Guide to the Juan Castro Blanco National Park
One of the least-known but most rewarding of Costa Rica’s national parks, Juan Castro Blanco is a bio-diverse treasure that’s a bit of a hidden secret among bird-spotters. Comprising mostly of primary rain forests, the compact park is nestled in the heart of the country’s most visited region, Alajuela. Yet when you’re surrounded by big name attractions like Arenal Volcano and Monteverde to the west, and the Braulio Carrillo and Poas Volcano national parks to the east, you’re easily overlooked.
Fabulous news for those looking for a quieter and equally enchanting reserve to explore on their Costa Rica adventure vacation.
Looking to discover one of the country’s most special and hidden treasures? Then pin Juan Castro Blanco on your map.
Why should you visit Juan Castro Blanco National Park?
The park covers an area of over 14,000 hectares and is sprawled between and up the slopes of one active, one dormant and one extinct volcano. The array of landscapes here at varying altitudes is extraordinary, the park also boasting the source of five distinct rivers. Locally, Juan Castro Blanco is known as ‘parque de aguas’, or park of the waters.
From ethereal cloud forests to primary and secondary lowland rainforests, high-altitude lakes and natural hot springs, this spectacular reserve is a nature lover’s dream spot.
The government is still completing tourist infrastructure in the park so although you won’t find a range of activities to ‘do’ here, you will find hiking trails so you can explore it extensively. For super fun outdoor sports like zip lining, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking, whitewater rafting, the surrounding areas offer more options than you can even dream. Just not in this park, specifically and this, to be totally honest, is a huge part of its appeal.
A day spent hiking in Juan Castro Blanco means a day spent in blissful solitude in nature. It means running into just a couple of fellow hikers the entire day, if even that. Just you, your travel amigos, a local knowledgeable guide and a mesmerizing array of landscapes and wildlife.
What can you see at the Juan Castro Blanco National Park?
The hiking trails allow visitors to spot the many elusive species who call this place home. Juan Castro Blanco is revered for its brightly colored Quetzals yet that’s only one of over 200 species of birds thriving here. There’s a specific trail that’s recommended for bird lovers, which guides you to higher altitudes where they can best be spotted.
Alongside birds, the park is also home to ocelots, deer, tapis, sloths, a cache of monkeys and a stunning array of wild orchid species. The colors, sounds and smells of Juan Castro Blanco make for an amazing sensory experience.
Interestingly, the park also hides a bevy of prized archaeological sites, many of which are still being studied.
For hikers who want to discover Costa Rica’s lesser-known treasure, a day or two spent in Juan Castro Blanco meandering the trails on foot is tailor made. The jaw-dropping landscapes will captivate you and the choice of trails means the park is easy to access and doable for just about anyone.
Some areas are only accessible with a 4WD (especially after some heavy rains) and you’ll definitely want to take a local naturalist guide to make the most of your visit. You’ll learn all about the geology and history of the park and will have higher chances of spotting wildlife. An array of gorgeous hidden waterfalls and lagoons blankets the park and the cooler temperatures make hiking here quite perfect, all year long.
Why is Juan Castro Blanco such a hidden secret?
This is one of Costa Rica’s newest parks and sections of it that are still privately owned. The government is intent on purchasing more land from private owners so they can start introducing some more tourist-friendly infrastructure throughout the park.
What this means is that there are vast areas that have barely seen any human footprint at all. After Green Season, some sections of the trails need to be cleared. That’s when having a local guide really comes in handy!
The lack of infrastructure has created absolutely ideal conditions for rare and endangered wildlife species, like the elusive puma. It has also created ideal animal-spotting conditions for adventure-seekers looking to spend a day in such untarnished landscapes.
Officially, the park receives 1,000 visitors a year (that’s just 3 visitors a day!) which is an extraordinarily low number given its central and easily accessible location.
How to visit and enjoy the Juan Castro Blanco National Park
The park is only 62 miles (100km) north of the capital, San Jose and, conveniently, along the route to Arenal. Although you might be tempted to pencil in ‘a couple of hours’ at the park on your way north, consider spending a night or two nearby.
Around the park are a few exquisite off-grid fincas that offer out-of-this-world experiences. For those who love pristine wilderness but don’t want to rough it, these accommodation options are simply sublime. Eco-lodges like Finca 360 are all about indulging in wilderness, in the best comforts imaginable.
The nearby charming town of Zarzero is a great springboard for visits this incredible park.
Want to visit Juan Castro Blanco National Park as part of your Costa Rica adventure vacation?
With Costa Rica Rios…you can!
Including a visit to this stellar park is easy on just about any adventure tour. This is something we can thoroughly recommend doing, especially if you’re visiting Costa Rica for the first time or are a lover of off the beaten trail adventures.
We can pack a picnic basket of goodies for the day, remind you to wear long pants and hiking boots, and guide you on a journey of discovery through the kind of exquisite nature for which Costa Rica is revered. Get off the beaten path, leave the crowds and business behind and refresh your body, mind and soul with a day of hiking in Juan Castro Blanco. It might just be the single most unforgettable day of your entire journey.
Contact us to know more.