mountains, dormant volcanoes, deep canyons, swollen
rivers, and seemingly interminable clouds, torrential
rains, and persistent drizzle characterize Parque Nacional
Braulio Carrillo, 20 km northeast of San José.
The park was established in 1978 as a compromise with
environmentalists concerned that the construction of
the Guápiles Highway to the Caribbean would lead
to deforestation of the important watershed region.
It was named in honor of the president who promoted
the cultivation of coffee. The 44,099-hectare park (84
percent of which is primary forest) extends from 2,906
meters above sea level atop Volcán Barva down
to 36 meters at La Selva, in Sarapiquí in the
Caribbean lowlands. This represents the greatest altitudinal
range of any Costa Rican park. Temperature and rainfall
vary greatly and are extremely unpredictable. At higher
elevations, temperatures range from 15° to 22°
C. At the Carrillo, Magsasay, and El Ceibo biological
stations, <@$>in the Atlantic lowlands, the average
temperature is much warmer, ranging from 22° to
30° C. Annual rainfall is between 400 and 800 centimeters.
Rains tend to diminish in March and April. With luck,
you might even see the sun.
five life zones ranging from tropical wet to cloud
forest, Braulio Carrillo provides a home for 600 identified
species of trees, more than 500 species of birds,
and 135 species of mammals, including howler and capuchin
monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, deer, pacas,
raccoons, and peccaries. Highlights include hundreds
of butterfly species and excellent bird-watching.
Quetzals are common at higher elevations. The rare
solitary eagle and umbrella bird live here. And toucans,
parrots, and hummingbirds are ubiquitous.
park protects several tree species fast disappearing
elsewhere from overharvesting: among them, the palmito,
valued for its "heart," and the tepezcuintle,
which has been chosen as the park's official mascot.
Those elephant-ear-size leaves common in Braulio Carrillo
are sombrilla del pobre (poor man's umbrella).
main entrance is approximately 19 km northeast of
San José, where there is a tollbooth (200 colones--$1.30)
on the Guápiles Highway. Zurquí, the
main ranger station, tel. 233-4533 or 257-0922, is
on the right two km north of the tunnel. Drive slowly;
you come upon it suddenly on a bend. The station has
basic maps, sold in the information center. The Puesto
Carrillo ranger station, 22.5 km farther down the
road, has a tollbooth in the center of the road for
those entering the park from Limón.
other stations--Puesto El Ceibo and Puesto Magsasay--lie
on the remote western fringes of the park, reached
by rough trails from just south of La Virgen, on the
main road to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. You
can also enter the Volcán Barva sector of the
park via the Puesto Barva ranger station, tel. 261-2619,
three km northeast of Sacramento (see the Slopes of
Barva section, above), and via Alto Palma and Bajo
Hondura, accessible from San José via San Vicente
de Moravia or from the Guápiles Highway at
a turnoff about three km south of the main park entrance.
Entrance costs $6.
short trails lead from Puesto Carrillo: Los Botarramas
is approximately 1.6 km; La Botella, with waterfalls
and views down the Patria Canyon, is 2.8 kilometers.
For additional exercise as you head down La Botella,
turn left at a sign labeled Sendero. This path takes
you 30 minutes deeper into the forest to the Río
Sanguijuela. South of Puesto Carrillo is a parking
area on the left (when heading north) with a lookout
point and a trail to the Río Patria, where
you can camp (no facilities). Another parking area
beside the bridge over the Río Sucio ("Dirty
River") has picnic tables and a short loop trail.
one-km trail leads from south of the Zurquí
Tunnel to a vista point. The entrance is steep, the
rest easy. Another trail--the Sendero Histórico--is
shown on the national park map as following the Río
Hondura all the way from Bajo Hondura to the Guápiles
Highway at a point near the Río Sucio. Check
with a ranger.
A trail from Puesto Barva leads to the summit of Volcán
Barva and loops around to Porrosatí (no ranger
station). From the summit, you can continue all the
way downhill to La Selva in the northern lowlands.
It's a lengthy and arduous hike that may take several
days, and is recommended only for experienced hikers
with suitable equipment. There are no facilities.
You can join this trail from Puesto El Ceibo and Puesto
Magsasay; you can also drive in a short distance along
a 4WD trail from Puesto Magsasay.
sturdy raingear, and preferably hiking boots. The
trails will most likely be muddy. Several hikers have
been lost for days in the fog and torrential rains.
Remember: It can freeze at night. If you intend to
do serious hiking, let rangers know in advance, and
check in with them when you return.