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Barra Honda

Barra Honda is Costa Rica's only National Park protecting an underground wonder, limestone caves. It consists of an array of limestone caves that were once part of the coral reef about 60 million years ago. Barra Honda National Park is located in the western part of Costa Rica, and is within the Tempisque Conservation Area about 12 km (7.46 mi) from the Tempisque River.

Barbilla Corcovado Carara Barra Honda Barra Honda Brauillio Carriollo Brauillio Carrillo Cahuita Cahuita Carara Chirripo Chirripo Corcovado Diria Diria Guanacaste Guanacaste Irazu Volcano Isla del Coco Juan Castro Blanco Juan Castro Blanco Isla del Coco La Amistad La Amistad Irazu Volcano La Cangreja La Cangreja Los Quetzales Los Quetzales Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio Marino Ballena Marino Ballena Marino Las Baulas Marino Las Baulas Palo Verde Santa Rosa Piedras Blancas Tanpanti Turrialba Volcano Poas Volcano Tenorio Volcano Ricon del la Vieja Tortuguero Palo Verde Santa Rosa Tanpanti Piedras Blancas Tenorio Volcano Poas Volcano Tortuguero Rincon de la Vieja Turrialba Volcano


Barra Honda National Park was created in 1974 to protect a cave system located beneath the Barra Honda Peak. For a while, this peak was considered to be a volcano, but subsequently, its tectonic origin was revealed. The limestone caverns were formed by the calcium carbonate of the marine animal shells and carapaces that were compacted in rocks.  The caverns formed when the water filtered through the limestone, and errosion did the rest.

The cavern system includes the Nicoa cavern, where pre-Columbian human remains, artifacts and jewelry were found. The Santa Ana cave is the deepest of all.  It has numerous formations of stalactites and columns.  La Terciopelo cave (the name in Spanish means fer de lance viper, because the first time it was explored one of this snakes was found dead in the bottom) is open to the public, and is a popular attraction.  Access to this cavern is easier than to the others. One of the caves has several bat colonies and is aptly named, the Pozo Hediondo cave (Stinkpot hole).  It is unknown why bats prefer this cavern over the others. The vegetation of the park is typical of dry forest, and therefore mammals are easy to watch during the dry season. The top of the Barra Honda Peak offers a great view of the Nicoya Peninsula. There is a ranger station that operates in the park and offers lodging to the visitors. A camping area is also available.

How to get there:

Coming from San Jose in the Interamericana highway, you’ll need to take the road to Nicoya, which is the one that crosses the La Amistad Bridge over the Tempisque River. The park is about 10 km from the bridge.  From there, it is easy to follow the signs. If traveling by bus, you’ll need to take the San Jose-Nicoya bus and then the Nicoya-Santa Ana bus.

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