Visiting Barra Honda National Park
When we think about Costa Rica, the first things that come to mind are beaches, jungles and volcanoes. So it might surprise you to learn that some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful landscapes also include those underground. Barra Honda National Park is located on the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste. The park is home to amazing limestone caves and caverns, as well as world-class stalagmites and stalactites. These limestone monuments date back over 70 million years. Barra Honda is home to 42 caverns and has yielded evidence of life dating back to 300 BC. This historical value as well as the natural beauty, makes Barra Honda a destination unlike any other in the country.
Visit the caves in combination with a hike through the park. Arrive at the visitor’s center between 7am and 1pm to avoid interfering with closing time. From there, hike to the mirador (300 meters) while you receive information about the flora and fauna. The mirador will offer you a stunning view of Nicoya even all the way to the coasts! After that, your tour can end on a climax with a visit to the stunning caves.
From the 42 caves, only 19 have been explored. And from those 19, only two are open to the public. The most fascinating cave in Barra Honda National Park is the Terciopelo, named after the enormous snake found dead during the first exploration. This is the largest and most beautiful cave yet discovered. And the most accessible! You don’t have to be an expert spelunker to visit this gem. Only prepare yourself for the thin, 19 meter ladder you climb down at the entrance! But don’t worry, it looks more scary than it actually is.
La Cuevita, meaning ‘little cave’, is a lot smaller and less challenging. This makes it the perfect cave to visit with your children.
Even if you don’t plan on visiting the caves, you can still enjoy the many hiking trails. The hilly forest terrain surrounding the caves is a refuge for many rare species. For example, howler monkeys, scarlet Macaws, anteaters and many others. Additionally, Barra Honda can teach you about the fragile yet fascinating habitat of the tropical dry forest.
Palo Verde National Park
Barra Honda is part of the Tempisque Conservation Area. Its famous brother adorning the same protected lands, is Palo Verde National Park. This is ‘the’ park for the passionate birder. Home to 279 different species of birds, you can spot tanagers, orioles, black-bellied whistling duck,… and many more! Take boating tours to see crocodile and visit the famous nesting colony of Isla de los Parajos!
Nicoya town and beaches
Nicoya’s Blue Zone reputation has given life to some of Costa Rica’s most interesting beaches. Visit Playa Samara for the most laid-back and friendly beach community. Nosara is a yoga paradise as well as a surfer’s dream! Both beach towns have maintained its authentic local vibe beautifully. Learn more about the first colonial city in Costa Rica and visit the charming Nicoya town. Nicoya is home to the oldest church in the country!
Visit between December and May: Caves are slippery, even without rain! Sometimes, if it is thought unsafe, the caves can even close during the rainy season. So the dry season is your best bet for the most instructive and enjoyable time.
Rent a car: Barra Honda National Park is not the most accessible of the National Parks of Costa Rica. If you plan on driving to the car park close to the mirador, it is best to rent a 4×4.
Make it a day tour: Part of Barra Honda’s charm is in its remote nature. You won’t find any higher end hotels in this area. Visit Barra Honda as a day trip and book a hotel at one of the stunning Nicoya beaches like Samara or Nosara.
Bring sturdy shoes: The trails can get pretty muddy and the caves will always be somewhat slippery. Wear shoes that can take some humidity and have good grip.
Bring water and snacks: Once in the park, you have no options to buy anything. Prepare by bringing plenty of water as well as some nutritional snacks. Remember that the humidity in the caves will make you extra thirsty!
You can reach Barra Honda National Park from the international airport in Liberia (LIR). From here, it will take you about 1.5 hours to reach the park. If you are traveling from San Jose, you can take a private shuttle, rent a car or fly to Liberia. Keep in mind that if you drive, it will take you around 4 hours. That being said, driving in Costa Rica has become very easy with the newly paved roads even in more remote areas. And with Barra Honda being rather isolated, private transportation is the ideal option for you.
Options for dining around the park itself are rather limited. But on your way to Barra Honda, you can stop off at La Fulana Cosa. Located just outside of Nicoya, this restaurant offers local as well as Italian cuisine. If you are lucky, you will be able to meet the owner’s Great Danes! For high quality food with a gourmet flair, enjoy a meal at Bernina Artisan Food.
Where to stay
With the options around Barra Honda National Park being limited, we recommend you stay at one of Nicoya’s most enchanting beaches. Playa Samara is one of the best options in this regard. Hotel Sol Samara’s rustic charm is bound to leave its effect on you. This hotel is suited for families, couples as well as adventure seekers! If you prefer to stay and Surfer and Yoga paradise Nosara, check out the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort and combine luxury with a comfortable boutique atmosphere.