The National Parks of Costa Rica
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Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
One km north of the Río Corobicí, a well-paved road (Hwy. 6) leads northeast 58 km to Upala in the northern lowlands via the low-lying saddle of Tenorio and Miravalles Volcanoes. The road is straight, fast, and (when last driven) free of potholes--a splendid, gentle roller-coaster ride that whisks you to the other side before you know it.

The only town is Bijagua, a center for cheese-making 38 km north of Cañas, on the northwest flank of Volcán Tenorio, a steep-faced, archetypically conical cone rising to 1,916 meters. The volcano is lushly forested in cloud forest and montane rainforest protected within Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. Local hiking is superb (albeit often hard going on higher slopes), notably one that leads to the Río Celeste, with a waterfall and fumaroles and boiling mud-pools nearby. Another arduous and slippery trail leads through cloud forest to Lago Las Dantas (Tapir Lake), where it is common to see tapirs drinking at dusk in the waters that fill the volcanic crater. Cougars and jaguars tread the forests. And monkeys abound.

A dirt road leads east from Bijagua two km to Bijagua Heliconia (see below), an ecotourist lodge and biological station that was started by local farmers intent on saving what forest remained on their property with the hope of stimulating local development through education and ecotourism. The project is supported by various international aid organizations. The lodge sits at 700 meters elevation on the slopes of Tenorio abutting Tenorio Volcano National Park. Trails lead into prime rainforest and cloud forest; it's a 90-minute walk by well-maintained trail to the summit. There's even a children's trail. Guided hikes and nature excursions are offered. The station has a small butterfly and insect exhibit, plus horseback riding.

Another dirt road that begins five km north of Bijagua leads to the main park entrance, with a ranger station. About 200 meters farther is another side road leading to the U.S.-owned La Carolina Lodge (see Accommodations, below), a ranch and stables with trails into the forests of Tenorio National Park; to the Rio Celeste waterfall, where you can swim in a teal-blue lagoon; and to Los Chorros thermal springs. Horseback rides are also offered.

Just south of Bijagua, a dirt road leads west to Miravalles Protected Zone (Zona Protectora Miravalles).

Los Tigres is a private reserve on the Caribbean side of the saddle protecting 800 hectares of premontane rainforest and its denizens: sloths, howler and white-faced monkeys, agoutis, ocelots, toucans, tanagers, and many other bird species. There are no accommodations, but you may be able to camp near a small waterfall with special permission. Wildland Adventures (see the North American Tour Operators appendix) offers 13-day nature tours that include visits to Los Tigres, Palo Verde, and Arenal.

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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