pelicans and majestic Frigate birds swoop and dive in the shallows for sardines. There are also scarlet macaws, and hundreds of migratory and tropical birds. Costa Rica is also a place with a tremendous biodiversity of reptiles and there are many varieties seen in Curu. Considered one of the best kept secrets of Costa Rica, it is perfect for a rustic beach holiday without the crowds of tourists.

Curu Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaA tropical paradise, visitors say it is from another era, untouched and ancient. Spider monkeys and Capuchin monkeys enjoy the good life in the tree canopy and watch visitors strolling through the shaded forest.

The Tortuga Islands are nearby and can be visited in kayaks. They are surrounded by giant Manta Rays, stingrays, dolphins, flying fish, nurse sharks and Moray eels. These can be seen while kayaking or snorkeling in the Bay of Curu. White-tailed Deer, coyotes, howler monkeys, boa constrictors, hermit crabs, raccoons, black and green iguanas, collared peccary, coati and armadillos are just a few of the many land animals to be seen in Curu.

The Curu Wildlife Refuge has been the home for reintroduction of endangered species. The Spider Monkey and Scarlet Macaw are making a comeback in the area after having been declared extinct in the 1990s. There is also a parrot conservation plan to protect suitable nesting sites for the many species of parrots in the area.

From San Jose, visitors drive or otherwise get to Puntarenas. There is a ferry to Paquera which takes between 60 and 90 minutes. From Paquera the entrance to the Curu Wildlife Refuge is 30 minutes. It is also possible to fly to the Tambor airport, the only airport on the Nicoya Peninsula, and drive to the entrance of the refuge in 20 minutes.

There are cabins with very basic amenities on the Curu beach. In Paquera and Tambor, about 10 to 15 km from Curu, there are less basic accommodations.

Cabo Blanco “Absolute” Nature Reserve

Located at the southern most point of the Nicoya Peninsula lays Cabo Blanco “Absolute” Nature Reserve. Listed as one of Costa Rica’s best and beautiful nature reserves, Cabo Blanco is made up of  2,896 acres of pristine white sand and shell strewn beaches. From the tide pools along the ocean to the evergreen forest inland, this moist micro climate makes this a Naturist paradise. Winding trails and deserted beaches one will find Cabo Blanco is quite different from the rest of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve was created in 1963 much from the efforts of Nils Olof Wesberg and his wife Karen Mogensen , Danish-Swedish immigrants that lived in nearby Montezuma. The couple was upset after finding large sections of the area clear cut in the late 50’s and pushed for the area to become a Nature Reserve in the Costa Rica Park system. Today only around 15% of primary forest remains with the largest portion of forest being around 50 years old. Wesberg and his wife Mogenson were intrumental in the push for ecological areas and reserves throughout Costa Rica. Wesberg was murdered in 1975 during one such campaign in the Osa Peninsula. Mogensen continued the couples work till her death in 1994.Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, Costa Rica

The main entrance into the Cabo Blanco nature Reserve is located about 11 km south of Montezuma, entrance is also available by walking the coastline south from the town of Malpais. To minimize environmental impact on the area the Reserve is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. One will still see signs calling the area Cabo Blanco “Absolute” Nature Reserve since the reserve was closed to all visitors until the late 80’s. At the southern most tip is located the white cap island called Isla Cabo Blanco. Named by Spanish conquistadors, after observing that the rocks were covered with Guano (bird droppings). Large numbers of brown pelicans and Costa Rica’s brown boobies can also be found in the sky’s of  the reserve.

