Area: 3,917.1 sq. miles
(Second province in size: 20% of national area)
Population: 264,474 (2000)
Main City: Liberia
Population Density: 67.5 per square mile
Elevation: 472 feet
Average Temperature: 80.8°F
Annual Rainfall: 59-79 inches
Guanacaste National Park
Home to the Stroud Water Research Center, Guanacaste National Park protects the area surrounding Volcán Cacao. The park’s habitats range from dry tropical forests in the lower altitudes to cloud and rainforests in the highlands. There is a lookout station at Pedregal Hill. From here, not only can you watch for volcanic activity, but you are also presented with a breathtaking view of the picturesque landscape and the beautiful countryside. In the Maritza sector of the park, you can find ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) scattered throughout the area. The Guanacaste National Park offers both the amazing natural wonders of today and the revealing artwork left from the indigenous peoples of long ago.
Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park
Located in Guanacaste, Volcán Rincon de la Vieja is one of Costa Rica’s many active volcanoes, as well as the largest in the northwest region. It has at least nine eruptive vents where it releases thermal pressure. Not far from Rincon is the “sister cone” of Volcán Santa Maria. Unlike Rincon, Santa Maria is currently dormant, but yields a stunning 500 meter-across crater for display. In addition to the twin volcanoes, the national park offers bubbling thermal mud pools, gorgeous freshwater lakes and breathtaking waterfalls with areas for swimming. There is plenty to do and see at this twin peak destination.
Santa Rosa National Park
Santa Rosa National Park has four main parts. In the Santa Rosa sector will find the site of the 19th century Battle of Santa Rosa, in which Costa Rica fought off the invading Nicaraguans. Here you will also find a historical museum containing artifacts from the infamous battle.
Next there is the Playa Nancite. Here you will find one of the world’s largest sea turtle nesting grounds. In the months between July and November, hundreds of thousands of sea turtle come to lay their eggs on these beaches.
In the Murciélagos sector of the park, you will find a magnificent coastline comprised of beautiful beaches, bays, coves and bats! Murciélagos is the Spanish word for bat, and there are over 50 different species of bats in the park, including two varieties of the Vampire Bat. In fact the Islas Station is located on a string of islands known as the “bat islands.” This is also a popular place for scuba diving.
The last great attraction of the Santa Rosa National Park is located in the Naranjo(orange) Section. The beach here is an incredible surfer’s haven and is home to the notorious Witch’s Rock.
And with over 250 species of birds and 115 species of mammals, including howler, spider and white-faced monkeys, Santa Rosa National Park truly does have it all.
Junquillal Bay Wildlife Refuge
The Junquillal Bay Wildlife Refuge is a great place to go camping. The campsites here are complete with accessible water and charcoal cook-stoves and are located right near the beautiful beaches of the Guanacaste coastline.
Barra Honda National Park
The headlining attractions at the Barra Honda National Park are the intricate limestone caverns. The magnificent calcareous formations fill caves that delve over 780 feet into the earth’s crust, only half of which have been explored to date. The Terciopelo cavern is safe and open to the public. The descent here is practically straight down, but has been accessible to the park’s patrons.
Las Baulas National Marine Park
Near the town of Tamarindo lies Las Baulas National Marine Park. This park protects the largest leatherback sea turtle nesting ground on the whole Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles in the world. They nest here from November to April. The park also borders the beautiful Carbón, Ventanas, Grande and Langosta beaches.
Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve
The Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve, in addition to housing many endangered tree species, is home to nearly one quarter of the world’s bee species (over 250).
There are also over 60 species of butterflies located in the park. Primarily a research center for insects, the Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve is also home to many birds, monkeys and other rare wildlife species.
Palo Verde National Park
The Palo Verde National Park, located at the mouth of the Rio Tempisque, is known for its vast marshlands and the many species of birds that nest within them. Among these birds are Cattle Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Green-backed Herons, Anhingas, Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Snail Kite, American Widgeon, Northern Shoveler, and Blue-winged Teal and the rare Jabiru Stork.