Braulio Carrillo National Park
Getting its name from Costa Rica's third president, Dr. Braulio Carrillo, the national park, full of tropical rainforest, spans northeast of the Central Valley. Flowing down from the Central Volcanic Corridor, Braulio Carrillo National Park (Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo) falls between the Poas Volcano to the west and the Irazu Volcano to the east. The protected zone encompasses 108,970 acres (44,100 ha) of rolling hills crammed with dark-green vegetation that teems with wildlife.
Created to help preserve the lush flora and fauna, there is a highway (Guapiles) that winds its way through the park. In fact, the park was formed in 1978 largely due to the highway, which makes the park more accessible, thus allowing more visitors to witness some of the most incredible scenery in the country.
Barva Volcano, the highest peak within the park at 9,534 ft (2,906 m), is an inactive volcano that sits high above the rest of the wilderness. Many other peaks within Braulio Carrillo's borders that are popular destinations supplying surprising beauty and a rigorous test of endurance are Cacho Negro, at 7,382 ft (2250 m); Cerro Chompipe, at 7,411 ft (2,259 m) and Cerro Turu, rising to 7,018 ft (2,139 m). Another sight not to be missed is the dramatic San Fernando Waterfall.
Comprised of virgin forest and at least five different life zones, the park is home to 6,000 species of plants. Hiking through the miles of trails of varying elevation will allow you to take in these unique micro habitats. Be on the lookout for quetzals, toucans and eagles, which help to make up the 500 bird species that inhabit the park. Around 150 mammals can be found inside the Braulio Carrillo protected zone such as white-faced monkeys, jaguars, peccaries, coati, deer, tapir and raccoons. Even the largest venomous snake found in Costa Rica, the matabuey, makes a home here, so watch your step!
There are two main park entrances that charge a fee of $7. The easiest and most popular is the Zurqui ranger station, which also has an information center. It is just 12 miles (20 km) northeast of San Jose along the Guapiles Hwy (32). The other main entrance is Puesto Carrillo ranger station, which is also along the highway. With Braulio Carrillo National Park being so centralized, you might notice that many of the 12,000 park visitors a year are just stopping by as they are en route to other destinations. Inside the park, an aerial tram is available, reaching heights up to 170 ft (52 m) as it glides through the forest with as many as four passengers at a time.