Barra Honda National Park
Barra Honda is unique among the National Parks of Costa Rica: its main attraction is an intricate large system of limestone caverns which house a multitude of capricious forms and figures.
The hill of Barra Honda hides many surprises
The nearly flat mesa of the Barra Honda hill looms 300 m above the Tempisque valley with its highest peak at 450 m altitude. It mainly consists of coral reef which is over 60 million years old. Tectonic faulting has uplifted the area from its former seabed and rains created underground waterways. The constant dropping of rainwater on calcium carbonate has then created these underground art galleries - fancies of nature grown over millenniums of years.
The caves of Barra Honda were only explored in the late 60ies and until now
only 19 of the 42 caves have been surveyed.
Before that people believed that Barra Honda was a volcano because they misinterpreted the whirring of bat wings for volcanic activity and the aroma of guano for sulfur.
The bat's cave, Pozo Hediondo (Fetid Cave), is home to a colony of around 5000 bats. Half an hour after sunset these flying mammals surge from their underground dwellings to fly out into the night.
The caves of Barra Honda are well preserved as their vertical entrances are difficult to negotiate. Nevertheless have human skeletons and pre-Columbian artefacts been found in the 30 m deep Nicoa Cave.
Entrance to the Terciopelo cave
The deepest of the Barra Honda caves is Santa Ana which sinks to 249 meters. La Trampa (the trap) has the deepest precipice - a vertical entrance of 30 m length. Speleologists and spelunkers from around the world are drawn to Barra Honda.
One of the largest and most beautiful caves is Terciopelo which along with la Cuevita, is the only one accessible for the public.
Tours must be accompanied by two local guides.
At the entrance to the cave you will be fit with a rappelling harness and helmet. The harness is only a security for the 17-meter descent on an aluminium ladder.
Caving in Barra Honda:
The caves of Barra Honda can be visited year-through. You should be at the ranger station between
7 a.m and 1 p.m. Bring enough drinking water and sun cream for the hike. The entrance fee for the National Park is $ 10 p/p and the caving tour
costs $ 26 p/p for a minimum of 2 participants.
Two professional guides will accompany you on the 3 - 4 hours tour. See: Underground in Barra Honda Children beyond the age of 10 are only allowed to the Cuevita cave.
The hike up the hill and to the caves takes approx 1 hour and is slightly steep and moderately difficult. On top of the flat-topped ridge a footpath winds through the forest and the guides will point out species of trees and medicinal plants.
Hiking through Barra Honda and Bat Tours
You can also just hike through the National Park. A network of trails leads through the dry tropical forest, one of the world's rarest habitats. You might see deers, coatis, agutis, anteaters and monkeys. The best time for seing wildlife is from Jan - April as in dry season many trees and shrubs shed their leaves which makes it easier to spot animals.
If you are interested in bats you can make a guided tour to the Pozo Hediondo cave for $8 p/p. The hike starts at 4 pm and you will be back at the Ranger Station at 8 pm.
For more information and reservations call at the ranger station: 2659 1551
or write an email:
There aren't any more cabins to rent in Barra Honda, only the camping site is left. There are however some hotels within a 10 min walk from the park entrance.
Getting there by Car:
The Barra Honda National Park is only 12 km away from the Tempisque Road (Hwy 21) and the drive is fairly easy.
After you have crossed the Tempisque Bridge continue for 15 km until you see a sign to your right to Barra Honda.
You will pass through the village of Barra Honda (old maps call it Nacaome) from where it's another 4 km to the park.
Coming from the Nicoya Peninsula, watch out for the sign to Barra Honda, around 2 km from the turnoff of Hwy 21.
From Nicoya there is a daily bus to Santa Ana in the morning and a return bus in the late afternoon. From Santa Ana it is a 1 km hike to the park entrance.
From Samara it's an easy day-jaunt to Barra Honda. Tour operators and hotels in Samara can help you to arrange a tour.