Costa Rica is a country with tons of natural beauty and is home to more than 4% of the world’s total flora and fauna. In an attempt to preserve these beauties, in 1970 the Costa Rican National Park System was created. Today between the 161 wildlife refuges, national parks, private reserves, and other protected areas cover more than 25% of its territory. It is being protected from development. All of these also became the main tourist attractions of Costa Rica.
The National Parks in Costa Rica, biological reserves, and wildlife refuges are over 25% of its territory. So narrowing down the best ones is an almost impossible task, but most travelers seem to have voted with their visit to some of the best, and those are the ones we will review here.
Each of them is great, but you will never be able to see them all in one vacation. That is why it is good to know which are the ones where you will see a wider variety of wildlife (you may even watch a tayra!), flora, and eco-systems.
Inside of these protected areas of Costa Rica, no one is allowed to collect anything (rocks, plants, shells, etc). And of course, hunting is out of the question. Personally, I love these measures, can you imagine what would be left if every visitor took something? There are even some parks where you are asked to stay as quiet as possible, so you don’t disturb the local Costa Rican fauna.
This is one of those countries that started with the “Save the Planet” trend as well as the “responsible travel” trend. Luckily it has been incredibly successful at it. They started even before the whole uncontrolled development problem started. All they wanted was to preserve their land for the recreation of their own people.
This turned Costa Rica into one of the few places in Central America where you can go for a walk in the middle of primary forests. I have nothing against reforested areas, they are still great, but they also lack something that Costa Rica’s parks have.
Best National Parks in Costa Rica
The Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest park, yet it is one of the most popular. You will find it in the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica where you will find beautiful white sanded beaches and rain forests. Over the years, it became popular for the amount of wildlife and tours available in the area.
It also became a great place for those looking for some more luxurious and high-end accommodations and tours. I highly recommend visiting Quepos!
The Arenal Volcano National Park is part of the Tilaran Conservation Area of Costa Rica. In it, you will find one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the Arenal Volcano, Arenal Lake, and Cerro Chato inactive volcanoes with a beautiful lagoon inside the crater. The park is located in the central region of Costa Rica.
The place is famous among those who want to enjoy relaxing in naturally heated hot springs, doing some water sports in the lake and a lot of hiking
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located along with the Tilaran mountain range too. But the climate is extremely different from the one in Arenal I love this place because the rain forest looks like something taken out of a movie, plus this is the place with the largest number of orchids in the world. The incredible biodiversity is something that attracts a lot of travelers, too.
The Poas Volcano National Park is famous for the beautiful lake located in the crater of the volcano. It can be reached after a short hike in well-marked trails, but make sure you go early in the morning if you want to see something. It is located in the Alajuela province, it is a short drive away from San Jose City.
This is one of the most common day tours from the city.
The Cahuita National Park is located in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. This is the perfect place to relax on white-sanded beaches, surrounded by monkeys, coconut palms, and warm crystalline waters as you listen to the sounds of the jungle.
Full List of National Parks in Costa Rica
- Arenal Volcano National Park
- Barbilla National Park
- Barra Honda National Park
- Braulio Carrillo National Park
- Cahuita National Park
- Carara National Park
- Chirripó National Park
- Cocos Island National Park
- Corcovado National Park
- Diria National Park
- Guanacaste National Park
- Irazú Volcano National Park
- Juan Castro Blanco National Park
- La Amistad International Park
- La Cangreja National Park
- Las Baulas National Marine Park
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- Maquenque National Park (proposed)
- Palo Verde National Park
- Piedras Blancas National Park
- Poás Volcano National Park
- Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park
- Santa Rosa National Park
- Tapantí National Park
- Tenorio Volcano National Park
- Tortuguero National Park
- Turrialba Volcano National Park
As you can imagine, everywhere you go in the country, you will find one of these parks or refuges. So during your family vacation in Costa Rica don’t miss the opportunity to explore them, look at the different local species, and support the efforts being made to preserve natural beauties by paying a small fee.
How many have you visited? Even after living in the country for years, I wasn’t able to check out even half of them.
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