Santa Rosa National Park
Size: 49,515 hectares
Distance from San Jose: 260 kilometers
Dry Season: January through March.
Santa Rosa National Park was created in 1971, and it is located 37 kilometers north of the city of Liberia on the west side of the Inter American Highway. Santa Rosa is one of the country’s most historically significant parks. The ranch house “La Casona” and the stone corrals built in colonial times were the sites of one of the most famous battles in the history of Costa Rica:
The battle of Santa Rosa fought on March 20, 1856. The battle of Santa Rosa occurred in the area surrounding the hacienda. Here, Costa Rican forces engaged the “Filibusters” led by an American named William Walker. Walker had a grandiose scheme to take over the five nations of Central America to form its own republic, or to annex them to the slave-owning southern states of the United States.
He got as far as to proclaim himself the commander of the armed forces of Nicaragua, and invaded Costa Rica from the North. After a bloody battle, the filibusters were routed from the hacienda and those that were not killed were pursued back to Nicaragua.
Here another hacienda battle occurred. This second battle produced Costa Rica’s national hero, a young boy named Juan Santamaria, Who volunteered for the mission of setting the hacienda aflame. He managed to accomplish this despite being mortally wounded, and his act of bravery resulted in the capture of Walker, who was sent to Honduras where he was hanged.
Also in January 1955, several groups of invaders crossed into Costa Rica from Nicaragua. This time, they were an army of mercenaries put together by a combination of Costa Rican politicians and the Nicaraguan dictator Anastacio Somoza, both parties being interested in the overthrow of the popularly elected government of Jose Figueres Ferrer. One of the most decisive battles occurred in and around the hacienda, in which Costa Rica militia (the country had formally abolished the army in 1948) battled mercenaries backed by Somoza’s air force for 2 hours , 45 minutes before the invading army was forced to retreat. Twenty-four people were killed and many wounded on both sides.
The Park is of vital importance for the protection and restoration of the habitats of the climatic zone known as “Dry Pacific”. In most of Santa Rosa the rainfall reaches 1,600 mm, and the dry season lasts 6 months.
This park has two sectors: Murcielago and Santa Rosa itself. Located in the northern part of the Santa Elena peninsula, Murcielago features several beaches, including El Hachal, Danta, Coquito, Santa Elena and Blanca. The administrative area offers parking, picnic tables, bathrooms, drinking water and camping. There are also viewpoints and trails.
The Santa Rosa sector shelters the largest tract of tropical dry forest in Central America. Wildlife here includes white-tailed deer and Congo and white-faced monkeys. This area features two beaches: Naranjo, which permits camping, and Nancite, which is operated as a biological station and where olive ridley turtles come to nest. Finally, Santa Rosa has great historical importance as the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa.
This sector offers several trails and viewpoints, as well as other points of interest such as the Monument to the Heroes of 1856 and 1955 and the historical house, which was completely rebuilt in 2002.
This park protects 253 species of birds, 115 of mammals (over half being bats), 100 of amphibians and reptiles, and over 10,000 of insects, including 3,410 species of moths and butterflies.
The most conspicuous reptile in the park is probably the ctenosaur and the understorey there are numerous boa constrictor.
The beaches at Nancite and Naranjo are important nesting sites for the olive ridley, leatherback, and Pacific green sea turtles. The largest arribadas of olive ridley turtles in all of Tropical America take place at Nancite.
Because of the park’s enormous biological wealth and variety, together with the ease with which one can reach it, Santa Rosa has become an important international research center for studying the ecology of tropical dry forest.
The purpose of that park is to establish a wilderness area of 85,000 Ha. Which will be large enough to guarantee the continuing existence of the populations of plants and animals and the original, tropical dry forest habitats of the region?.
The Murcielago Section is the newest addition to Santa Rosa National Park. Located southeast of the town of Cuajiniquil on the Santa Elena peninsula, this rugged, spectacular area of rocky peaks and valleys is rarely visited. It is largely deforested, and is a center of ecological restoration efforts. The area contains several secluded beaches. Camping is permitted on any of the beaches.
One of the beaches in this park “Naranjo Beach” is excellent for surfing.
Habitats found in the park: grasslands and savannah woodland, deciduous forest, oak tree, evergreen forest, mangrove swamp, mesquite-nacascol swamp, riparian forest, strongly deciduous hillside forest of cactus and agaves, and littoral woodland.
Animals found in the park: white-nosed coati, howler monkey, white-faced capuchin, common long-nosed armadillo, white-tailed deer, collared peccary and common raccoons. The spiny pocket mouse.
Birds found in the park: magpie jay, orange-fronted parakeet, elegant trogon, rufous-naped wren, and crested caracara.