Discovering the Barra Honda National Park – Adventure Off the Beaten Path in Costa Rica
Want to explore the less beaten trail on your next adventure vacation to Costa Rica? Then let us introduce you to the amazing Barra Honda National Park!
Would it surprise you to know that Costa Rica is home to 30 national parks? Many of our adventure vacation guests, even those who return to have fun with us year after year, find this number astonishing. Not surprising, considering that just a handful of parks are household names the world over. Yet step off the beaten path just a little, discover wilderness treasures like the Barra Honda National Park, and you’ll realize just how much there is to experience in this incredible country of ours.
Looking for the ultimate extreme thrill?
Then come check out this beauty! Schedule your Costa Rica Barra Honda adventure now!
Where is the Barra Honda National Park?
Nestled amid the untouched wilderness of the Nicoya Peninsula, in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, the Barra Honda National Park lies in an area known as the Tempisque Basin. It’s right on the spot where Nicoya joins the mainland and the park’s entry gates are just east of the town of Nicoya.
From the capital, San Jose, it’s an easy and scenic 3hr drive to Barra Honda and the shortest route will see you pass the beaches of Punta Arenas and the western edge of the Monteverde Cloud Forests so it’s easy to create a stunning itinerary to take in a few highlights on the way.
If you’re flying into the Liberia International Airport instead, the park is even closer – just a quick 1,5hr drive south and you’ll reach the gates. From the north, you’ll also have the option to visit the beaches of Playa Hermosa and Tamarindo.
Of course, once at Barra Honda, you’ll be at the gateway for longer adventures in the Nicoya Peninsula.
What’s special about the Barra Honda National Park?
The Tempisque Basin boasts quite unique features and that’s what makes Barra Honda National Park distinctive. Comprising soft limestone carved by flowing rivers, the park is defined by a mesmerizing complex of caves, all boasting ethereal rock formations, like stalactites and stalagmites.
Why is this park not as visited or known outside dedicated caving circles? Because the caving here is technical: you can only cave on a guided tour and with the right equipment. Some of the cave entrances (which can be up to 800ft deep!) require skill, dexterity and professional guidance, so the park simply doesn’t see the kind of mass tourist crowds of more accessible parks.
This is also what has helped Barra Honda keep its pristine condition since the cave complex was first discovered in the 1960s. A cave tour lasts about 3-4 hours, includes a 1.5hr hike and is limited to relatively fit and healthy adults and children over the age of 10.
Yet what many people don’t know is that Barra Honda also boasts a wonderful array of hiking trails through its unique tropical dry forest, one of the world’s rarest habitats. Here, you’ll find amazing wilderness inhabited by capuchin and howler monkeys, anteaters, iguanas, agoutis and a phenomenal array of exotic birds. The park is fantastic for wildlife spotting but you’ll want to hike with a local experienced guide who knows where to look for the elusive creatures.
The main walking trail, which picks up where the entrance road ends, leads to the peak of Mt Barra Honda. At an altitude of 1,500ft, you’ll soak up breathtaking views across this incredible basin. There are other trails to explore – just pick up a detailed map and the entrance booth and plan your day’s exploration.
If you’re a dedicated caver, simply let us know when you’d like to come discover this corner of paradise and we’ll get the ball rolling. We can organize the right permits, guides and gear for your unforgettable adventure.
What you should know: Out of the 40-odd caves believed to be on Barra Honda’s underbelly, only 30-odd have been studied and explored and only one (comprising several levels you can descend) is open to the public and fitted with steep ladders and safety equipment.
The ‘limited’ access keeps the caves and their endemic bat inhabitants safe from degradation! Also note that the park’s caves are only ever accessible during the dry season (Jan-April) as heavy rains can cause severe flooding and cause great danger to cavers.
For your guided tour of the caves, you’ll want to wear closed, sturdy shoes, long pants and pack plenty of water and snacks.
Visiting the caves and forests of Barra Honda transports you to another world, one that can’t be replicated anywhere else in Costa Rica. The road to reach it is tough to handle even with a 4WD and often gets messed up by heavy rains.
In return for the hassle, however, you’ll enjoy an authentic adventure in one of the least-visited national parks in Costa Rica!
Accommodation options in or near Barra Honda National Park
Rustic camping and lodge-beds are available inside the park itself and if you’re traveling on a budget this is an excellent option. Especially as this is one of the few national parks that allow you to overnight within its boundaries. This is also particularly great if you’d love a guided wildlife-watching walk after dark and at sunrise – the best time to spot creatures!
Barra Honda National Park can also be visited on a day trip from nearby bigger towns, such as Nicoya, Tamarindo, Samara and, as stated originally, on the way to/from San Jose to the Nicoya Peninsula.
A little about the Nicoya Peninsula
Nicoya is often dubbed the ‘wild west’ of Costa Rica and if that’s not enough to entice a visit, we don’t know what is! Remote and unspoiled beaches, outstanding nature, plenty of wildlife and a handful of charming villages that have retained their authenticity.
On the Nicoya Peninsula, your Costa Rica adventure vacation is given a stunning boost. There’s a ton of sea-based activities to enjoy (from scuba diving to snorkeling, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing among others) and plenty of land-based sports to try too, including horseback riding, hiking, ATV tours and plenty of wildlife-spotting tours.
The Barra Honda National Park is one of Costa Rica’s Top 10 Secret Wonders and we’d simply love to show you this incredible place when you visit us.
Want to know how to include a day’s adventure here on your Costa Rica Adventure Vacation?
Just drop us a line!