Beaches and Parks
Edited July 2008
Playa Ventanas (Windows Beach) gets it's name from the beautiful sea caves that line the north and south ends of the beach. The two caves on the north end extend from the beach out to the ocean, a distance of about 50 meters. Pressure from the waves during certain tides can blow a large cloud of steam out onto the beach creating a "blowhole effect". The caves are very deep and are quite intriguing to venture through. This is a great little bay and is ideal for swimmers with it's fine sand and caverns carved into the cliffs. Parking is available for around ¢350 colones per hour with a watchman monitoring the cars.
Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach) was once a pristine beach, Hurricanes Mitch and Ceasar destroyed the beach by routing Rio Terraba to this location. This beach is only accessible during the low tide. The strong ocean currents and lack of shade makes this beach less desirable than others in the area.
Playa Piñuela is about 1,300 meters long with a small reef off the coast. This makes for very little wave action, creating an ideal beach for swimming. Piñuela is also a terrific spot for ocean kayaking. Since the beach lies within the national park there is an entrance fee of ¢600 colones for residents and ¢3,000 for tourists.
Playa Ballena and Playa Arco
Playa Ballena is located in Marino Ballena National Park, and has some of the best beginner's waves in the area. Playa Ballena is known as a humpback whale migratory route. During the winter months of October thru March you can often see mother whales with their babies as well as some adult males breeching the surface.
Playa Uvita is one of the top six most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica (Frommer's). Uvita is famous locally for its pristine beauty and uniqueness on the Pacific coast. Wonderful views from the beach of a rocky, offshore island called "Isla Ballena." Isla Ballena means, "The Island of Whales" and is named after the whales that are often spotted off the island during their migration in the winter months. When the tides begin to recede, the beach becomes connected to the island via a sandbar. When the sandbar and island are visible (from the air) they create the outline of a whale's tail.
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park is one of the wettest areas in the country and is over 42,000 hectares of protected national forest. The park gets as much as 5,500 mm falls in the highest hills. The vegetation, one of the richest and most diverse in Costa Rica, is botanically very similar to South America. Mountains and forest cover over half the park and house some of the greatest variety of species of fauna and flora in the area. The cloud forest occupies the highest parts of the Park and is rich with trees. There are approximately 500 species of trees in the park, which makes up one fourth of the tree species in Costa Rica. The park contains a swamp forest that is flooded almost all year, a freshwater swamp and a lagoon over 1,000 ha in area. The park houses 140 species of mammals, 367 species of birds, 117 species of amphibians and an estimated 6,000 insects. The park holds the biggest population of scarlet macaw in Costa Rica. Some of the threatened species of cats found in Costa Rica are the ocelot, jaguaroundi, margay, puma and jaguar. Four species of marine turtles lay their eggs in relatively large numbers on the beach. From the beaches of Corcovado you can spot bull sharks, dolphins and three species of whales including the humpback whale. This park was also an important centre of settlement of Pre-Hispanic people. There are several archaeological sites along the paths within the park.
Ballena National Park
Ballena National Park (Whale Park) is one of the newest national parks of Costa Rica. The national park is bordered on the south by Punta Pinuela and extends out to sea for 9 kilometers. The mangroves are the most widespread type of vegetation in this national park. Within the park there are several different types of mangroves including the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), the tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae), the buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpus erectus) and the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa). Within the park there are two main species of reptiles that can be seen, the green iguana and the basilik. The park is also home to many beautiful birds. This park is a great spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. Just off the national park are five of the most beautiful species of coral reefs you could hope to see. Basking in the waters around the park are humpback whales and the popular bottled nosed dolphins. Several species of whales have been spotted near the park to include the melon-headed whales and sperm whales. The beach is also the home to marine turtles, giving them a beautiful place to lay their eggs.
Isla del Caño
Isla del Caño was formed by a block of Eocene basalts over 60 million years ago. Most of the coast consists of cliffs that tower up to 70 m high. The island has small quaint beaches that are approximately 100 m long, with gorgeous white sands that almost disappear at high tide. The island was once used as a Pre-Columbian settlement and cemetery. You can still see the remains of some of the perfectly round stones and pottery work that was created by the Indians so long ago. Part of the island is covered in a lush forest of milk trees and evergreens. This is a great place for bird watchers and horticulturalists as there are some pretty interesting birds and over 150 species of plants on the island. There is also a small array of mammals and amphibians on the island. While you are there see if you can find the transparent tree frog! Just off the island there is said to be approximately 14 species of corals which is great for snorkeling or scuba diving. Diving is only allowed in certain areas. The island does offer a picnic area with tables and bathrooms.
Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge
Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge is located on Costa Rica's Southern Pacific Coast. This is a region full of natural beauty, with forest covered mountains rising up from the Pacific coastline. Hacienda Baru is approximately 330 hectares with everything from wetlands, mangroves swamps and secondary forest in the lowlands to primary forest on the highland ridge. Located within is a butterfly garden and orchid garden along with approximately 7km of trails and gorgeous beaches to enjoy. There are several ecological and bird watching tours offered within Hacienda Baru.