Central Pacific Biodiversity
MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
Manuel Antonio National Park is said to be the most visited national park in Costa Rica. With only 1687 acres it is one of the country’s smallest protected areas but it boasts some of the country’s most varied and breathtaking scenery. Covered by lush tropical rainforest, the park’s trails offer frequent sightings of white-faced monkeys, sloths, coatis, raccoons, iguanas and many bird species, as well as the increasingly endangered Costa Rican squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii citrinellus), which is unique to Manuel Antonio, with only 1500 of them still existing at the last count. The park also encompasses a 35-acre lagoon, a mangrove swamp and 12 small islets that provide refuge for several seabird species. The beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are among the most photographed tourist attractions in Costa Rica, the most scenic of which are Espadilla Sur, Puerto Escondido and Manuel Antonio Beach, a small half-moon beach fringed by lush vegetation and turquoise sea. Connecting the beaches of Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Sur, Punta Catedral is a majestic headland that provides spectacular views of the area and features some of the park’s best nature trails. Visitor services include an information center, a park ranger station, trails, restrooms, drinking water, signage and several lookout points.
PLAYA HERMOSA WILDLIFE REFUGE
Just south of Jacó, covering an area of mangrove swamps and pristine beaches, this recently created oceanfront refuge is a prime nesting site for birds as well as the olive ridley turtles which come ashore to lay eggs between the months of June and December.
CARARA NATIONAL PARK
Originally established as a biological preserve in 1978, Carara National Park is made up of 13,000 acres of dry and wet tropical forest. The park contains tree species such as ojoche, guanacaste, cristobal and purpleheart, which are highly valued for their wood, and wildlife species such as peccaries, ocelots, white-faced monkeys and the scarlet macaws, which are especially abundant in this park. Guides are available at the park entrance to provide information and offer their experience in spotting animals and birds. Visitor services include parking, an information center, a park ranger station, drinking water, restrooms, picnic areas, lookout points, signage and nature trails, such as Las Aráceas (1200 meters) and Quebrada Bonita (1500 meters).
DAMAS MANGROVE SWAMP
Located just north of Quepos near the town of Parritta, the Damas Mangrove Swamps is an ecological jewel waiting to be discovered by discerning tourists. The vast mangrove can be toured by boat or kayak and offer visitors an interesting opportunity to marvel at close-up the plant and animal life that inhabit this unique environment, particularly the white-faced monkeys and an infinite variety of birds.