Palo Verde National Park, Costa Rica
The Palo Verde National Park on the banks of the Rio Tempisque is one of the best wildlife and bird watching spots in Costa Rica.
The remote wetland sanctuary harbors one of Central Americas largest concentration of aquatic birds and is the most important migratory bird site of the Mesoamerican Pacific.
Hemmed in by limestone hills and rivers, the lowlands of the Tempisque basin become a vast
area of wetlands in rainy season.
Towards the end of the rainy season Palo Verde is home to at least 250,000 birds.
For birdwatching however dry season (Jan - April) is the best time to visit the reserve because waters largely subside and the park's many birds cluster by the remaining marshes and waterholes. Observing the fauna is particularly good because in dry season there is little vegetation to obstruct views of the roosting birds.
The Tropical Dry Forest and Wildlife
Palo Verde is also important for protecting one of the last significant remnants of the deciduous dry forests of the Neotropics.
The sensible eco-system of the tropical dry forest once covered most
of the Central American Pacific side but has been destroyed by man over the centuries.
With little or no precipitation for half the year, most bushes and trees in the dry forest shed their leaves to conserve water. At the peak of dry season however, many trees burst into a riot of colors boasting bright yellow and red flowers on bare branches.
Palo Verde forms part of the Tempisque Conservation Area which includes the Barra Honda National Park, the Caballero Wildlife Refuge, the Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve and other patches of biological interest. The total of protected areas in the Tempisque river basin encompasses 73,000 hectares and presents 15 different habitats thus being one of Costa Rica's most biological diverse sites.
Around 75 species of mammals, including peccaries, armadillos, deer, monkeys, and coatis roam the thickets. Palo Verde harbours Costa Rica's largest population of jaguarundis, a brownish, small wild cat (see wildcats in the Wildlife Guide). 55 species of reptiles and amphibians are found, and the Tempisque river has the largest concentration of crocodiles in Costa Rica.
The abundance of flowers and fruit in the national park also feed myriads of insects and colonies of bats. Especially the Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve, adjacent to Palo Verde, is a heaven for insectologist's: 250 species of bees have been counted which is around a quarter of the world's bee species. An abundance of wasps, butterflies, moths and other insects inhabit the forest, and in - in rainy season - there are swarms of mosquitoes.
Read more: Birdwatching in Palo Verde
How to get to Palo Verde:
With a car take the road from Bagaces, 26 km south of Liberia, across from the gas station. Continue 28 km on a rock-strewn road through dry forest, passing by sugar cane and rice fields until the Park Entrance of Palo Verde. From here you can drive on for 8 km until you arrive at the Biological Station and the marshes where you see lots of birds. Another 2 km further is the ranger station with a camping site, showers and bathrooms. There are also 6 cabins with bunk beds available.
If you want to visit the Lomas Barbudal reserve, it is 5 km before the entrance of Palo Verde.
Without a car you can take the morning bus from Nicoya to "Rosaria". Get off
the bus in Puerto Humo where locals take you over the Tempisque by boat to the Chamorro dock. The trip takes 25 minutes and costs around $ 60 for
up to 6 people. From the dock you walk 2 kms to the ranger station.
For an overnight stay rustic but clean and comfortable dormitory style accommodations are available. For reservations call OTS Palo Verde (506) 2524 0607.
At the Tempisque bridge there are also boats who take you on a tour to Isla de Pajaros or into the Rio Bebedero. The tour takes 2 hours and costs $30 per person if there are at least 4 people.
As an alternative to visiting the Palo Verde National Park itself, you can also explore the El Viejo private Wildlife Reserve right across from the National Park. El Viejo is only 1 hour drive from Tamarindo, Liberia or El Coco Beach. Tours are offered by boat on the Rio Tempisque, on horseback, zip-lines or hiking the trails.