Nacional Palo Verde, 28 km south of Bagaces, protects
13,058 hectares of floodplain, marshes, limestone ridges,
and seasonal pools in the heart of the driest region
of Costa Rica--the Tempisque basin, at the mouth of
the Río Tempisque in the Gulf of Nicoya. The
tidal river rises and falls up to four meters and is
navigable for about 36 km, as far as the confluence
with the Río Bolsón. There are 15 different
habitats (including several types of swamp and marshland)
and a corresponding diversity of fauna. Plump crocodiles
wallow on the muddy riverbanks, salivating, no doubt,
at the sight of coatis, white-tailed deer, and other
mammals come down to the water to drink. The banks of
the Tempisque are also lined with many hundreds of archaeological
sites for the curious.
Palo Verde is best known as a bird-watchers' paradise.
More than 300 bird species have been recorded, not least
great curassows and the only permanent colony of scarlet
macaws in the dry tropics. At least a quarter of a million
wading birds and waterfowl flock here in fall and winter,
when much of the arid alluvial plain swells into a lake.
Isla de Pájaros, in the middle of the Río
Tempisque, is particularly replete with waterbirds,
including white ibis, roseate spoonbills, anhingas,
and wood storks, which prefer the isolation, and jabiru
storks, the largest storks in the world. Isla de Pájaros
is also home to the nation's largest colony of black-crowned
park is laced by three well-maintained trails that
lead through deciduous tropical forest and marshland
to lookout points over the lagoons. Others lead to
limestone caves and large waterholes such as Laguna
Bocana, which are gathering places for a diversity
of birds and animals. Limestone cliffs rise behind
the old Hacienda Palo Verde, now the park headquarters,
tel./fax 671-1290 or 671-1455, fax 671-1062, eight
km south of the park entrance. Entrance costs $6.
Ask a ranger to point out the mango trees nearby.
The fruits of the mango are favored by peccaries,
monkeys, coatimundis, deer, and other mammals.
park, which derives its name from the palo verde (green
tree) or horsebean shrub that retains a bright green
coloration year-round, is contiguous to the north
with the remote 7,354-hectare Dr. Rafael Lucas Rodríguez
Caballero Wildlife Refuge and, beyond that, Lomas
Barbudal Biological Reserve, to the north. The three,
together with Barra Honda National Park and adjacent
areas, form the Tempisque Megapark. Dr. Rafael Lucas
Rodríguez Caballero Wildlife Refuge has a similar
variety of habitats--from swampland to evergreen forest
and dry forest--and wildlife.
season is by far the best time to visit, although
the Tempisque basin can get dizzyingly hot. Access
is far easier then. Deciduous trees lose their leaves,
making bird-watching easier. Wildlife gathers by the
waterholes. And there are far fewer mosquitoes and
bugs. When the rains come, mosquitoes burst into action--bring
bug spray. Biting insects abound. And bring binoculars.