Santa Rosa National Park

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Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park in Costa Rica has something for everyone.
Santa Rosa National Park in Costa Rica has something for everyone.

One of the first national parks to be declared, Santa Rosa is important for its history, geology, and ecology. Santa Rosa is known for its isolated, pristine beaches. Located in the northwestern Guanacaste Province, in a region where the climate is very hot and dry, Santa Rosa National Park protects some of the last remaining tropical dry forest in the world. The park runs along the coast of the Santa Elena Peninsula and also protects sites of historical interest as well as remote sanctuaries for a wide variety of wildlife. Santa Rosa encompasses literally all of the environmental habitats of the region. A nearly infinite system of trails takes visitors through areas of deciduous tropical hardwoods to arid mountains with deserts of cactus and thorny shrubs, and along rivers lined with forests to mangrove swamp estuaries near the beach.

Unlike other national parks in Costa Rica, Santa Rosa was founded not to preserve the land but to save a building, known as La Casona. Historically speaking, this is where the Battle of Santa Rosa was fought for approximately fifteen minutes on the grounds of La Casona Hacienda (a cattle ranch). This battle was fought between troops of filibusters located in Nicaragua, who were trying to take over Central America, and the Costa Rican troops, who were attempting to defend the country’s independence. This short lived battle resulted in a chaotic retreat of the invaders. Unfortunately, La Casona was completely destroyed by arson in 2001, but it has been rebuilt, very accurately duplicating the original building. La Casona Hacienda is now a museum and there are displays of military paraphernalia and everyday life of a Tico Hacienda in the mid 1800’s.

With its almost 50,000 hectares of coastline, plains and hills, Santa Rosa provides a safe haven for 115 mammal species (over half of which are bats), 100 species of amphibians and reptiles, 253 species of birds and over 10,000 species of insects, including approximately 3,200 butterflies and moths. White-tailed deer are found in abundance in the area of Santa Elena Bay, along with White-Nosed Coati, howler and White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys and collard peccary. Although sightings are rare, jaguar, cougar and tapirs are also found in the park. The tropical dry forests and mangrove swamps provide shelter for magpie jays, probably the most common bird in the Guanacaste Province, as well as for elegant trogons, orange-fronted parakeets, great curassows and common black-hawks, to name a few.

Santa Rosa National Park is a great place to camp on the beach, surf and generally just hang out, but the park is better known as a nesting site for a variety of sea turtles. Pacific Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback turtles all lay their eggs on these beaches in the park. Naranjo Beach and Nancite Beach are two very popular sea turtle nesting beaches within the Park. Nancite Beach has the distinction of being one of the two beaches in Costa Rica (the other is Ostional on the Nicoya Peninsula) where Pacific Ridley Sea Turtles come ashore every year in massive arribadas to lay their eggs. These are the largest arribadas found anywhere in Tropical America. Literally thousands of turtles can arrive in a single night, usually on a new moon.


Santa Rosa National Park is located about 120 miles northwest of San Jose on the northwestern tip of Costa Rica. The nearest towns are Liberia and La Cruz.

Getting to Santa Rosa National Park

• from San Jose take the Interamerican Highway (1) north 136 miles

• you will pass through the towns of San Ramon, Canas, and Liberia

• watch for the signed left turn at the entrance to the park