National Parks: Conservation Areas

Costa Rica’s National Parks System protects examples of nearly all the ecosystems that exist in the country, covering about 14 percent of the national territory. Those parks and protected areas are not only great places for hiking and observing wildlife, but some of them also include great spots for skin diving, snorkeling, surfing and other outdoor activities. No matter what your vacation priorities, you’ll want to visit at least a couple national parks or other protected areas. In addition to the national parks, there are a variety of other areas that enjoy some degree of protection, such as wildlife refuges and biological reserves, and a growing number of private preserves. The following are some of the country’s most popular parks and protected areas, according to what part of the country they are located in.

The protection of Costa Rica’s existing habitats is the responsibility of the National Parks Service, which is in charge of the management of 20 National Parks, 8 Wildlife Reserves and a National Monument. The Forestry Management has 26 protected areas, 9 forest reserves and 7 fauna sanctuaries with a total of 72 units covering an extension of 1,077,308 hectares, which represents 21% of the national territory. The protection is not only provided to areas where flora and fauna are threatened with extinction, but is also offered to areas of historical, archeological and scenic interest. This is why Costa Rica was awarded the SAN FRANCISCO DE ASIS prize, the Ecology award by ASTA (American Association of Travel Agencies), and the Smithsonian Institute’s price for its dedicated efforts toward the conservation of natural resources.

The conservation areas in Costa Rica are Arenal, Guanacaste, Tempisque, Central Volcanic Cordillera, Osa, Amistad & Tortuguero.

Arenal Conservation Area: this area is famous for its variety of wildlife species: twenty five species of fish have been identified, 500 species of flora (algae, lichens, palms, ferns and orchids). At the same time the scenery is rich and varied, with magnificent views of the Arenal Volcano eruptions.

Guanacaste Conservation Area is composed by the Santa Rosa, Guanacaste and Rincon de la Vieja National Parks and the Junquillal Bay Recreational Area. The variety of species and ecosystems range from sea level up to 1,916 meters above sea level. One of the most important sites is Nancite beach, where the olive riddle turtle lays its eggs.

Tempisque Conservation Area includes the Palo Verde, Barra Honda and Las Baulas National Parks as well as Lomas de Barbudal Wildlife Reserve and the Tamarindo and Ostional Wildlife Refuges. This area is characterized by dry forests, lime hills with caves and is one of the sea turtle’s egg-laying grounds. At the same time is an area with the largest concentration of sea and land birds (native and migratory), almost 300 species use this land for breeding or as a place to stop in their migrations.

Central Volcanic Mountain Range Conservation Area includes the National Parks of: Irazú Volcano, Poás Volcano, Braulio Carrillo, Juan Castro Blanco; La Selva Biological Station, the Central Volcanic Mountain Range Reserve and the Guayabo National Monument. This area is characterized by humid tropical forests, river forests on the mountain slopes and bleak moor lands with shrubs and scrubby undergrowth.

Osa Conservation Area is composed by the Corcovado National Park, the Golfito Wildlife Reserve, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve, the Sierpe and Terraba swamps and the Guaymi Indian reservation. This area contains the largest variety of wildlife specimens in Costa Rica: 500 types of trees, 140 varieties of mammals, 40 species of fish, 367 birds, 177 amphibians and reptiles, and about 6,000 species of insects.

Amistad Conservation Area includes the National Parks of Amistad, Tapanti, Chirripo, Cahuita, the Rio Macho Forest Reserve, Hitoy Cerere and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserves. Nine of the twelve wildlife areas are found in this region, approximately 70% of the birds and animals in Costa Rica inhabit this region, especially the quetzal and the harpy eagle.

Tortuguero Plains Conservation Area is made up by the Tortuguero National Park, the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Reserve and the Tortuguero Protected Area. This area is characterized by very humid tropical forests (yolillales, marsh plants, sea coast vegetation, high forests, forests on mountain slopes, swamp jungles, lakeside and floating plants). Animal life is abundant: 160 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 52 types of continental fishes of which the gas par fish is considered a living fossil. The best known and studied species is the green turtle, which led to the creation of the Tortuguero National Park.

Turtles in Costa Rica

Tourists interested in Costa Rica and in turtles, have a year round-opportunity to view the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, as this small country is the home of six of the eight world-wide turtle species in existence.

Caribbean Coast

* Green and Hawks bill Turtles: these species can be seen in Tortuguero from July to October.
* Leather backs: can be found north of Limon at Barra de Matina from February to July.
* Loggerheads: are found along different areas of the Caribbean Coast.

Pacific Coast

* Leather backs: can be seen in Playa Grande, Nancite and Playa Naranjo from October to March.
* Olive Ridleys: come ashore at Playa Grande, Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Nancite and
* Playa Naranjo, most of the year, but peak nesting is from July to December.
* Pacific greens: found at Nancite and Playa Naranjo, most of the year.

Costa Rica Travel: Travel Information & Tips

No matter how beautiful a destination may be, it needs easy access and be reachable within the limitations of an average vacation period. Costa Rica is only two and a half hours away from Miami!