Piedras Blancas National Park
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2013
Piedras Blancas National Park is located a short jaunt from Golfito in the small village of La Gamba. Previously a part of the lush and legendary Corcovado National Park, the park is home to a dizzying array of plant and animal life. The Rio Esquinas and Rio Piedras river basins -- combined with up to 200 inches of rainfall per year -- produce an amazingly verdant habitat for a species list almost identical to Corcovado's.
Location : La Gamba, near Golfito
Altitude : Sea level to 3,281 feet above sea level
Area : 34,642 acres
Hours : 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily
Telephone : 2775-1210 or 2775-0365
Entrance Fee : $10.00
Formerly known as Las Esquinas, Piedras Blancas is connected to two other protected zones: Golfito National Wildlife Refuge to the east, and the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve to the west – which then connects to Corcovado National Park. The refuge does not yet have facilities and can only be publicly accessed via private hotels, with the main entrance located at a notable rainforest lodge in the town of Gamba. These upscale ecolodges offer a variety of exciting excursions to the reserve – including waterfall hikes, night tours and a botanical garden walk.
A study conducted at Gamba’s biological station concluded that Piedras Blancas’ biodiversity is the most impressive in the Osa area. Animal rescue projects helping scarlet macaws and wild cats have a great deal of success inside the preserve, mostly due to its extremely isolated primary forests. One of the country’s last jaguar habitats, Piedras Blancas is also home to all four of Costa Rica’s monkey species and an extensive array of birds. A long, secluded coast and a coral reef attract a variety of marine life including whales, dolphins and rays.
Animal tracking tours allow guests to play detective with a reformed Costa Rican poacher turned environmentalist. Pursue land mammals and reptiles through the jungle by following their tracks, scents, and footprints. Pumas, agoutis, and coatimundis are just a few of the animals commonly uncovered at Piedras Blancas National Park. Bird and wildlife observation at Piedras Blancas is similar to surrounding parks, including Corcovado National Park and Golfito Wildlife Refuge. Ocelots, poison dart frogs, peccaries and over 330 bird species inhabit the zone.
While there are no official trails, visitors can find a number of well-kept private paths that wind throughout Piedras Blancas. Each hotel has its own trailheads, most of which terminate at one of the park’s many unnamed waterfalls. Guided tours are helpful to spot wildlife and learn about the park’s numerous medicinal plants.
Experience the jungle from the eyes of a nocturnal creature on a Piedras Blancas night tour. Well-trained guides lead visitors on a search for kinkajous, sloths, and a multitude of frogs, snakes and insects that cannot be seen during the daylight hours. Bug repellent, sneakers and long-sleeved shirts and pants are recommended.
Bottlenose, spinner and black spotted dolphins live and breed in the Golfo Dulce year-round. Chances of spotting them are very high. Humpback and blue whales breach in the gulf from December to July. They inhabit the bay with their newborns by their sides for 2-3 months before migrating on. Read more about dolphin and whale watching tours.
One of the most satisfying ways to get to know the area’s many snorkeling coves is via kayak. Be sure to check the tides and weather before departure. While most hotels lend kayaks to guests free of charge, organized river tours are also available.
The beaches around Piedras Blancas are delightful places to observe marine life like sea turtles, tropical fish and rays. Visibility is best first thing in the morning, and hiring a guide that can lead straight to the best diving spots. Many hotels allow clients unlimited use of snorkeling equipment free of charge. Learn more about snorkeling and diving in Costa Rica.
There are no facilities at Piedras Blancas. The entrance fee can be paid at the MINAE office in Golfito.
Places to Stay:
A number of luxurious eco-lodges mesh effortlessly with the greenery in and around Piedras Blancas National Park. The beaches of Nicuesa, Cativo and San Josecito boast a handful of solar powered and self sustainable resorts, several of which are only accessible by boat. Travelers will find well-appointed cabins and tropical gardens, along with very friendly staff.
Driving: From San Jose, take the Interamerican highway south through San Pedro and Cartago. At San Isidro de El General, follow the sign toward Dominical. Once in Dominical take the Southern Highway (Costanera Sur) to Palmar Norte. Then you will get back on the Interamerican highway until Rio Claro. At the light, take a right to Golfito. The MINAE office is in town, behind the Deposito Libre.