Palo Verde National Park
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2013
Situated at the mouth of the Tempisque River and acting as a watershed for all major area rivers, Palo Verde National Park is a slice of wetland sanctuary in the middle of Costa Rica's driest province. The 45,500-acre park is a mosaic of 15 different habitats, including mangrove swamps, grassy savannahs, marshes, salt ponds, pastures and evergreen forest, all bordered by sloping limestone hills. It is considered a migratory and resident waterfowl refuge, and its lands are therefore protected by law.
Location : 19 miles from Canas
Area : 45,509 acres
Hours : 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Telephone : 2200-0125 or 2661-4717
Entrance Fee : $10.00
Not surprisingly, Palo Verde gets its name from the palo verde (horse bean), a small green shrub that lines its river banks and forest floor. The park is part of the greater Tempisque Megapark, a large conservation area that encompasses several of the region’s diverse national parks and wildlife refuges. Due to its uniquely moist climate, the park is subject to intense flooding during the wet season (May-November).
Palo Verde’s myriad of ecological niches makes it an ideal host for plant and animal life. More than 300 bird species have been seen in the park, and it contains the greatest concentration of shorebirds and waterfowl in Central America. Up to 250,000 birds reside here at once, with the most common being egrets, herons, storks, spoonbills, ibis, grebes and ducks. Forest birds like parrots and toucans can also be seen in the trees. Palo Verde hosts the only native colony of scarlet macaws in the dry Pacific.
The park’s mammal life is no less impressive. In addition to deer, coatimundis, armadillo, howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys and peccaries, Palo Verde is home to the largest jaguarondi population in Costa Rica. American crocodiles, which can reach up to 15 feet long, are another park mainstay, floating down the Tempisque River at a disarmingly relaxed pace.
Be warned that Costa Rican bee species are Africanized, which means that they have mated with African killer bees. The result are species less aggressive than their African ancestors, but more dangerous than most bees.
Try to visit Palo Verde during the dry season (December-April), when most of the 300 resident bird species are in abundance. During the rainy season, parts of the park flood and become inaccessible, though river boat tours still operate.
Camping facilities are available near the research station. Hiking, bird and wildlife watching and river boat wildlife tours are very popular here.
Operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies, the Hacienda Palo Verde Research Station is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dormitory lodging and meals are available with reservations. Half-day guided tours and horseback rides can also be arranged through the ranger station.
There are several trails in the park that pass through the tropical dry forest including the Las Calizas Trail, El Mapache, El Manigordo and La Venada Trail. Consult a park ranger before entering any trail, since access depends on weather.
Tempisque River boat tours are also a very popular way to navigate the outer boundaries of Palo Verde National Park. Tours begin outside the park, and wind down the Tempisque River, the national park on one side and private farmland on the other. Knowledgeable guides will help visitors identify the many bird and wildlife species seen during the tour.
Flora & Fauna:
Palo Verde National Park is a true nature lover’s paradise. Home to more than 300 bird species, the park is known for large populations of heron, stork, egrets, spoonbills, ibis, ducks and greets. Forest-dwellers also reside here, including toucans, scarlet macaws, parrots and curassows.
Myriad mammal species live in and around the park as well, and guests are often treated to sightings of armadillo, monkeys, peccaries and jaguarondi. American crocodiles are a common Tempisque River sight, and can grow up to an astonishing (and mildly terrifying) 15 feet in length.
Where to Stay:
The Hacienda Palo Verde Research Station offers on-site dormitory-style rooms and lodging options. For more luxurious accommodations, consider staying in Liberia or Guanacaste’s Pacific coast; many local tour operators offer Palo Verde National Park tours, and will pick guests up from any area hotel.
From San Jose, take the Interamerican Highway west toward Liberia. When you reach Bagaces (several miles east of Liberia), follow the signs to Palo Verde National Park and drive southwest about 19 miles. Signs will lead you to the park.