Since moving to Costa Rica 7 months ago, of course I have done a few tours here. I’ve gone ziplining, tried my hand at surfing, went on a wildlife watching cruise, went fishing the Costa Rican way, hiked, visited some volcanoes and waterfalls.
There’s countless things to do in Costa Rica whether you want to be super active, moderately active, lazy, relax, be in land, be in water, etc. There is definitely a little something for everyone here!
If you want to do something besides beach hopping and ziplining, check out cave exploring at Barra Honda National Park! Read on to find more about it.
Barra Honda National Park
In the Guanacaste region, there are many very popular and famous places to go and see – volcanoes, turquoise blue rivers, whales, and waterfalls just to name a few. But we heard of one particular place called Barra Honda National Park that was a bit different.
Rather than diving into the ocean or hiking up volcanoes, this national park contained one very precious natural attraction.
We were going to go cave diving! Explore a limestone cave of which only 19 of the 42 caves have been explored by humans. This national park protects these caves and allows visitors to explore a couple of them.
The deepest cave is almost 250 meters deep. That’s insane! Can you imagine diving down that far?
It’s like a chapter right out of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Will I find dinosaurs? Creatures unheard of? But luckily, we were exploring Terciopelo, a generous 60 meter descent down.
Let’s just say that the easy part was exploring the cave. To get to the caves, we had to hike over an hour, climbing to an altitude of nearly 300 meters.
It was a small group of us, just six with two guides but we all trucked along. But once we got to the cave and looked down, we knew we were in for a unique experience.
To The Caves!
We started off our day hiking about 1.5 hours into the national park to get to the caves. This was not as easy of a hike as I thought, especially under 90 degree weather! We heard many birds, saw a few animals and even took a water break as the hike was quite long.
The trail is nicely laid out and although a tough hike due to the uphill climb, it was nice and flat. No rocks, no climbing over branches or trees.
Finally you reach the caves at the end of the trail which is marked by signs. We saw a few huge iguanas around and monkeys! After a short break, we got strapped up and ready to climb down into the first cave by way of a tall ladder.
It was a bit nerve wracking in the beginning, climbing down the ladder but we were safely strapped in twice and there is a person at the bottom holding the rope just in case.
Once you get to the bottom…all I can say is, WOW!! It’s seriously a whole new world down there. Above at the top is filled with life – trees, the wind, wildlife, the sun, but once you get down inside… it’s like everything stands still.
No animals, no wind, no dirt. All around you are these amazing formations of stalagmites and stalactites. At the bottom of the entrance you are 35 meters down.
We spent about 30 minutes in this area as our guide explained to us the history of the formations and the caves. Then she pointed to a hole down to the right, signaling it was time for us to move onto the next cave.
Down Another Hole We Go
Another descent leads us down a very small hole ends at 60 meters. It brings you to the next cavern, appropriately named la sala de huevos fritos (fried eggs cave) because of the shape of the stalagmites. Boy was this one a tight squeeze!
Once there, our guide told us to sit down and turn off our headlights. As soon as the last lamp extinguished, the silence and darkness was incredible.
You can see literally nothing. You hear nothing. You feel you are surrounded by… nothing. There is a reason why this is a method of torture. Stick someone in a place with no light, no sounds, no human or animal touch.
They would not know what day, time, or year it is and it’s just a ticking time bomb… waiting for that person to go insane from the darkness.
OK so creepy, go mentally insane factor aside, it was fascinating. To realize that these formations have been around for hundreds, thousands of years with no wildlife within the caves.
Water exists in the tips of the columns, which compose of a variety of formations: flowers, grapes, teeth, human faces. It makes you wonder, why? How? When? But it just is and that’s what makes it remarkable.
We rested a bit and then started our way back down. Along the way, our guide took us to a viewpoint that overlooked all of Nicoya. Beautiful!
Tips for Visiting Barra Honda National Park
- Wear closed toed, sturdy shoes and long hiking pants. I wore my KEEN hiking shoes which were great. Normally I suggest hiking sandals but for the cave part, you definitely want closed toed hiking shoes
- Bring lots of water and a snack, the hike will get you tired!
- There are no hotels or lodging in the national park itself but there are accommodations in Nicoya
- The entrance fee for foreigners is 5000 colones ($10) and the caving tour is around 12,5000 colones ($25) per person.
- The entire caving tour takes about 3-4 hours
- Only children over 10 years of age can participate in the cave tour
- You must be at the national park before 1pm to join a caving tour but you do not need to make reservations beforehand
- There are many hiking trails if you’re not interested in the caves. There are also bat tours.
I would say that half the tour was hiking to the caves, an arduous hike but entirely worth it. For someone who is looking to experience something different with a more active spirit, this is perfect for them.
About a 2 hour drive from Playas del Coco, Barra Honda National Park is hidden near Nicoya. As soon as you get to the entrance of the park, it doesn’t look like much. There’s just a couple station buildings in the middle of the forest. But what you can’t see beyond all the trees, are over forty hidden limestone caves at the top.
Read about more national parks here!
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