As you head east from San Jose on the Guápiles Highway the Zurquí tunnel takes you from the modern world into the rainforest and cloud forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park. The park was founded in 1978 in order to save some of the area that was being opened up by the Guapiles Highway, and it was named after the third president of Costa Rica who ruled in the mid 1800’s.
This tropical rainforest of Costa Rica looks very similar to the setting of the movie "Jurassic Park". Many parts of Braulio Carrillo National Park remain unexplored. Other parts are easily accessible, and the short trails that have been developed give a fascinating window into tropical nature. There are at least 6,000 species of plants here, and preliminary studies have counted 333 species of birds including quetzals and bare-necked umbrella birds. Even if someone has witnessed the splendor of a virgin rainforest before, no one that visits the Braulio Carrillo National Park can avoid feeling a sense of awe because of its beauty and magnitude.
|Braulio Carrillo National Park|
There are two entrances into the park, the main one being 500 meters South of the Zurqui tunnel, where the ranger station is located. Across the road from this “puesto” or station, is the trail named “Capulin”, which should take hikers an approximate time of an hour and a half to cross. The initial hundred meters are steep, but there is a railing; after a while, the path levels out and offers hikers an opportunity to do some bird watching and spot many animals in the brush or up on the canopies.
The other short trail begins at the northeast entrance to the national park, 15 kilometers northeast from the Zurqui ranger station. The trail called “Sendero Natural Botarrama” is only I kilometer or about 1/2 mile long, which doesn’t qualify as a challenging path for an experienced and active hiker. There are some things that people should keep in mind when entering these trails.
First of all, even in the dry season, the paths are muddy and slippery most of the time; it’s important to wear good shoes. Secondly, many people, both local and foreign, have gotten lost in the Braulio Carrillo National Park, probably because the trails are very limited, and people feel a need to explore more. Even experienced hikers should never leave the paths.
Even though the trails are small, bird watchers might spot the beautiful quetzals, toucans, trogons and eagles. Other common animals and reptiles are the jaguar, ocelot, bushmaster snake (“Matabuey”), or the feared fer-de-lance snake (“Terciopelo”). The vegetation is, as mentioned before, completely breath-taking. The park is at 50 m above sea level at its lowest point, and at 2906 m at its highest, at Volcan Barva. Because of different zones, from tropical wet to cloud forest, its vegetation is equally diverse.
Braulio Carrillo National Park: Getting There
The Braulio Carrillo is one of the easiest parks to access from the capital city of San Jose. It is located only 20 kms northeast from town and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The entrance fee is $15, or $7 if it’s been purchased in advance.
There’s an excellent bus service from San Jose to the park and vice-versa, since Guapiles, Siquirres and Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui buses stop right in front of the ranger station. Visitors who don’t want to travel by bus, might take a cab (for approximate $35 from San Jose), or rent a car, since the location is easy to find. If you’re interested in a more elaborate visit to the park, you might want to call “Los caminos de la selva” agency, which offers bird watching tours (tel.255-34-86).
Last but not least, if you’re already in the Braulio Carrillo National Park, it’s worth visiting the Aerial Tram, located at the end of the protected area (towards Guapiles). This unique tram lets visitors travel in one of its twenty cable cars and to go through the forests’ canopy in order to spot flora and fauna that would otherwise be hidden from view. Costa Rica visitors must realize that it isn’t a zoo. Animals may or may not be seen at all times, but the visit is well worth it.
Braulio Carrillo National Park Quick Facts >>