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Braulio Carrillo National Park
Braulio Carrillo National Park Costa Rica
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit | Getting There | Books

As you head east from San Jose on the Guápiles Highway the Zurquí tunnel transports you from the modern world into the rainforest and cloud forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park.

The two most important features of Braulio Carrillo National Park are ironically opposed in some ways. One is the huge expanse of virgin forest, and the other is the highway that gives easy access. It is difficult at first from a conservation perspective to consider a major highway an attraction, but in the case of Braulio Carrillo National Park it clearly is. The highway is the reason that this area was protected (see established). even without leaving your car, the views are breathtaking, and one can't help but feel moved to try to conserve areas like this after traveling through. It's one of the busiest highways in Costa Rica, but if you walk a hundred yards to either side you are enveloped in another time.

It's bisected by one of the busiest highways in Costa Rica, but if you walk a hundred yards to either side you are enveloped in another time. The hiking trails are the main event in Braulio Carrillo. From the short paths to overlooks and waterfalls to a trail that winds 32 miles (60 km) and drops nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) from Barva to La Selva, this park has something for everyone. One of the unique walking opportunities in Braulio Carrillo is the chance to contrast the flora and fauna at different elevations. You can easily walk for an hour in the high elevation rainforest surrounding the Zurquí station, drive on to the Puesto Carrillo station for another hours walk 3,200 feet (1,000 meters) lower, and be on the beach in Cahuita for the Sunset.

Epiphyte laden tree trunk in Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa RicaThe rainforest Aerial tram is on the Eastern flank of Braulio Carrillo National Park. This is an open gondola that takes you on a two level tour of the rainforest canopy. It traverses a valley and climbs a small mountain. On the way up you ride a few meters off the ground in the understory and lower canopy, on the return trip the ride is through the treetops as much as fifty meters (170 feet) off the ground. Each gondola carries up to four passengers and a guide, and all of the guides are equipped with walkie-talkies so if one spots a sloth they all know to point it out when you pass by.
There are also a few kilometers of excellent hiking trails and guides on these walks are included with your admission and tram ride.
About $50 per person, transportation can be arranged from most central valley (San Jose) hotels for a day trip.

In the region
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In the region
The best time to view volcano craters is early in the morning before they are obscured by mist and clouds, so you could visit one before heading to Braulio Carrillo National Park
Poás Volcano National Park
Irazú Volcano National Park

The Lankester Botanical Gardens outside Cartago take about half a day and are well worth the trip if you are an orchid lover or interested in the botany of Costa Rica.

La Selva Biological Reserve

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When to visit:
Whenever you go to this park you will find that the vast majority of people are just passing through. The trails are never crowded, but the highway nearly always is. In contrast to most of the roads in Costa Rica, traffic on highway 32 flows with relatively little congestion due to the passing lanes provided on the uphill side. Weather is not a major consideration (March and April are slightly drier). You can expect afternoon shower year round, and should always be ready for a downpour.

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Why Buy from Us?

A Guide to the Birds of Costa RicaA Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica
by F. Gary Stiles, Alexander F. Skutch (Contributor), Dana Gardner (Illustrator), Paperback, Publisher: Cornell Univ. Pr, (1990), ISBN: 0801496004

Birders the world over agree it's a classic in its field. An excellent guide to one of the most diverse bird populations anywhere with 52 beautiful color plates, detailed species accounts, descriptions of birding localities. If you're already hooked on birding you know from your friends that this is the book you need for the avifauna of Costa Rica, and if you're a novice, this is a perfect place to start.
rated 5 toucans by
$US 27.97 from Amazon -or-
Barnes&Noble member price $US 30.36


Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa RicaField Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica
by Carrol L. Henderson (Author), Steve Adams (Illustrator), Paperback, 559 pages, Publisher: Univ. of Texas Press; 1st edition, (2002), ISBN: 029273459X

Color photos, species accounts, and distribution maps, for almost three hundred species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, moths, and other invertebrates are complimented by general introductions to each group, the ecology of Costa Rica, and how to travel to see wildlife.
rated five out of five toucans by
$US 27.97 from Amazon -or-
Barnes&Noble member price $US 30.36


