Explore Costa Rica’s protected parks.
A full day of adventure within easy reach.
National parks protect 25 percent of Costa Rica’s natural habitats. To maintain conservation efforts, the parks require an entrance fee. You can visit most of them on your own or arrange a professional tour that covers all your basics including food, transportation, and fees. No matter what you choose, there are many ways to explore the beautiful natural wonders Costa Rica has to offer.
Ballena National Marine Park
Ballena National Marine Park is the first protected marine reserve in Latin America. Because of its great scientific value and extensive scenic beauty, the park is a valuable resource for environmental education and ecological tourism. Researchers and visitors can marvel at the curious geologic formation known as the Tómbolo de Punta Uvita or ‘Whale’s Tale.’ Centuries of tides pushing the earth and sand at the base of the rocky formation have connected the tombolo’s head to the coast, creating this rare shape like a “whale's Tail”.
Humpback whales, an endangered species, are regular visitors of the park and use it as a breeding ground. Whales from the southern hemisphere arrive between July and mid-November, while whales from the northern hemisphere visit between December and April. Other marine life includes colorful coral reefs, dolphins, turtles and stingrays. Bird enthusiasts can also enjoy watching frigates, white ibises, pelicans and mot-mots.
Caño Island Biological Reserve
Often referred to as the “Mini Cocos Island”, this national park is well known for its underwater treasures and unspoiled rainforests. Although its terrestrial wildlife is small compared to other areas of the country, its marine life flourishes. For this reason, only water-related activities are permitted. The 19 species of coral reefs surrounding the island are home to white-tipped reef sharks, manta rays, olive ridley sea turtles, moray eels, and of course, dolphins and whales. The island is only accessible by boat so booking a tour is required. Please see tours and activities for more details on snorkeling, diving and whale watching.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is a small biological peninsula and is the second most visited tourist destination for hikes and beaches in Costa Rica. Park habitat consists of primary and secondary forest, and abundant fauna including the raccoon, coatimundi, agouti, two-toed sloth, and 3 types of monkeys, deers and ocelots. The beaches are exceptional with palm trees, white sand and crystal-clear water. Great restaurants and activities are nearby to keep you busy after your visit.
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado is raw jungle. The largest and most remote of all the parks, you will need a guide. With over 262 kilometers of virtually untouched land, this primary rainforest is home to thousands of wildlife and very few hiking trails. Big cats including pumas, ocelots and jaguars roam at night while all four species of monkeys (white-faced capuchin, howler, squirrel and spider) can be seen swinging through the trees during the day. Other animals include: Sloths, scarlet macaws, toucans, bull sharks, crocodiles, frogs, wild pigs and the endangered Bird’s Tapirs. For more information on visiting the park, please see Outdoor Activities.