The National Parks of Costa Rica
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JUAN CASTRO BLANCO NATIONAL PARK
Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
From Sarchí, a road (the turn-off is 100 meters east of the Río Trojas, climbs north up the mountain slopes via Luisa and Angeles to the saddle between Poás and Platanar volcanoes--you are now high amid the cloud forest--before dropping sharply to Bajos del Toro, a tranquil Shangri-la hidden at the head of the valley of the Río Toro. The route is incredibly scenic, and at times daunting, as you weave along a road that clings precariously to the face of the cloud-shrouded mountains. You can also reach Bajos del Toro via a rough dirt road from Zarcero (see below).

Juan Castro Blanco National Park (Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco), one of Costa Rica's youngest national parks, was created in 1995 to protect the vital watershed on the slopes of Volcán Platanar (2,183 meters). Several endangered species, including the quetzal, curassow, red brocket deer, and black guan exist in the 14,258-hectare park, which is covered in mixed primary forest and clearings in the process of regeneration. Most notable species are lancewoods, oaks and yayo. At higher elevations the vegetation is stunted and, given the moister climate, epiphytes abound.

Bosque de Paz Rain/Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is a 400-hectare reserve nestled in a reclusive valley west of Bajos del Toro at the foot of Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco. It is a favorite of bird-watchers. The reserve boasts several hiking trails (2-6 km) leading to waterfalls, a botanical garden, hummingbird gardens, and lookout points. The forests are replete with exotic wildlife, including howler, capuchin, and spider monkeys, cats, and--according to the owner--more bird species than anywhere else in the nation, not least quetzals, which hover near the lodge. Two streams tumble through the beautiful gardens.

Bosque de la Paz is not signed from Bajos de Toro. The dirt road leads west from opposite Valle de Truchas, a trout farm at Bajos del Toro that offers fishing on weekends.

About seven km north of Bajo del Toro is a 200-meter waterfall--Catarata del Toro--on the land of James Speight. There are trails; the bottom of the falls is reached by a 500-step staircase! There's also a restaurant.

This is an small excerpt from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica. CentralAmerica.Com highly recommends that you enhance your vacation by taking a copy of Moon's comprehensive Handbook with you. For more information visit the Moon Handbooks page on this site.

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