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Top 5 National Parks in Costa Rica
As the eco-and-adventure tourism capital of Costa Rica, it’s no surprise the country hosts a dizzying array of national parks. From hiking adventures to white water rafting, wildlife encounters and stunning vistas – there’s a National Park to suit everyone. Below are the top five National Parks that cover the highlights of Costa Rica and allow you to get under the skin of this magnificent country.
1. Corcovado National Park
Located on the remote Osa Peninsula, in the south west of Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park has been described by the National Geographic as the most biologically intense place on Earth. It’s Central America’s last remaining lowland tropical rainforest and is home to 2.5% of the world’s entire biodiversity; it’s the best place to see a number of rare mammals such as tapirs, ocelots, kinkajous and even the elusive jaguar. It also has the largest population of scarlet macaws in Central America and is the only place home to all four of the primate species in the country: the spider, howler, white-faced capuchin and endangered squirrel monkey. With 13 different ecosystems, one can experience lowland rainforest, tangled mangroves, misty cloud forest and wild beaches all in one day. With the lack of infrastructure and secluded location the park remains pristine, crowd-free and unbelievably beautiful.
This is perfect for those who want to see nature at its best and get away from the crowds. The park consists of uneven terrains and so a good level of fitness and mobility is required. Lodges are intimate and secluded and so for adventurous honeymoons looking for a secret hideaway amid the jungle, or older families looking for a nature wonderland away from the distractions of modern technology, this is the place to be!
2. Manuel Antonio National Park
Contrasting to Corcovado, Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s smallest and most visited national parks. Voted by Forbes magazine as one of the most beautiful National Parks in the world, it boasts expansive white sand beaches, lush tropical forest and colourful coral reefs. With its well-maintained trails, you don’t have to walk far before you see a wide array of species, including various monkey species, sloths, iguanas and a rainbow of exotic birds. Once the trails have been exhausted, you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing on one of the three beaches in the park. Minutes away from the town of Manuel Antonio means that access to the park is easy and hassle-free.
Small in size, rich in wildlife and easy to access, the park is perfect for young families who want to get a taste of Costa Rican jungle without having to travel miles away from developed areas to do so. With its manicured trails and given it is small in size; it’s easy to get around. Equipped bathrooms, changing facilities and picnic tables on site make it a great place to spend the day.
3. Arenal Volcano National Park
It’s Costa Rica’s adventure capital and home to the best known volcano in the country: Arenal Volcano. Home to spectacular views, verdant rainforest, bubbling hot springs and an abundance of wildlife, this National Park is a real highlight to any trip to Costa Rica. Hiking and nature walks offer endless opportunities to explore the park. Swimming in pristine waterfalls, riding rushing water-rapids, flying through the canopy on a zip line or horse-back riding through the tropical forest are all on offer in this adventure wonderland. After a day’s exploring, one can choose to relax in one of the numerous hot springs dotted around the area.
Anyone with a sense of adventure and a love for being as active as possible, from family fun to adventurous couples, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
4. Tortuguero National Park
There are no roads leading to Tortuguero meaning the only way to access the park is by airplane or by boat. Tortuguero offers incredible biological variety, due to the existence of eleven different habitats within the reserve, including rainforest, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. The area is teeming with wildlife and during any visit one may see river otters, caiman, monkeys and numerous bird species. As the most important breeding ground of the green sea turtle as well as several other species of turtle, the main attraction is to see the hatching of these majestic creatures along the wild beaches between the months of July and October. The majority of time is spent in boats or canoes exploring the meandering rivers and canals in search of wildlife.
A visit to Tortuguero is best suited to nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Accommodation here is comfortable but rustic and integrated in to the surrounds of the national park and so for those looking for ultimate luxury this place may not be for you. As most time is spent in boats a degree of mobility is also required.
5. Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Teeming with smoking volcanoes, steamy hot springs, thermal mud pots and crashing waterfalls, the national park has a wide array of natural attractions. Day hikes, horseback riding, swimming in natural pools and soaking up the therapeutic properties of the hot springs are just a few of the highlights this less visited national park has to offer. With so much ecological diversity, the park is home to an abundance of wildlife, birds and insects as well as the country’s largest population of the cattleya skinneri, a rare purple orchid and Costa Rica’s national flower.
Perfect for those who want to explore a less visited area of Costa Rica and glimpse in to Costa Rica’s spectacular natural beauty. With some of the best horse-riding in the country, it a horse-riders dream and with over 300 species of birds in the area, it’s a bird watchers paradise. Several lodges are dotted around the park or for those staying along Guanacaste’s northern coast then a number of day trips can be organised.