The National Parks of Costa Rica
CARRILLO NATIONAL PARK
Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
Encompassing five life zones ranging from tropical wet to cloud forest, Braulio Carrillo provides a home for 600 identified species of trees, more than 500 species of birds, and 135 species of mammals, including howler and capuchin monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, deer, pacas, raccoons, and peccaries. Highlights include hundreds of butterfly species and excellent bird-watching. Quetzals are common at higher elevations. The rare solitary eagle and umbrella bird live here. And toucans, parrots, and hummingbirds are ubiquitous.
The park protects several tree species fast disappearing elsewhere from overharvesting: among them, the palmito, valued for its "heart," and the tepezcuintle, which has been chosen as the park's official mascot. Those elephant-ear-size leaves common in Braulio Carrillo are sombrilla del pobre (poor man's umbrella).
Two other stations--Puesto El Ceibo and Puesto Magsasay--lie on the remote western fringes of the park, reached by rough trails from just south of La Virgen, on the main road to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. You can also enter the Volcán Barva sector of the park via the Puesto Barva ranger station, three km northeast of Sacramento (see the Slopes of Barva section, above), and via Alto Palma and Bajo Hondura, accessible from San José via San Vicente de Moravia or from the Guápiles Highway at a turnoff about three km south of the main park entrance.
Two short trails lead from Puesto Carrillo: Los Botarramas is approximately 1.6 km; La Botella, with waterfalls and views down the Patria Canyon, is 2.8 kilometers. For additional exercise as you head down La Botella, turn left at a sign labeled Sendero. This path takes you 30 minutes deeper into the forest to the Río Sanguijuela. South of Puesto Carrillo is a parking area on the left (when heading north) with a lookout point and a trail to the Río Patria, where you can camp (no facilities). Another parking area beside the bridge over the Río Sucio ("Dirty River") has picnic tables and a short loop trail.
A one-km trail leads from south of the Zurquí Tunnel to a vista point. The entrance is steep, the rest easy. Another trail--the Sendero Histórico--is shown on the national park map as following the Río Hondura all the way from Bajo Hondura to the Guápiles Highway at a point near the Río Sucio. Check with a ranger.
A trail from Puesto Barva leads to the summit of Volcán Barva and loops around to Porrosatí (no ranger station). From the summit, you can continue all the way downhill to La Selva in the northern lowlands. It's a lengthy and arduous hike that may take several days, and is recommended only for experienced hikers with suitable equipment. There are no facilities. You can join this trail from Puesto El Ceibo and Puesto Magsasay; you can also drive in a short distance along a 4WD trail from Puesto Magsasay.
Bring sturdy raingear, and preferably hiking boots. The trails will most likely be muddy. Several hikers have been lost for days in the fog and torrential rains. Remember: It can freeze at night. If you intend to do serious hiking, let rangers know in advance, and check in with them when you return.
Note: There have been armed robberies in the park. Hike with a park ranger if possible. Thefts from cars parked near trailheads have also been a problem.
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