Barra Honda National Park

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Barra Honda National Park

The Barra Honda National Park is a quite unique region in Costa Rica since the country is best know for its rainforests and beaches.
The Barra Honda National Park is a quite unique region in Costa Rica since the country is best know for its rainforests and beaches.
Although Barra Honda National Park covers 2,295 ha., its reason for being is not what lies on the surface, but the geological treasure housed below. Barra Honda National Park is Costa Rica's only underground national park and is located about 10 miles east of the city of Nicoya. Although it is home to many animals, the calcareous formations of the limestone caverns are the main visitor attraction. That being said, a visitor wouldn’t want to miss gazing from mirador (lookout point) located 1000 ft. above the caves. Standing there along the impressive ridge, with the sounds of a gigantic waterfall, amongst screeching tropical birds, howler monkeys, and iguanas in the trees, looking out across the vast Nicoya peninsula, can be an exhilarating experience.

Over thousands of years underground waterways have formed caves with chambers covered with stalagtites, with stalagmites growing up from the floor of the caves or chambers. When they meet, they form columns and other stunningly beautiful formations. The cave formations are in extraordinary condition. To date, only about 50% of the caves have been explored.

You don’t have to be a devoted spelunker to enjoy Barra Honda, though a few of the caves are quite deep and require steep vertical drops to enter. Some of the cave names don’t sound very inviting, such as La Trampa (The Trap), and Tericiopelo (Fer-de-Lance viper), but they are spectacular formations in deed. There’s also ‘The Organ,’ which produces melodic tones when gently touched. The caves are also home to ancient human remains, blind salamanders, Vampire bats, and strange birds, all sharing the darkness of the Barra Honda caves. Luckily, the caves have remained virtually untouched largely due to the fact there is not an easily accessible horizontal entrance.

As previously mentioned, the caverns are the main attraction, but the park is also home to white-tailed deer, raccoons, white-nosed coaties, Southern opossums, Amazon skunks, turkey vultures, coyotes, magpie jays and orange-fronted parakeets.

The Barra Honda National Park is a unique region in Costa Rica since the country is best known for its rainforests and beaches. This dry forest area is worth a look since it contains several species of animals and plants that are only present in this particular habitat. Caves are relatively scarce in Costa Rica, which is the reason this park is so significant and shouldn’t be missed. If a surreal underground setting, distinguished by the continuous sound of echoing drops and mystic shapes formed over thousands of years, then this is the place for you.


The Ranger Station is open from 8 until dusk and has drinking water and restrooms. There are hiking trails and scenic overlooks throughout the park. The park has a camping area. Spelunking is possible, but only with advanced reservations, although the caves are not open during the wet season due to the danger of flooding. Climbing gear and guides are also made available by the park rangers.

Getting there

• From San Jose

• take the Interamerican Highway north located just past the turn for Las Juntas de Abangares

• turn left onto Highway 18 towards San Joaquin and follow the signs for the road to the new Tempisque Bridge

• after crossing the bridge, continue about 6 miles

• then turn right towards the villages of Barra Honda and Nacaome (aka Santa Ana)

• follow signs to the park entrance