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Map showing the location of Braulio Carrillo National Park in Costa Rica
Location: 12 miles (19 km) Northeast of San José

Getting There:

Driving Directions
From San José, take Calle 3 out of town to where it becomes the Guápiles Highway (32) headed northeast. The main ranger station is Zurquí, on the right (driving away from San José) just north of the tunnel. Basic maps are available (see hiking trails below). The Puesto Carrillo station is also on highway 32, 25 miles (42 km) from San José. The Puesto Barva station is farther to the west off the beaten track and is easiest to access by exiting San José through Heredia, then driving north out of Heredia to Birrí, Porrosatí, Barva and Sacramento on 114. The station is two miles (3 km) northeast of Sacramento on a jeep trail.
Detailed roadmaps are available in acrobat pdf format or printed on waterproof tear proof plastic.
Please be cautious when parking anywhere other than the ranger stations. You are only a few minutes from a major metropolitan area and if you leave your purse on the seat or your camera in the trunk it will quite possibly be stolen, and you will be paying the car rental agency $US 350 for a new windshield or trunk latch.
The bus to Guápiles, Siquirres, or Limón will drop you at either of the ranger stations, you'll have to flag one down for the return journey because it not a normally scheduled stop.

Entrance fees:

$US 7


The main station is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Hiking trails
Puesto Carillo is the trail head for the Los Botarramas (1 mile, 1.6 km) and La Botella (1,7 mile, 2.8 km) paths.
Across the highway from the the Zurquí station is the short Capulin loop trail. Back down the road, south of the tunnel is a 0.6 mile (1 km) trail to a mirador).
Puesto Barva Station is the starting point to climb to the small lake in the crater of the extinct volcán Barva (1 mile 1.6 km). From the summit you can either loop back to the south east to the village of Porrosatí, or if you have a permit, guide and 4 days of food, you can continue north down a lava flow that was reforested millennia ago to La Selva.

Tours and lodging:
There are no reliable accommodations in Braulio Carrillo National Park, but it is an easy day trip from San Jose or a great place to stop on your way to Limon and the Caribbean beaches.
Most tour operators in San José offer day trips to visit Braulio Carrillo National Park, and the Rainforest Aerial Tram ($US 40-70).

Quick Facts

157 to 315 inches (4,000 to 8,000 mm) of rainfall annually. Temperatures vary widely with elevation from average temperatures of around 79 °F (26 °C) on the lower east slopes to below freezing nights on the peaks and ridges. Driest in March and April while afternoon showers are the norm May through November.


117,300 acres (47,500 hectares, 183 square miles, 140 times the size of central park NYC, 4/10ths the size of Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado)


from 118 feet (36 meters) at La Selva to 9,500 feet (2900 meters)

Braulio Carrillo is named after the third president of Costa Rica who proposed the Guápiles Highway from San José to the Caribbean in the early 1800's to allow Pacific slope coffee growers to ship to Europe without circling around South America. Environmentalists were concerned that easy access would lead to deforestation and used the value of the region as a watershed to leverage the establishing the National Park in 1978. The original area has come to be know the Zurquí sector since the addition of the 31,400 acre (12,700 hectare) northern Barva sector in 1986.


tropical lowland wet forest (rain forest), tropical highland forest (cloud forest), streams, river

More than 500 species of birds including resplendent quetzals, bare-necked umbrella bird, snowcap, brown-billed scythe bill, black-crowned antpitta, golden-browed chlorophonia, flame-throated warblers, long-tailed silky-flycatchers, yellow-eared toucanet, and latticed-tailed trogon. On the lower Caribbean slopes, tanagers and hummingbirds are particularly easy to spot.
More than 150 species of mammals including howler and white faced capuchin monkeys, tapirs, Deppe's squirrel, white-nosed coati, northern tamandua, jaguars, white-tailed deer, ocelots, pacas, raccoons, and peccaries.

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