Excited about your Costa Rica vacation? Are you like me? When you travel you break out the map and start looking for cool stuff around where you’re staying? You think, “Honey, the biggest ball of twine in Central America, is only 1.5 hours away from our villa.”
Do you visit as many national parks as you can while you’re on Vacation? Great, in this article I’m going to tell you about some of the beautiful, wild, and untamed national parks of Costa Rica.
There are so many stunningly beautiful national parks in Costa Rica. It’s hard to list them all in one article. I’m going to do my best to help you figure out which national parks to visit while here on your Costa Rica vacation.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Tell me what flashes into your mind when I say, “cloud forest”? Do you think of lush tropical forests dotting misty cloud-covered mountain tops? Do you picture a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, and dense emerald green forest with moss and vines hanging down from the forest canopy? Can you hear the sounds of the wildlife echo in your ears? If you do, then I bet you’re thinking of one of the most famous, if not the most famous cloud forest in the world, Monteverde.
When Monteverde National Park opened it was only about 328 hectares (820 acres). Now due to conservation efforts and the help of sponsors, it’s closer to 10,500 hectares (26,250 acres).
There are about 9,000 species of plants found in Costa Rica. In Monteverde National Park you can find half of them inside the park. Ten percent of the plant species here are endemic to the Monteverde area.
Monteverde is a wildlife enthusiast and bird watcher’s paradise. Over 100 species of mammals, 400 varieties of birds, and thousands of insect species call Monteverde home.
Ever wanted to be in two places at once? Part of the national park straddles the continental divide. So, you can stand with a foot on the Pacific side and the other one on the Caribbean side. Viola, you’re on two sides of the continents at once. Pretty cool, huh?
Rincon de la Vieja
Rincon de la Vieja means “Corner of the Old Woman” in Spanish. This picturesque national park is in the Guanacaste region in Northwest Costa Rica, about 15 miles East from the city of Liberia. It’s a must-see if you’re in the area.
On your hike to one of the many hot springs in the park, you’ll see a variety of unique flora, fauna, and wildlife. You might spot exotic kinkajous, pumas, jaguars, and tapirs. You’ll love this national park.
Legend tells of a tribe’s beautiful Indian princess named Curubanda, the daughter of the Curubande tribe chieftain. Curubanda falls in love with a handsome prince named Mixcoac. Ah, how sweet right? What could go wrong? Well, I’ll tell you, prince Mixcoac was the son of an enemy tribe’s Chief. The princess’ father discovered their relationship and forbade it.
Young love is hard to hold back. They continued seeing each other. Curubanda’s father found out and became furious. The Chief tricked Mixcoac and kidnapped the prince. The chief, determined to keep them apart, threw Mixcoac into the active volcano crater. Talk about bad in-laws. Devastated Curubanda lived as a recluse on the side of the volcano. She learned natural medicines and gained healing powers. Still, to this day, people go to the waterfalls and hot springs for their healing powers.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is on the Northeast Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, north of Limon. Tortuguero is one of the most remote national parks in Costa Rica. The only way there is either by plane or boat. The little seaside town is lovely to stroll along the meandering walkways, exploring quaint restaurants, shops, and hotels. The main attraction of Tortuguero National Park is sea turtles.
Each year hundreds of sea turtles make their long journey back to the remote beaches to lay their eggs. Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green sea turtles are just some of the species you might see when you visit.
Poaching turtle eggs is a major problem in the area. The Costa Rican government has hired guards to walk the beaches at night to protect these beautiful turtles. If you want to see turtles, you must go with a licensed guide. Don’t get caught on the beaches at night. You’ll be mistaken for a poacher.
Visiting sea turtles aren’t the only thing to do in the Tortuguero National Park. You can take boat tours to explore the surrounding waterways. There’s a large population of Spider Monkeys here, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a manatee.
Corcovado National Park
National Geographic calls Corcovado National Park “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity.” Corcovado is on the Osa Peninsula. It is Costa Rica’s largest national park covering 164 square miles.
In Corcovado, you’ll see primary rainforests, montane forests, cloud forests, lowland forests, swamps, and mangroves. It truly is chock full of flora and fauna.
Wildlife you could encounter on a hike may include large and elusive jaguars, ocelots, collared peccary, and pumas. There is a large population of endangered tapirs in the park. Corcovado is a birder’s paradise. The very rare harpy eagle can be found in the park also.
Corcovado is rugged and remote. We suggest you go with a guide. Trails can seem to disappear out of nowhere, and if you don’t know your way around, you will get lost.
Manuel Antonio National Park
This is my favorite national park in Costa Rica. Maybe because the Discovery Beach House used to be part of it at one time. This little gem is a short walk from the villa.
Manuel Antonio is the smallest park in Costa Rica at about 4,900 square acres. Though it’s small, it is also mighty. Manuel Antonio is one of the most visited parks in Costa Rica, making it a revenue-producing park.
The beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are incredible. White sand beaches blend with the sapphire blue Pacific Ocean. Palm trees line the beaches offering up much-needed shade from the hot tropical sun. There are several coves inside the park that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or just relaxing.
Take a Hike
Be advised the beach is about a half-mile from the entrance of the park. Don’t worry, you’ll be so distracted by all the wildlife you see along the way, you won’t even notice the distance you’ve traveled. There are several well maintained trails throughout the park.
Please don’t feed the wildlife. The park stopped allowing tourists to bring in junk food because feeding the wildlife makes them aggressive and fearless about stealing food from you.
Now You Know
By now I hope you have a list of Costa Rican national parks to visit. As always, our concierge is available to help with any of your Costa Rica vacation planning needs.
See You Soon
We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.