Juan Castro Blanco National Park
- Location : 64 miles northwest of San Jose
- Altitude : 7,450 feet above sea level
- Area : 35,714 acres
- Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m daily
- Telephone : 2460-5462
- Entrance Fee : Free
Juan Castro Blanco National Park is one of Costa Rica's newest and least explored protected zones. Since its establishment in 1992, the reserve has received minimal attention and very few visitors. This has created ideal conditions for wildlife observers, fostering a haven for rare and endangered animals such as the puma and the resplendent quetzal.read more close
The government-regulated preserve is largely privately owned, which contributes to its seclusion. Hardly any infrastructure or resources for visitors exist in the park, meaning no maps, ranger stations, or marked trails; the only man-made structures are a handful of abandoned pumice stone mines leftover from the park’s quarrying days. As a result, the area remains somewhat raw and unaffected by Costa Rica’s growing tourism industry.
Amazingly, over 50% of the park is composed of primary, uncompromised cloud and rainforest – an extremely high percentage of healthy woodland. Plant life is dense, and includes oak, lancewood, quizarra, yayo trees, devil horses, and boat-billed flycatchers. Also common are bromeliad, cypress, cedar, orchid, and many different types of climbing plants, or epiphytes, that leech off of already established vegetation.
Juan Castro Blanco National Park is the tenth most important body of freshwater on the planet: three mountaintops feed the five rivers rushing through the reserve. The streams of Platanar, Toro, Aguas Zarcas, Tres Amigos, and La Vieja provide 15% of the country’s electrical power, as well as potable water to 105 surrounding villages. Its streams, brimming with trout, also serve as a viable food source.
Lagoons and waterfalls grace the landscape, with two ancient volcanoes called Porvenir (7,437 ft) and Platanar (7,162 ft) towering over the area. On the northern edge of Platanar sits the Aguas Zarcas group of nine cinder cones, which are hill-sized miniature volcanoes made up of lava rock or ash. These geological beauties heat the thermal waters and sulfur baths that can be discovered throughout the park.
Average Temperature: 77 °F
Average Rainfall: 156 inches
Because there are few finished trails at Juan Castro Blanco, a guide is highly recommended for hiking excursions. Bird and wildlife watching is unbelievable at Juan Castro Blanco National Park, where populations of many rare and endangered creatures like puma and quetzal are relatively high.
Over 30 species of mammals, 107 species of birds, 22 species of bats, and 32 species of reptiles have been documented in the reserve. Wildlife includes: sloth, clay-colored robin, curassow, black guan, Baird’s tapir, red brocket deer, white-faced monkeys, and armadillos.
Because most of Juan Castro Blanco National Park is privately owned, it lacks facilities, completed trails, and tourist information. Only two of the eight entrances to the park are government sanctioned: one is located in San Jose de la Montana and the other in Bajo del Toro Amarillo.
The MINAE (Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment) station can be found next to the police station in El Sucre, six miles away from the entrance to the park at San Jose de la Montana. MINAE office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but they are rarely observed. When the office is empty, the telephone is hooked up to a fax machine. The station at Bajos del Toro Amarillo does not have a telephone, radio, or any other method of communication.
From San Jose, drive toward Ciudad Quesada. At El Sucre, you will find the MINAE office next to the police station. Take a right here and drive six miles farther to San Jose de la Montana, the entrance to the park.