Piedras Blancas was made a national park in its own right in 1999. It used to operate as part of the Corcovado National Park called the Esquinas Sector since July 17th, 1991. It was also once known as the Rainforest of the Austrians (Regenwald der Ósterreicher), because in 1991, the Austrian classical violinist, Michael Schinitzler, founded this organization to raise money to buy land in the Esquinas area to preserve the lowland rainforest. The Rainforest of the Austrians also administrated La Gamba Biological Section.
Piedras Blancas National Park is a National Park part of the Osa Conservation Area it is found in the Puntarenas Province of southern Costa Rica near the town of La Gamba. It protects rainforests and beaches near the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) on the Pacific Coast. In the east, the park borders the Golfito Forest Reserve and connects in the west with the Corcovado National Park by the forest corridor of Rincon, which unfortunately is highly threatened by illegal logging, until the mid-90s.
The Piedras Blancas National Park covers 30’000 acres of undisturbed humid tropical lowland primary rainforest and 5’000 acres of secondary forests, pasture land and rivers consisting primarily of hills of varied steepness, over one hundred stream valleys, a river plateau and coastal cliffs and beaches.
The streams carry auriferous sands, fortunately with relatively low yields, thus gold mining has been only artisanal and has not inflicted serious damage to the environment. A common feature of the area is the abundance of ground water, sometimes found as shallow as 5 or 6 feet.
The seasons are not clearly defined, although most of the rain (100 to 150 inches) falls during the rainy season from April to November. The average yearly temperature is around 80ºF (26ºC), with minimum and maximum oscillating between 70ºF and 90ºF. The humidity remains at relatively high levels, permitting the growth of a large variety of ferns.
The rugged mountains and watersheds of both the Esquinas and Piedras Blancas rivers are covered in dense evergreen forest that is home to a number of rare tropical trees and the habitat of many species of birds, mammals and reptiles. Hunting has been a problem, but the number of park rangers was increased from 6 to 16 between 2005 and 2007, and poaching has decreased.
Private scientific projects have chosen the remote area of the Piedras Blancas National Park for the re-introduction project by Zoo Ave of highly endangered Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) to establish a third self-sustaining population within the next years to add to the two existing groups in the Corcovado and the Carara Biological Reserve.
With a stunning diversity of flora and fauna, the stunning Piedras Blancas National Park is a significant natural reserve and wildlife refuge located in the Puntarenas province. Neighboring the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, the Piedras Blancas National Park connects with the Corcovado National Park to form and safeguard an important and ecologically diverse biological corridor in the Golfo Dulce. In fact, this national park is among the last remaining homes of the jaguar in Costa Rica. With its lush tropical forests and plethora of indigenous plants and wildlife, the Piedras Blancas National Park also protects the northern Golfo Dulce beaches and bays.
The fauna is composed by approximately 140 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, over 100 amphibians and reptiles (37 amphibian and 42 reptile species) and several thousands of insects. Some of the more common animals found here include: howler monkey, spider monkey, white-faced capuchin monkey and the endangered squirrel monkey, coatis, raccoons, kinkajous, skunks, anteaters, collared peccaries, pacas or agouties, Red Brocket deers, tayras and long-nosed armadillos, all 5 species of felines: puma, ocelot, margay, jaguar and jaguaroundi. Two-toed-Sloths are rare in the Esquinas forest but can be found in the coastal areas around Golfito. The Northern Tamandua has been sighted near Esquinas Lodge and the Silky anteater was recorded in the mangroves near Golfito. Five species of American Opossums have been recorded, including the Mexican Mouse Opossum, the Gray Four-Eyed Opossum and the Common Opossum. Rodents include the Agouti or Paca and several species of mice, squirrels and rats. With 53 different species, bats are the richest mammal group in Piedras Blancas National Park. The Vampire Bat is a real blood feeding animal and was found foraging in open habitats near La Gamba
You can also find various reptiles including various species of poisonous dart frogs (including the endemic), red-eyed leaf frog or poison-arrow frogs, tree frogs, glass frogs, rain frogs and cane toads. Basilisks and iguanas frequent the streams, lizards can be seen in the garden and geckos can be seen chasing insects in the main lodge building at nighttime. The most common and most dangerous snake is the fer-de-lance and the bushmaster snake, but coral snakes, vine snakes, boa constrictors and pit vipers are seen occasionally. Spectacled caimans live in the ponds and American crocodiles can be seen in larger rivers and mangrove swamps.
Considered by many to be one of the best bird watching parks in the country, the Piedras Blancas National Park is an important gathering point for many birds from North and South America; so far 340 have been identified by specialists, including toucans and Scarlet Macaws
With its tall dense forestation, this national park is essentially an evergreen primary forest that is also the habitat of many indigenous trees and plants. Also found here are many beautiful waterfalls and rivers along meandering trials as well as stunning beaches and a coral reef off shore. Research has additionally unearthed clues that in the pre-Hispanic period, this park was the home of many native Costa Rican tribes.
Getting to Piedras Blancas National Park:
From San Jose, take the Pan-American Highway south towards Panama to Palmar Sur. Continue some 20 miles further south to La Gamba village. From here you can easily access the entrance to this park.
Take a bus San Jose – Puerto Jimenez, which takes about 8 hours (Transportes Blanco, 2771-4744). From here you can rent a car and drive or take a taxi to Piedras Blancas National Park, which is about 15 minutes. We recommend buying the ticket a day earlier to be sure your seat is saved.
You can also ake a bus San Jose – Golfito, which takes about 8 hours (Tracopa-Alfaro, 2221-4214). From here you can take a boat to Puerto Jimenez and then rent a car and drive or take a taxi to Piedras Blancas National Park, which is about 30 minutes. We recommend buying the ticket a day earlier to be sure your seat is saved.
You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to the Puerto Jimenez Airport, either with Sansa or Nature Air airlines, both with daily flights. From here you can rent a car and drive or take taxi to Piedras Blancas National Park, which is about 20 minutes.
Location: on the shore of Golfo Dulce in southern Puntarenas province.
La Gamba GPS Coordinates: 8.708611,-83.184517 (8°42’31.00″N, 83°11’4.26″W)
Size: 140000ha (34,642 acres)
Altitude: sea level to 1000m (3280ft)
Piedras Blancas National Park Telephone: +(506) 2741-1319
Osa Conservation Area (ACOSA) Telephone: +(506) 2735-5580 / 2735-5276
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192