The Guanacaste National Park is located on the east side of the Pan-American Highway across from Santa Rosa National Park, it was created on June 5th, 1991, to protect the evergreen forest slope and the Orosi and Cacao volcanoes cloud forests.
The Guanacaste National Park was established in 1989, largely due to an ambitious project spearheaded by the American ecologist Dr. Daniel Janzen whose efforts were critical in raising the international donations that were necessary to purchase the land in question. Using the clever slogan, “How to Grow a National Park”, Janzen stressed the need to reclaim degraded pasture land and regenerate more of the severely threatened tropical dry forest habitat, as well as creating a biological corridor to make them cooler and moister.
In fact, the Guanacaste National Park was established with the main purpose of creating a biological corridor to connect Santa Rosa National Park with high elevation cloud forest and caribbean rain forest slope. This huge park extends from the Santa Rosa National Park border with the Pan-American Highway northeastward to the peaks of the Cacao and Orosi Volcanoes and across the Continental Divide on the Caribbean slopes of these two volcanoes. The Orosi Volcano (1487m / 4878ft) is dormant, while the spectacular conical Cacao Volcano is notable for the contrast between the rainforest on its eastern slopes and the dry plains on its lower western slopes. It includes a variety of habitats, such as dry forest, dry plains, rainforest and cloud forest.
This project was created to help secure a migration route for those animals that move into the highlands during the dry season. When the park was created there were two aims: one was to provide a natural biological corridor to protect the seasonal migratory route of birds and animals to and from the rainforest in the east and the dry plains in the west. The second aim was to carefully monitor the areas of cattle pasture within the park and as a result aid the forest natural regeneration.
Another of the main goals of Guanacaste National Park was the desire of being “user friendly”, to encourage local participation in environmental programs, and hire as many of the previous ranch workers as park personnel. In fact, many of the fired cattlemen have since been trained to work as park personnel. Fortunately, the conservation campaign came at a time when international world beef prices were at a historically low level and many of the ranch owners with extensive holdings in the area were quite willing to sell up their less productive pasture land.
This extension of Santa Rosa will hopefully provide a sufficiently large area of protected land to ensure the future of wide-ranging species, while at the same time allowing species of birds and insects that make local seasonal migrations between the dry forest and the evergreen cloud and rain forests to live without the threat of continued loss of habitat.
Wildlife in the Guanacaste National Park is varied, with some 140 species of mammals, over 300 birds, many of which move seasonally between the varying habitats, 100 amphibians and reptiles, and over 10,000 species of insects have been identified. The most common mammals are howler monkeys, white-faced Capuchin, long-nosed armadillos and coatis, as well as collared peccaries, pocket mice, white-tailed deer, pumas, ocelots, jaguars, sloths, tapirs and many others.
The park also has a wide variety of climates given the change in elevation from 300m to 1,659m (the summit of Cacao Volcano) within the park, crossing from dry forest to rain forest as one goes eastward over the Continental Divide. Usually it’s very hot throughout the year, with a rainy season from May to November.
Guanacaste National Park carries more research than any other national park in Costa Rica. The park has several interesting trails and four research stations, located in varying habitats, of which at least one is open to the public for tourists, researchers and photographers. All research stations offer some rustic accommodations, but access is by gravel roads requiring the use of 4WD vehicles.
It is located further north, at an elevation of 650m in the Orosi Volcano (1450m) west foothills, at the junction of the wet and dry forest. Here visitors can find hills that are relics of Plio-Cuaternary volcanoes and plains formed by the accumulation of ash, pyroclasts and ignimbrites. The western slope of these volcanoes is covered with evergreen rain forests. Trees here can grow up to 30m in height with predominating species such as the Santa María (Baccharis trinervis), Tempisque (Sideroxylon capiri) and the Pond-apple (Annona glabra). This sector protects the headwaters of several important rivers at the continental divide. Near the station is located a water Continental Divide, that separates by a few hundred meters the headwaters of the Tempisque River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean, and the Sapoá River, which flows into Lake Nicaragua, that drains into the Caribbean Sea, and also a large number of creeks and streams, which makes Maritza Sector an ideal site for the study of aquatic biology and insects, under the direction of the Stroud Water Research Center in Costa Rica. Archaeologically, Maritza Sector, and especially a place known as El Pedregal, has great historical significance, because here are hundreds of petroglyphs more than 1500 years old, scattered over a large area, which still lack much research.
This Biological Station is open 24 hours with visitor attention from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has dormitory style lodging of four rooms with capacity for 32 people, showers, bathrooms with potable water, dining room, radio communication, electricity, a research lab and classroom.
From San José, drive north to Puntarenas and then follow the Pan-American Highway to Liberia and continue north for about 42km (29 miles), or 15km south of La Cruz city, until you reach the intersection that takes you to the Cuajiniquil community, from this point starts an 18km road that climbs to the station in the Orosi volcano foothills (eastern side). Access during the rainy season is difficult; it is recommended year-round use of a 4WD vehicle. This route requires a total of 5 hours from San José.
From Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR), follow the highway to Liberia and continue north for about 42km (29 miles), or 15km south of La Cruz city, until you reach the intersection that takes you to the Cuajiniquil community, from this point starts an 18km road that climbs to the station in the Orosi volcano foothills (eastern side). Access during the rainy season is difficult; it is recommended year-round use of 4WD vehicle.
Cacao Volcano (1659m) is located in the Guanacaste mountain range, on the volcanic mountain known as Orosi-Cacao. This volcano has clearly the remains of a volcanic depression that destroyed its south side. Today it is a dormant volcano.
The Cacao Sector is located on the edge of the cloud forest on the southwestern side of the Cacao Volcano, at 1.100m high. It features steep terrain surrounding the volcano, with transitions from dry tropical forest in the lowlands to cloud and rain forest in the higher altitudes. The cloud forest vegetation consists of a squat with less than ten meters high, tree trunks and branches twisted by the wind and with lots of orchids, lichens, mosses and bromeliads. The average annual temperature ranges between 18.5ºC and 21.7ºC, however during the months of December through February it can drop to nearly 10ºC. The Biological Station at Cacao Sector is open 24 hours with visitor attention from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has dormitory style lodging of four rooms with capacity for 32 people, 4 restrooms and 2 showers with potable water, caretaker on-site, kitchen, dining hall, laboratory, trails, horses for transportation and radio communication equipment, but no electricity.
From San Jose, take the Pan-American Highway to Liberia and continue northwest of the city for about 24km (miles), or 33km south of the La Cruz city, until you reach the intersection located in the town known as Potrerillos; then turn onto a paved road for 9 km to the community of Quebrada Grande, and continue for 18km along a more difficult path, up to the station. During the dry season, the vehicles can arrive where the trail path starts, at 300m from the Biological Station. In the rainy season usually vehicles can reach up to the Gongora River sector, located 5km before the station. At any time of year a 4WD vehicle is required.
It is located on the eastern side of Cacao Volcano, set inside the rainforest, with great influence from the Caribbean. Most of the forest is primary, with a few patches of secondary forest, and thus has a high biodiversity, being one of the best sites inside the ACG (Guanacaste Conservations Area) to see a great variety of birds. From this site, visitors can see the Nicaragua Lake, which also influences the climate of the sector. It has a largely unexplored rain forest area with trails to Orosilito Hill and Orosi Volcano. The Station at Pitilla Sector is open 24 hours with visitor attention goes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also has two room dormitory with 20 beds, 3 showers and restrooms with potable water, food services, trails, radio communication, but no electricity, a laboratory and classrooms.
From San Jose, take the Pan-American Highway to Liberia and continue to the northwest of the city for about 58km, or 1km south of the La Cruz city, until you reach the intersection to the community of Santa Cecilia. Continue east on this road for about 35km until you reach Santa Cecilia. One kilometer after passing Santa Cecilia, and continuing along the road leading to the community of Brasilia, you should see a gravel road on your right, that ascends 7km to the southeast of the Orosilito foothills where the Pitilla Biological Station is, at 600 meters elevation.
Tropical Dry Forest Research Center
It is an administration building and offices for the ACG (Guanacaste Conservation Area). It’s one more service from ACG, whose responsibilities include teaching courses for groups, whether national or foreign, wishing to visit the ACG, as well as administration and management of Information and Documentation Centre, which collects, organizes and provides general biological information available, such as books, research results, and administrative information of the area as reports, business plans, articles, etc., together with audiovisual material on various topics. It has laboratories, documentation center and conference hall, and it offers dormitory style lodging for up to 64 people, with dining area, electricity, water, laundry, telephone, fax and photocopying.
From San Jose, take the Pan-American Highway to Liberia and continue north for 42km (29 miles) to Potrerillos, you will find the Research Center near the entrance to the Santa Rosa Sector.
Other nearby parks includes the Santa Rosa National Park, Rincon de la Vieja National Park,Bahia Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge and Iguanita National Wildlife Refuge.
You can take a bus from San Jose to Liberia, which takes about 4 hours (Pulmitan Liberia Terminal, 2222-1650) and then take a bus from Liberia to Cuajiniquil (González García Terminal), or a bus from Liberia to La Cruz (Empresa Arrieta).
You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to the Liberia International Airport, either with Sansa Airlines or Nature Air every day. From here you can rent a car and drive to the park.
Location: east of the Pan-American Highway, Guanacaste, 280km from San Jose, Costa Rica.
Potrerillos GPS coordinates: 10.844325,-85.491597 (10°50’39.57″N, 85°29’29.75″W)
Size: 38.000ha (94.000 acres)
Altitude: from 200m (820ft) to 1500m (4757ft)
Schedule: from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Guanacaste Conservation Area Telephone (ACG): + (506) 2666-5051
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192