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Barra Honda National Park
Limestone Caverns

Barra Honda National Park Costa Rica
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit | Getting There | Books | Web

Unlike the volcanic stone found throughout northern Costa Rica, the Barra Honda area of the Tempisque Basin where the Nicoya Peninsula joins the mainland has a foundation of limestone. Water has cut extensive caves through the small mountains of the park, and this is its best known feature. However, the park also has well maintained hiking trails. The protected tropical dry forest (though mostly secondary) within its borders is some of the last in the world, and very different from the rain and cloud forests that attract many ecological tourists to Costa Rica.

The soda straws, pearls, roses, needles, cave grapes, curtains, terraces, stalactites, stalagmites and other calcareous formations of the more than 40 limestone caverns are the main attraction at Barra Honda National Park. The caves are all in relatively good condition because their vertical entrances are difficult to negotiate. This is also why you need climbing gear, a guide, and permission from the Parks service in advance to enter them.
The caves range from a few feet to over 780 feet (240 meters) deep. Pozo Hediondo (Fetid Pit) Cave was named for the aroma of the guano deposited by its thousands of residents. Until the caverns were discovered and explored in the late sixties, many belived that Cerro Barra Honda was a volcano because of the roaring sounds made by the bats as they departed the caverns en masse, and the fumes from the caves they occupied.

The network of hiking trails used to access the caverns are great for exploring one of the rarest habitats on earth, tropical dry forest. The juxtaposition of capuchin monkeys and cactus seems odd, and some of the trees flower only after they've dropped all their leaves. Any time of year you can hope to see howler monkeys, deer, racoons, peccaries, kinkajous, agoutis, and anteaters.

If you are traveling on a budget, spend the night. It's one of the few places you can get a bed and a roof inside a National Park.

In the region of Barra Honda
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit | Getting There
Books | Web




In the region:
Santa Rosa National Park
Guanacaste National Park
Palo Verde National Park

When to visit Barra Honda Costa Rica
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit | Getting There
Books | Web




When to visit:
The caves are not open in the wet season because of the danger of flooding by the torrential rains that carved them from the stone. If you are a spelunker the dry season is your best bet.

Books and other resources for Barra Honda Caves and Spelunking
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit | Getting There
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Toucan Ratings Explained | Lowest Available Price
Why Buy from Us?

Green Phoenix: Restoring the Tropical Forests of Guanacaste, Costa RicaGreen Phoenix: Restoring the Tropical Forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica
by William Allen, Samantha Burton (Illustrator), Paperback, 310 pages, Publisher: Oxford University Press, (April 2003), ISBN: 0195161777

Sort of a Biography of Daniel Janzen interwoven with a description of trying to recreate one of the most endangered habitats in the world. A compelling story of one of the most successful ecological comebacks ever.
From Amazon $US 18.95 -or-
Barnes&Nobel members $US 18.00

Caves : Exploring Hidden RealmsCaves : Exploring Hidden Realms
by Michael Ray Taylor (Author), Ronal C. Kerbo, Hardcover, 224 pages, Publisher: National Geographic, (March 2001), ISBN: 0792279042

not yet rated
From Amazon $US 35.00-or-
Barnes&Nobel members $US 33.25


Barra Honda Caves and Spelunking information on the web
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit | Getting There
Books | Web



Information on the Web

An account of a trip into Terciopelo cavern, Barra Honda National Park.


Map showing the location of Barra Honda National Park in Costa Rica

Getting There:

Driving directions
From San José, take the Interamerican Highway (1) north just past the turn for Las Juntas de Abangares. Turn left on 18 towards San Joaquín and then follow the signs for the spur to the new Tempisque bridge. Once you rejoin the main road, continue southwest about 10 km then turn right towards the villages of Barra Honda and (also known as Nacaome) Santa Ana, and follow signs for the park entrance. The park headquarters is through the gate (closed at dusk) less than a mile up a good gravel road (4WD not required) on the left.
Detailed roadmaps are available in acrobat pdf format or printed on waterproof tear proof plastic.
Unfortunately there is not a direct way to reach Barra Honda by bus. You can get a bus from San José to Nicoya, then there is one bus a day (12:30 p.m.) from Nicoya to Santa Ana which is about a 30 minute walk from the entrance.

Daily departures from San José, Terminal Alfaro at 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 156 km, 6 hours, $5.20, Alfaro Bus, telephone (506) 222-2666

Entrance fees:

$US 7


The gate is open from 8:00 a.m. until dusk, if you are staying in the park, the rangers leave the station door open until they go to bed around 8:30 p.m.


Hiking trails
Maps are available at the ranger station. The main trail is an undriveable continuation of the entrance road that leads through mostly secondary forest to cerro Barra Honda (1,450 feet, 442 meters) where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Tempisque valley.
At the main ranger station a couple of kilometers up a good dirt road from the entrance (closed from about dusk until 8:00 am) there are four rustic cabinas with bunks for six or eight each. These provide an excellent opportunity for travelers who don't have either camping equipment, or the money for a lodge or ecocamp, to spend the night in the forest. When we stayed, we were on a hiking trail by around 5:15 am (about 15 minutes before sunrise) in order to catch the increased activity of the forest's residents. We also felt comfortable walking on the broad main trail after dark, when you hear and see a whole new group of birds, insects and animals.
If you don't stay in the park, Nicoya is the closest alternative with lodging options in most price categories (nothing on the top end however).
There is a camping area next to the ranger station, across the road from the cabinas.

Quick Facts

Hot and dry from December through April, then hot and humid the rest of the year.
5,600 acres (2,300 hectares, 8.75 square miles, 7 times the size of central park NYC)


From just above sea level to 1,450 feet (442 meters).

Tropical lowland dry forest, pasture, limestone caves

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