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.

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