Braulio Carrillo National Park
Dry season: January through April, but many parts of the park remain wet all year round.
Distance from San José: 23 kilometers.
This park is dedicated to the memory of Lic. Braulio Carrillo, Costa Rica’s third Chief of State (1835-37 and 1838-42). The park takes his name in honor for his efforts which, although unsuccessful, were aimed at opening a road between the Central Valley and Guapiles on the Atlantic coast.
Created by Law 8357-A of April 5, 1978, this park is located northeast of the Central Valley in the central Cordillera Volcanica, between the massifs of Poas and Irazu volcanoes. Covering more than 44,000 hectares, Braulio Carrillo is one of the largest protected areas in Costa Rica. Nearly the entire landscape is made up of tall volcanic mountains swathed in forest, with countless great rivers running through deep canyons. Several extinct volcanoes have been identified: Chompipe, at 2,259 meters tall; Turu, at 2,139 meters; Cerro Cacho Negro, at 2,250 meters; and Barva, which has several craters collectively known as Tres Marias with an average height of 1,725 meters. Visitor services include information, a park ranger station, trails, restrooms, drinking water, signage and several natural viewpoints.
Braulio Carillo is located off highway 32 on the way to Limón from the capital of Costa Rica, San José. The park entrance is located on the right hand side of the road with ample parking available for tourists. Guides can be sought after at the park entrance and they will negotiate a price should you chose to want a guide. To make you feel more comfortable, you can ask the guide to see his or her official identification stating they are a certified and license tour guide of Costa Rica.
Braulio Carrillo National Park is located 20 kilometers northeast of San Jose. The part of Braulio Carrillo that most people see is the southern area on either side of the Siquirres Highway on the way to the Atlantic coast. If you’re coming from San Jose, the road to Limon is marked as the Siquirres Highway. The park headquarters is located less than 1 kilometer before the Zurqui tunnel on the right side of the highway.
The park lies in one of the most rugged regions in the country. Almost the entire landscape is broken up by towering mountains heavily cloaked with thick forest and by innumerable swollen rivers that carve deep canyons often with sheer vertical walls. The terrain and the heavy rainfall (the park receives an average of about 4,500 mm. a year) conspire to create an infinite number of waterfalls that can be seen everywhere. The parkland includes two extinct volcanoes, Cacho Negro with an easily seen conical shape, and Barba which is composed of several craters. Two of these are Barba Lake which is a round lake of crystal clear water that measures 70 meters in diameter, and Danta Lake which measures 500 meters in diameter. The Las MarÃas Peaks, which are easily seen from the city of San Jose, are the remains of a caldera like structure that existed there.
The plant life in the park is composed of very dense, complex evergreen forest. The kind of forest varies according to the variations that exist in the topography, watersheds, temperature, cloud cover and rainfall. The tallest forest and those with the largest number of species are located in the park lowlands. In the upper and more rugged reaches of the park, the trees are stunted and deformed and there are fewer species. Most of the park is covered with primary forest in which there are 6,000 plant species.
Here is an abundance of tree ferns, heliconias, palm trees and bromeliads. Poor man’s umbrella is a plant frequently seen growing alongside the road. It can grow as high as 1.5 meters and is unmistakable because of the enormous size of its leaves. Frogs and toads abound in the park, especially in the area known as Bajo de la Hondura. An endemic species is the Bufo holdridgei toad which is frequently seen on Barba Volcano and in the Bajos del Tigre region. The most venomous snake in the country, the bushmaster also lives in the park.
A modern highway, which has been named Braulio Carrillo, crosses the park from northeast to southwest. It has excellent look-out points from which views of the river canyons, volcano cones and waterfalls can be enjoyed.
Trees found here: mountain cypress, winter’s bark tree, wild fig, olive, mayo, alcanfor, copal, crab wood, quaruba, banak, jigger wood.
Some of the animals found here: howler monkey, spider monkey, white faced capuchin monkey, tapir, jaguar, cougar, ocelot, paca, northern tamandua, red brocket, kinkajou, agouti, Mexican tree porcupine, two toed sloth, and three-toed sloth.
Birds found here: resplendent quetzal, bare-necked umbrella bird, ornate hawk eagle, solitary eagle, osprey, sooty robin, clay colored robin, king vulture, guan, greater sun bittern, collared trogon, black faced solitaire, and three wattle bellbird, and other species 347 in total.