Palo Verde National Park

Costa Rica is a small Central American country known for being home to diverse wildlife and beautiful natural scenery. If you’re in the mood for an adventurous vacation or trip, consider visiting some of the large and well preserved National Parks in Costa Rica. Touring these nature parks allows you to experience endangered wildlife, finding the most impressive waterfalls in the world and exploring swamps and jungles teaming with greenery and flowers.
One of the best parks in the country is the Palo Verde National Park. It is easily accessible all year round from the nearby town of Liberia, or guests can arrive there by boat from the port located in Humo. Visitors can arrange to stay overnight in the research station dormitory or can make a day trip. Playa Avellana offers multiple hotel options and is only 65 km away. The park is mostly wetlands mixed with dry forests. This habitat provides the perfect home for hundreds of migratory tropical bird species. The birds that arrive in great clusters are the main attraction for visitors. Rare species of storks, ibis, ducks and parrots can be watched here in their natural environment without disturbing them.
Palo Verde National Park, Costa RicaThe Rodriguez Caballero Wildlife Refuge and Lomas Barbudal Biological Refuge are located around the edges of the park and can be accessed easily as well for further exploration. Tours usually involve driving through the dry plains that are not accessible during the rainy season, or boating down the Tempisque River to see iguanas and water animals like caimans and crocodiles. A few tours also allow visitors to access the small villages of native Costa Ricans who live along the river and make art and pottery to support themselves.

Unlike some other national parks in Central America, guests are allowed to bring rented vehicles into the parks for self-guided exploration. It is recommended that guests remain inside their vehicles if they are not on a guided tour to avoid doing damage to the ecosystem or being bitten by a caiman or one of the many snake species. Cycling is another option for touring the park, and guests can camp along the bike paths for a multiple day excursion without the noise or cost of renting a vehicle. Exploring Palo Verde National Park is a great trip for both younger and older children as well, as long as appropriate accommodations have been chosen to keep them comfortable.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Rated among the world’s most beautiful national parks by Forbes Magazine in 2011, Manuel Antonio National Park of Costa Rica hosts over one hundred fifty thousand visitors each year. Established in 1972, this four thousand acre preserve is well known for its beautiful beaches and numerous walking trails. There is a small open air museum of natural history near the entrance. Manuel Antonio is the second most visited national park in Costa Rica.

The three main beaches attract visitors because of their pristine, white sand. Tourists can snorkel in the tidal pools that form near the Manuel Antonio and Espadilla beaches and traverse the “tombolo” or sand bridge that connects the two sandy stretches. The coastline offers visitors the opportunity to see dolphins and migrating whales. Active water enthusiasts will also enjoy other recreational opportunities such as scuba diving, sea kayaking or deep sea fishing.Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Those eco-tourists looking to explore the rich biodiversity of this Costa Rican treasure will enjoy the one hour hike along the trail from Espadilla to the summit of Punta Catedral. During their mesmerizing trek through the mangrove rain forest, they will have the opportunity to see an unparalleled diversity of wildlife. The park contains over one hundred species of mammals and one hundred fifty types of birds. These include three species of monkey, two types of sloths and four variations of iguana. Patrons will also observe toucans, woodpeckers, parakeets and hawks. The network of trails provides guests with amazing panoramic vistas of the park and the Pacific Ocean.

Reaching the park from the capital of San Jose is easy. You can drive the 3 ½ hours by all terrain vehicle or take one of three large comfortable buses that depart daily from the Coca Cola bus terminal or a local bus from the main terminal that leaves every half hour. A twenty minute flight is also an option through regularly scheduled air service. The nearby town of Quepos and Manuel Antonio have a myriad of dining and hotel accommodations as well as many cultural activities and an exciting night life.

From its pristine beaches and lush green rain forests to its magnificent flora and fauna, Manual Antonio National Park epitomizes everything that tourists love about this Central American country.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Nestled in the Northern Lowlands of Costa Rica’s lush landscape, in a protected area known as the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area, lies the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Four volcanic peaks stand amidst the jungles, giving the park its name. The Rio Celeste, literally translated to “The Light Blue River,” runs through the park, with majestic cascades along the way for hikers and tourists alike to enjoy. The Rio Celeste is turned its opulent blue from the volcanic sulfur that infuses the area, but local legend insists that it was turned this shade by the paint brushes used by the gods to paint the skies.

