National Parks of Costa Rica
The world is increasingly looking to Costa Rica as an example of environmental stewardship and conservation for its extensive national park system. Through a combination of relentless dedication, support from international wildlife and conservation organizations, and a lot of courage, the Government of Costa Rica has successfully generated prestige and wealth from protecting, rather than exploiting, its natural heritage and resources.
History of the National Park System, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s national park system was founded in 1970. Today, close to 30 percent of its land and marine territories are protected as national parks, biological and forest reserves, or wildlife refuges. The National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) is the governing body that provides the maintenance, organization, and strategic planning for the country’s cherished protected areas.
Several privately owned hotels and ecolodges have followed suit with the ecological mindset and dedicated their own properties as reserves and refuges. It is pretty likely that wherever you go in Costa Rica, there is one (or more) national parks or protected areas nearby.
Costa Rica National Parks, hours, and entrance fees
Hours and entrance fees vary depending on which park you visit. However, the following guidelines apply to most. Check the SINAC website before visiting for exact hours and entrance fee information.
National Park access for disabled travelers in Costa Rica
Many parks are converting their access and trail systems to accommodate disabled visitors, but the transition takes time. Poás National Park, to date, is the first entirely handicapped accessible park. Following in its footsteps are Manuel Antonio and Cahuita National Park (which has wide, flat trails and is currently installing a ramp on the beach so that individuals in wheelchairs can enjoy the clear Caribbean waters). Most of the other parks and reserves are at least in part accessible by wheelchair, as are tours such as the Lankester Botanical Gardens, the Braulio Carrillo National Park aerial tram, and others.
The following is a list of the most frequently visited National Parks in Costa Rica. This is NOT a complete list. If the park, reserve, or refuge you wish to visit is not listed below, feel free to tell an I LOVE CR representatives and they’ll be happy to supply you with plenty of updated information.
Poás National Park
Irazú Volcano National Park
Tapantí Macizo de la Muerte National Park
Western Slope and Caribbean Lowlands
Braulio Carrillo National Park
Tortuguero National Park
This one of its kind national park is one of Costa Rica’s most remote destinations and most worth the effort to get to. Visitors can only access the protected area, associated ecolodges, and the town of Tortuga by boat or one of the small domestic air transfers. Tortuguero encompasses pristine jungle interspersed by a vast network of waterway canals and rivers leading to the rugged Atlantic Coast. In addition to its astounding ecological intensity, the area is most renowned for the massive migrations of giant sea turtles that arrive annually to lay their eggs in the protected coastal sands of the park.
South Caribbean Coast
Cahuita National Park
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
The Southern Zone
Chirripó National Park
Los Quetzales National Park
South Pacific Coast
Corcovado National Park
Marino Ballena National Par
Central Pacific Coast
Manuel Antonio National Park
Carara National Park
Palo Verde National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
North Pacific Coast
Playa Grande Las Baulas National Park
Santa Rosa National Park
Rincón de la Vieja, Tenorio, and Miravalles Volcano National Parks
The nearby Tenorio Volcano National Park is also worth visiting. Its show-stopping centerpiece is the stunning Rio Celeste River that runs through the park. Due to a mysterious chemical reaction that occurs when two distinct volcanic rivers intersect, the river turns a brilliant shade of milky turquoise as it tumbles through the park’s expansive cloud and rainforests.
Miravalles Volcano National Park, just next door, also offers hiking trails, beautiful overlooks, and waterfalls. However, most visitors opt to explore the trails of Tenorio and Rincon de la Vieja. All three volcanoes are the source of geothermal energy production – part of Costa Rica’s massive renewable energy production.