Costa Rica’s landscape and climate varies throughout its entire 20 thousand square mile borders. This Central American country is filled with rain forests, active volcanoes, beautiful mountains, and rivers that cut through it all. Each province is unique in its own ways, Guanacaste being a great example of that.
Guanacaste Province, located in the far northwestern part of the country bordering Nicaragua with access to the Pacific Ocean is named after the Guanacaste tree, which is actually the national tree of Costa Rica. And when it comes to landscapes, this province is riddled with beaches, volcanoes, mountains and much more that remain preserved in the natural parks. But there’s something very unique about the national parks in Guanacaste, some have a tropical dry climate, some are filled with geothermal sites and some even have a little bit of everything.
The Guanacaste National Park was created in the late ‘80s to connect Santa Rosa National Park with the cloud forest of Orosi and Cacao volcanoes. The park is incredibly diverse with habitats of pastures and farms, a regenerating tropical dry forest, active volcanoes and a cloud forest. The chance of rain is small from November to April when the province has its dry months, which lends to the tropical dry forests. Hiking trials meander through the parks ecosystems like free flowing rivers. Visitors get especially excited about the birding and animal peeping they experience on the trails. Expect to see howler, capuchin, spider and white-faced monkeys, coatis, white-tailed deer, and tons of bird species throughout the park.
When it comes Rincon de la Vieja National Park, most people visit for the geothermal sites and the hiking. The habitats are diverse here too, and include a cloud forest, tropical rainforest-upland, tropical rainforest-lowland and a tropical dry forest. Make no mistake, hiking to the top of the volcano is not easy, but you will be rewarded with spectacular views (and bragging rights) once you get there. For a less strenuous hike, take the trek to La Cangreja Waterfall (yes, you can play in it) and if you’re short for time or want to sit back and just enjoy the park, hop on the train and get off at the volcano hot mud and lagoons.
Palo Verde National Park is quite different from the others because it’s both a spectacular wetland and one of the best examples of tropical dry forests remaining anywhere in the world. But you should experience parts of Palo Verde from the Tempisque River. You’ll spot crocodiles, a variety of birds and monkeys in the trees as well as the common basilisk lizard, better known as the famed, Jesus Christ lizard. It’s quite a scene to watch this tiny creature sprint across the river, a great skill to have when you’re trying to escape your predator. The river (or any water source) is also the best place to spot wildlife. Sit quietly and wait for the monkeys to start their action and the white-tailed deer to come and drink. There are crocodiles on the river but they’re mainly upriver, where the vegetation closes in; not a place you want to be on foot.
More than a fourth of the entire country of Costa Rica is protected under some type of environmental protection. It’s a wild place and a country that wants to protect its land and natural environments. Embrace the Pura Vida way of life and get out there and explore it.
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