Rio Celeste Waterfall, Tenorio National Park, Costa RicaJust about a two day hike out of La Fortuna, in the Guanacaste Province, the park is easily accessible via the route to Guatuso. Paid tours are now abundant for the region, as Tenorio Volcano National Park has grown in popularity recently. Tours will take you through the park along the river, to view the magnificent Celeste waterfall or to a number of natural hot springs and picnic sites that are conveniently positioned throughout the park. There are also swimming spots accessible to visitors along some of the short trails.

Camping is not allowed in the park unless you are making your way to the top of the main volcanic peak. The summit is a day’s hike and the crater is quite a site to see.

Driving routes to the park vary. From nearby San Jose, tourists can take the main motorway toward San Carlos and on to Upala; from that point is about thirty miles to the park entrance. You may also take the Inter- American Highway toward Canas and turn toward Bijagua about six miles in; from Bijagua the park is about twenty miles out.

Paid tours can cost between twenty five and sixty five dollars, but prices fluctuate often in this part of the country. In nearby major towns, like La Fortuna and San Jose, rental cars can be procured. It is often recommended that you spring for the four- wheel drive, especially in the rainy season. The roads can be treacherous and steep if you are driving. It also may be a good idea to pack your own lunch when you are on the road toward the park. There are several stops along the way, but they are far between.

Overall the spot is great for hiking, and there is a ranger center available during the daylight hours for tourists to stop and get water or first aid. The trip can be relatively inexpensive, and more importantly—great fun!

Miravalles National Park

Miravalles National Park has the highest volcano in the Cordillera de Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica. The area is known for its spectacular scenery, wildlife and hot springs.

Although the area is often referred to as “Miravalles National Park,” it is not actually a national park, but is instead a nature reserve known as the Miravalles Protected Zone. The protected zone covers nearly 29,000 acres of savannah, forest and cloud forest, including much of the Miravalles Volcano itself. The protected zone is operated by the national parks agency, but no ranger station or other park facilities occur within the zone.

Miravalles National Park, Costa RicaThe Miravalles Volcano itself is over 2,200 meters high. It comprises a caldera that contains several younger cones and volcanic features. The caldera was created bout 500,000 years ago, when the upper portion of a previous volcano was destroyed in a series of massive eruptions. The volcano is currently listed as active, but it has not produced a significant historical eruption. The most recent major eruption was about 7,000 years ago, but a minor steam eruption occurred in 1946. Geothermal activity in the area is common, however, and there are many hot springs, and even a geothermal power plant.

The west flank of the mountain is covered with savannah scrub, while the east flank bears cloud forests. The cloud forest is well preserved. It contains both cloud forest and moist forest, comprising several different life zones. Rainfall varies with distance from the summit, but may exceed 140 inches annually in some areas. Temperature also varies, occasionally touching the freezing point at the summit, but typically above 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the surrounding lowlands.

The forests contain a wide variety of plant and animal life. Coconut palms and ferns abound, often gripped by epiphytes. Wild cats haunt the forest, as do coyotes, capuchin monkeys, deer and peccaries (wild pigs). With nearly 500 species in habiting it, the forest supports abundant birdlife. Many spectacular rivers and waterfalls also occur there, as does the oldest pre-Hispanic archeological site in Costa Rica.

Common tourist activities in the area include wildlife watching, hiking and bathing in the area’s renowned hot muds. Although there are no maintained park facilities, there are two different paths to the mountain’s summit. Hot springs occur at Las Hornillas, about 700m up the mountain’s south flank. Tractor tours are available to waterfalls and many different fumaroles.

The area is accessible by car along Highway 1 to Bagaces, the nearest town. Allow about three hours or so for the trip. Also nearby are the Rincon de la Vieja and Tenorio Volcano National parks, which cover the volcanic peaks to the north and south, respectively, of Miravalles Volcano.

Carara National Park

 A haven to hikers and birdwatchers, Carara National Park offers an amazing diversity of fauna and flora that any nature-lover will appreciate. Nestled along the Central Pacific Coast of beautiful Costa Rica, the park was established as a biological reserve in 1978. Due to its increased popularity, it was upgraded to national park status in 1998.

