Parks and Reserves Las Pumas Cat Zoo — There are six native cats of Costa Rica: jaguarundis, jaguars, ocelots, cougars, marguays, and “tiger” cats. Each of these species can take refuge at Las Pumas in the town of Cañas. The primary source of occupants comes from stray and injured cats, as well as those captured from hunters and private owners. Next door is an ecological center with nature trails that run through the surrounding dry forest. Many species of wildlife flourish here. The Río Corobicí runs through this area, providing the opportunity for raft rides through its relatively gentle waters. In addition, there is a museum and visitors can explore several pre-Columbian sites.
Las Imágenes Biological Station – Nine miles north of Liberia, this large, former cattle ranching hacienda is a great place for tourists to explore by horseback and learn about the local environment.
Parque Nacional Guanacaste — Made up of several smaller reserves, this massive park covers over 200,000 acres of tropical dry forest and cloud forest. Dominating the skies are two ominous volcanoes: Cerro Cacao and Volcán Orosí. Hiking in the area is good, and historical sites are a popular point of interest among visitors.While this national park can offer a great deal in the way of natural beauty and historical significance, it is more accommodating to scientists than to the enthusiastic tourist. There are only a few biological stations and the roads into the park are poorly maintained. Still, many visitors will find this to be its greatest quality, opting to explore a more remote, rugged and unspoiled wilderness.
Parque Nacional Santa Rosa — This park is encompassed by the Parque Nacional Guanacaste system, and is located on the Peninsula de Santa Elena. The abundance of wildlife here is astounding, making this destination a must-see for most tourists. Prowling big cats, mischevious and playful monkeys, reptiles that lurk among the foliage, a plethora of vibrantly-colored butterflies, and countless species of birds are just some of the remarkable occupants of this area. The best time to visit Santa Rosa is during the dry season. This park is made up of two sections. To the south is the Santa Rosa sector. An old farmstead, La Casona, serves as a museum now, displaying artifacts from the stand-off with William Walker. From here, visitors can take the trail that enters the dry forest and leads to Playa Naranjo, known for its great surfing. To the north is the Murciélago sector, a relatively quiet range of land with beautiful white-sand beaches inhabited by birds and other animals.
Monteverde — Literally meaning “green mountain”, Monteverde is famous for its lush, verdant cloud forests. The mists that hover over its upper elevations lend a mysterious quality to the mountain, and its abundant, green foliage is the perfect setting to observe the area’s rich and plentiful wildlife. The Quaker-founded community of Santa Elena consists mostly of small farms spreading up the hillside. In the early 1950s, Quakers from the United States came to this area in an effort to avoid the draft, bringing with them 50 Jersey cattle and a keen ability to make incredible cheese. La Lechería, the community’s local cheese factory, is the foundation of the local economy. Visitors can purchase any of thirteen varieties including the Monte Rico, their most popular cheese. Near La Lechería is the Sarah Dodwell Watercolor Gallery and the Hummingbird Gallery where fine artwork can be viewed and purchased. Based on traditional Quaker ideals, the Monteverde community has remained steadfast in upholding an outstanding conservation ethic. Agricultural and land use practices are designed with sustainability and minimizing environmental degradation in mind. And these principles are institutionalized early; a significant portion of their school’s curriculum is dedicated to familiarizing students with the concepts of preservation and sustainable use. For visitors, these concepts are presented at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Ecological Center, the Monteverde Conservation League, and the Monteverde Institute. Bird watching is very popular throughout the Monteverde area, especially during April and May when the quetzals engage in their mating rituals. This activity occurs at the lower levels of the forest, making them readily observable. At El Jardín de las Mariposas, visitors can see over 40 species of butterfly, fluttering about in three specialized habitats. Music and art have their place here. The Monteverde Studios of the Arts holds theme-driven workshops that focus on various native arts and crafts. The Monteverde Music Festival presents music by top performers.
Biological Reserves located within the Monteverde Area Reserva Biológica del Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde – World-renown for the abundance of wildlife occupying its eight distinct life zones, this is Monteverde’s premier biological reserve, covering 25,730 acres. From its lowland swamps to its upper-elevation cloud forests, this park offer visitors a wealth of flora and fauna, unrivaled by most parks in the tropical world. Over 400 species of birds live here, including the beautiful and elusive quetzal. The Tropical Science Center of Costa Rica regulates the reserve, and maintains the boardwalks that lead from the visitor center into the core of the reserve.
Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena — Uniquely, this reserve has spider monkeys, which aren’t found anywhere else in Monteverde. There is a network of trails that covers its 1,440 acres, but for those who prefer an alternative to walking, Sky-Walk offers a half mile of canopy-high suspension bridges, and the Original Canopy Tour can let you fly through the treetops attached by a harness to a suspended line.
Finca Ecológica Wildlife Refuge – This is a small, private reserve made up of wet mountain forest filled with monkeys, birds and the racoon’s cousin, the coati
Bosque Eterno de los Niños – Bosque Eterno’s now 50,000 acres is supported by children from all over the world, staking a claim in the preservation of the rainforest. This park encompasses a similar natural environment as Santa Elena, though the facilities are comparatively limited.
Bajo del Tigre Trails — Otherwise known as “Jaguar Canyon”, this 44-acre reserve features trails, a nature center for children, and an arboretum. In the spring, it’s a great place for quetzal-spotting.
Paradise for Bellbirds — This private reserve located between Santa Elena and Monteverde is home to a large number of three-wattled bellbirds. This species is known for its unique song – a distinctive “bonk” sound.
Reserva Sendero Tranquilo — This private reserve encompasses over 500 acres of Monteverde’s cloud forest environment.
Parque Nacional Palo Verde — This 32,000-acre national park combines the freshwater ecosystems along the Río Tempisque with that of the dry forests that reside just north of there. Between the two exist 15 distinct habitats. Grasslands, scrublands, dry forests, mangrove swamps, and more make up the environment, giving sanctuary to a wide range of flora and fauna. The Río Tempisque and smaller tributaries run through this area, attracting hundreds of birds, such as storks, ibises, ducks, geese, macaws, and the rare curassow, to name only a few. Birding is a very popular activity along the river. Even the rare scarlet macaw may be seen in this park. Guided tours are available, and some areas are best explored by boat. Camping is not allowed without consent from the national park authorities. There are hotels nearby. Combined with the surrounding Refugio de Vida Silvestre Dr Rafael Lucas Rodriguez Caballero, Reserva Biológica Lomas Barbudal, and the Parque Nacional Barra Honda, this area is referred to as the Area Conservacion Tempisque. Refugio de Vida Silvestre Dr Rafael Lucas Rodriguez Caballero This remote park, only ocassionally visited by tourists, features wet and dry habitats.
Reserva Biológica Lomas Barbudal – This reserve protects over 5,500 acres of dry deciduous forest, only vestiges of the ecosystem that once predominated the Tempisque flood plain. Near the Río Cabuyo, trees are shrouded with mosses, draping from their branches, and giving a bushy, bearded look. A small museum and information center are located near the opening of the reserve. Most nature trails begin here.