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Guanacaste National Park

Guanacaste National Park

Quick Facts

  • Location : 22 miles north of Liberia
  • Area : 80,306 acres
  • Hours : 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
  • Telephone : 2666-0630
  • Entrance Fee : $10.00

Guanacaste National Park was created on July 25th (1989), also known as Guanacaste Day. Adjacent to Santa Rosa National Park, the park is incredibly diverse; its lowland savannahs blend east into tropical dry forest that, in turn, ascends toward the active Orosi and Cacao Volcanoes. The highland volcanic terrain gradually transitions into humid cloud forest, the Guanacaste Mountain Range's predominant habitat.

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Researchers are the most frequent visitors to Guanacaste National Park. Three major research stations – Maritza Biological Station, Cacao Biological Station and Pitilla Biological Station – serve as the park’s intellectual meeting grounds. Visitors with relevant backgrounds are welcome to volunteer at the park for extended periods of time. 

Biologists in the park are currently focused on reforestation, since much of the reserve is ranch land. Interestingly, researchers have found that the best way to promote reforestation in Guanacaste National Park is to simply let nature take its course. Through their efforts, scientists have helped to not only preserve current forests, but to promote second-growth forests as well.

For the visiting tourist, the park shelters one of the most important rivers in Costa Rica, the Tempisque River, in addition to several other headwaters along the continental divide. It is ideal for hiking and viewing nature, though established trails are nearly non-existent. There are pre-Columbian petroglyphs scattered around El Pedregal near the Maritza field station at the base of Orosi Volcano.

Be sure to speak with park rangers before setting off on any of the park’s rustic trails. To climb to the Orosi or Cacao Volcano summit, it is recommended that you hire a professional guide.  

Weather:

Annual average temperature: 79 F
Annual average rainfall: 78 inches

Activities:

The park’s hiking trails are among the most rustic and undeveloped in Costa Rica, ideal for more experienced hikers. Visitors can hike between the research stations, or climb to the Cacao or Orosi Volcano summit. A professional guide is recommended for hiking to the summit. Camping is permitted within the park, and dormitory-style lodging is often available at both the Cacao and Maritza research stations. Call in advance for prices and availability.

Facilities:

The park houses the administration building for the ACG (Guanacaste Conservation Area) where you’ll find restrooms, laboratories and a conference hall. 

Maritza Biological Station: Arguably the best starting spot for park adventures, this research station is the newest of the three. Rustic trails run out to both volcanoes; hikes to each take about six hours (one-way). A developed trail leads visitors to several hundred volcanic-rock petroglyphs.

Cacao Biological Station:Snuggled onto the Cacao Volcano mountainside, this research station is located at a cool 3,480 feet above sea level. A rough trail winds toward Cacao Volcano.

Pitilla Biological Station:Situated on Orosi Volcano's northeastern ledge, this research station sits in the center of humid, lush forest, an atypical sight in dry Guanacaste.

Trails:

Trails leave from all stations, each interconnecting with the other. Trails allow hikers to explore different types of ecosystems and offer panoramic views and rich biodiversity.  

Flora & Fauna:

The park is home to over 300 bird species including toucans, Montezuma oropendula and owls. Adding to the diverse mix of life are 5,000 species of butterflies and moths, 3,000 species of epiphytes and animal species that include the paca, white-tailed deer, jaguar, puma, osprey, eyelash viper and tapir. The most common fauna in this park are wild stranglers, ear trees (also known as the Guanacaste tree, Costa Rica's national tree), ceiba trees and silk trees.

Getting There:

From San Jose, take the Interamerican Highway northwest toward Liberia. At the Cuajiniquil turnoff (about 1.5 miles before you reach La Cruz), you will see signs for each research station. 

Guanacaste National Park in Pictures