Bring Your Binoculars

Travelers from around the world venture to Carara National Park in hopes of seeing one of the few Scarlet Macaws left in existence. The part protects one of the last wild colonies as there are said to be around 150 of these gorgeous birds that can be seen at dusk as they head to the coastal mangroves to roost at night.

Scarlet Macaw, Carara National Park, Costa RicaThere are also more than 400 other species to be spotted in this delicate ecosystem. Other birds that enthusiasts are always delighted to spot include the Collared Forest-falcon, Boat-billed heron, Mangrove Black-hawk and the endemic Mangrove hummingbird.


You don’t have to be a bird-lover to enjoy spotting other wildlife at Carara National Park. Crocodiles can be found along the river in abundance which you have a good chance of seeing up close if you take one of the park’s touring boat rides.

The collection of forests, lagoons and marshlands attract an array of wildlife. Hiking on one of the two trails through the park may grant you photo opportunities of monkeys, armadillos, boas, jaguars, Margay cats, white-tailed deer, opossums, tayra, kinkajou and more.

Marvel at the Flora

Carara National Park offers one of the world’s most diverse tree collections. Tall species can be found, draped in creeping vines and epiphytes. Then, when the dry season arrives, the land transforms into a blanket of brilliant yellow flowers.

Getting Here

Carara National Park is in a fairly central location with Jaco about 15 miles south and San Jose roughly 30 miles to the east. You can take a bus from either location but you need to make lodging locations near the park or be prepared to take the last bus back as no camping is permitted on the grounds.

If you are driving in from San Jose, you will follow Avenida 10 to Highway 27. Take this west 34 miles until you reach the town of Orotina. Continue 3 miles and turn left on Highway 34. Follow this scenic, coastal highway 11 miles to the Tarcoles River. Cross the bridge and you are at the boundary of the park. The ranger station can be found 1.8 miles into the park.


The forests of Carara National Park are hot and humid, even in the drier season. Regardless when you visit, be prepared for mosquitoes and other biting insects. Long sleeves and pants as well as a quality repellant are strongly recommended to ensure that you enjoy your visit without being bothered by pests.

Juan Castro National Park

Juan Castro National Park Situated in the Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area of Costa Rica, this national park has naturalized cloud forest and rainforest regions. Its beautiful, natural attractions as well as its colorful birds and amazing wildlife are worth a trek even if there are no public facilities. Walking paths do cross the forests to the main sites, and exploring park is an exciting eco-adventure.

Directions to the Park

To the west of the park’s main entrance is found Ciudad, Quesada. Taking the highway southeast, San Jose is about 75 kilometres from Ciudad Quesada.

Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Costa RicaArenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area

The area set aside by the government that takes up most of northern Costa Rica. The land is divided into wildlife refuges, forest conservation areas and Juan Castro National Park. Parts of the conservation areas also contain vast wetlands.

Natural Features of Juan Castro National Park

The park has two volcanoes. Porvenir is a dormant volcano, but Platanar is active. The park’s highest point above sea level is 2,270 metres. Hot springs and lovely waterfalls are found along the river system. Exquisite orchids are everywhere throughout the mixed forests that include yayo, landswoods and a variety of oaks. About half of the forests are cloud and the other portion is rainforest. Those who like to go trekking and enjoy nature photography will be happy to explore all the amazing sites of nature in this Costa Rican national park.


Birds – Over two hundred and thirty bird species have been found in the park, a phenomenal number. One of the best activities for the park is bird watching. Those that bring binoculars and cameras with telescopic lenses may be able to capture spectacular birds.

Mammals – Fifty-seven different species have been recorded within this national park. This collection of animals includes over twenty species of bats. Other animals are common to the region like sloths, ocelots and howler monkeys.

Endangered Wildlife

Here are four endangered creatures found in Juan Castro National Park:

Black Guan and Curasow – These large birds live in trees in the subtropical highland forest. They are loud birds with a distinctive voices and calls according to species.

Red Brocket Deer – Small deer that live in the deep jungle forests of the park. They only stand about 70 centimetres tall.

Quetzal – Brightly colored birds in the highlands of the cloud forests, the quetzals’ height measures about 32 centimeters.

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.