Braulio Carrillo National Park
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2015
Dense rainforest, tumbling waterfalls, towering volcanoes and rushing rivers fill the landscape of Costa Rica's second-largest national park, a green paradise just 30 minutes from busy San Jose. Braulio Carrillo's diversity of life is owed to its varying geography -- from humid, lowland jungles just 160 feet above sea level to chilly cloud forest at an altitude of 9,535 feet.
Location : 13 miles northeast of San Jose
Area : 113,371 acres
Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Telephone : 2608-1037
Entrance Fee : $10.00
Named after Costa Rica’s third Chief of State, Braulio Carrillo, who proposed the construction of the Guapiles highway, the park is one of the country’s least explored and most beautiful. Misty hillsides are home to shy quetzals and boisterous howler monkeys; Caribbean lowlands hide colorful parrots amid lush vegetation. In these two extremes, Barva Volcano sits proud and mighty, Cacho Negro Volcano watches over the valley, and the Dirty River (Rio Sucio) meets with the clear Hondura River.
Mostly untouched and rarely visited, Braulio Carrillo National Park is like a trip back to an undiscovered Costa Rica. Hikers will notice an amazing variation of flora and fauna. The scenery changes dramatically over short distances. High elevations are marked by primary cloud forest that has grown undisturbed for thousands of years, or stands of ragged and windblown trees. The lower slopes host thick rainforest and an abundance of wildlife, including more than 150 species of mammals. Over 6,000 plant species, including the caoba, oak, gavilan and ceiba, can be found in the primary forest.
Visitors should be prepared for the occasional bout of cold weather. Temperatures often dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit on the higher elevation trails near the Zurqui Ranger Station. If you prefer a warmer route, stick to the lowlands on the east side of the park.
A highlight of any visit to the area is the privately-owned Rainforest Aerial Tram, located in the heart of the rainforest near the eastern side of the park. Visitors can glide above the canopy layer in one of twenty cable cars or zip through second-growth forest on a canopy tour, enjoying panoramic views and beautiful greenery. Rainforest Aerial Tram Tel. 2257-5961
Annual Rainfall: 4,500-8000 mm
Temperature: Ranges from 59º F in the high altitudes to 90º F
Bird & wildlife watching, hiking, and climbing Barva Volcano are among the park’s most popular activities. Camping ($2 + $8 park entrance fee) is highly recommended at the Barva Volcano ranger station, where an early morning start will assure you a timely ascent up the four- to five-hour trail to Barva Volcano’s scenic summit. Potable water and toilets, but no showers, are available. Contact: 2266-1883 / 2266-1892 for more camping information.
Braulio Carrillo National Park is home to three ranger stations, which offer picnic facilities, camping and knowledgeable rangers:
- The Zurqui Ranger Station, 14 miles north of San Jose along the Guapiles Highway
- Carrillo (Quebrada Gonzalez) Ranger Station, also accessible via the Guapiles Highway
- Barva Volcano Ranger Station, best reached by traveling through San Jose de La Montana, north of Heredia
If you enjoy hiking, Braulio Carrillo National Park is an ideal place to visit. Trails here lead you through an interesting variety of terrain to Barva Volcano and the beautiful Barva and Danta Lakes.
Trails are available from all three ranger stations. You'll find two main hiking trails at Zurqui Ranger Station. The Capulin Loop Trail, located across the road from the station, will take you through primary and secondary forest. The Natural Botarama Trail, located at the Carillo Ranger Station, 9 miles northeast of Zurqui, leads you on a two mile walk through primary and secondary forest.
Barva Ranger Station is the starting point to climb to the small lake in the crater of the dormant Barva Volcano. From the summit, hikers can either loop back to the village of Porrosati or, for those who have a permit, guide, and fours days worth of food, continue north to La Selva.
Flora & Fauna:
The cloud forest near Barva Volcano is home to a variety of frog and toad species, including strawberry poison arrow frogs, red-eyed tree frogs and the currently endangered Bufo holdridgei toad. Reptiles in residence include two of the most venomous snakes in the world: the fer-de-lance and the bushmaster, the largest venomous snake on the continent.
Visitors are likely to cross paths with howler monkeys, spider and white-faced monkeys and coatimundis. Less commonly seen are tapirs, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, pacas, coyote and white-tailed deer. More than five hundred species of migratory and resident birds have been sighted in the park, among them gold finches, hummingbirds, scarlet-rumpled tanagers, and resplendent quetzals.
A word of caution to motorists: cars left along the highway leading into the park have been vandalized on occasion. Make sure to remove all valuables from the car before your hike. Be prepared for cold, wet weather with a jacket and raincoat.
By Car: From San Jose, follow the Guapiles Highway (32) headed northeast. The main ranger station, Zurqui, will be on the right side of the road, just north of the tunnel. The Carrillo station is also on the highway, 26 miles from San Jose. Farther to the west, the Barva ranger station is easiest to access by exiting San Jose via Heredia, then continuing north to Birri, Porrosati, Barva and Sacramento on 114. The station is two miles northeast of Sacramento on a dirt trail. Braulio Carrillo National Park is less than a 40-minute drive from San Jose.
Public Bus: Any bus going to Guapiles, Siquirres, or Puerto Viejo will pass the Zurqui Ranger Station where travelers can pay their entrance fee and proceed to the hiking trails. Buses depart from the Gran Caribe Terminal at Calle Central and Avenidas 15/17 in San Jose. At the end of the day, just flag down a bus for the return journey. Terminal del Caribe Tel. 2222-0610
Taxi: Travelers can make arrangements with a taxi driver for round trip transportation to the park for around $50-$60 from San Jose.