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Barra Honda National Park

By: Adam Myers

Barra Honda National Park has 2,295 hectares of tropical dry forest and caves. It is located 22 kilometers east of the city of Nicoya, in the province of Guanacaste.

This is the place to go if you love adventure, duskiness and bats. Scientists have discovered that the Barra Honda Peak was originated when islets from the Miocene Era elevated above the plains of the Tempisque River. The caves and the waterways were created because over time the rain mixed with carbonic acid was deposited on rocks, passing through the limestone.

To go to the park from San Jos?, take the Interamerican Highway north just past the turn for Las Juntas de Abangares. Turn left onto Highway 18 towards San Joaqu?n and follow the signs for the road to the new Tempisque Bridge. After crossing the bridge, continue about 6 miles, and then turn right towards the villages of Barra Honda and Nacaome (aka Santa Ana). Follow the signs for the park entrance. The ranger station is through the gate (closed at dusk) one-half mile up a good gravel road.

The park is open to the public from December to April, which is the dry season, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If you want to visit the trails, it is necessary to have a guide, especially if you are going to the caves. Tourists can contact local guides in Complejo Ecotur?stico Las Delicias, which is a privately owned tourist center.

There is a campsite available inside the park. Proyecto Las Delicias is nearby and they offer simple but suitable accommodations. However most people who visit Barra Honda, stay at hotels and lodges in Nicoya.

The caves were discovered in the 1960's and 1970's. The caves have deep chambers and stalagmites and stalactites. There are over 42 caves in the area including Santa Ana, which is 240 meters deep; La Trampa, which is 110 meters deep; Terciopelo, which is 60 meters deep; Pozo Hediondo, where lots of bats can be seen; Nicoa, where ancient Pre-Columbian burial sites have been found. All the caves are in their natural condition. Climbing gear is available from the park rangers.

The Barra Honda National Park has a dry forest and many animals that are endemic and present only here. The park has unique subterranean environment where blind salamanders live. There are also fish species that have evolved due to the absolute darkness below ground.

The wildlife above ground is also magnificent, animals such as monkeys and scarlet macaws as well as other species inhabit the park.

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