Guanacaste is famous for its beaches and is the reason why travelers visit that province. However, what you may not know is that there are tons of other things to do than beach hopping in Guanacaste since it has such a diverse landscape, primarily tropical dry forest. There are also volcanoes, waterfalls and caves.
Yep, that’s right – caves! There is a national park near the city of Nicoya that was created to protect the very special caves. This is quite a unique activity in Costa Rica since it’s more well known for their volcanoes and beaches so if you are in Southern Guanacaste and want to do something besides beach hopping and ziplining, check out cave exploring at Barra Honda National Park!
We did the cave tour in March and here is our guide to visiting.
Barra Honda National Park
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About the Park and Tour
Barra Honda National Park is not huge but there are several hiking trails, view points and the caves so it’s a great day trip. You can visit the park by going on a tour to explore a limestone cave or you can visit on your own to go hiking.
Only 19 of the 42 caves have been explored by humans in the national park so even though there are scientists studying these caves, many of them are still unknown. This national park protects these caves and allows visitors to explore a couple of them.
The deepest cave is almost 250 meters deep and the cave they explore on tours is called Terciepelo, a 60 meters cave.
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. We were in a small group with only two others since this isn’t a super popular tour.
However, it was really nice to be in a small group as we were given more attention and our guide was happy to stop and answer any questions, point our various flora and fauna and give us more time to rest.
Hours and fee
The entrance fee for foreigners is 5000 colones ($10) and the caving tour is around 12,5000 colones ($25) per person.
Barra Honda National Park is about a 2.5 hour drive from Liberia, near the city of Nicoya. From Liberia, you can drive through Canas on Route 1 and then turn onto Route 18 in Limonal towards Nicoya. Cross the Friendship bridge (la Puente de Amistad) and you will see signs for Barra Honda National Park. Turn right at the Servicentro Quebradas and continue on the road to the park entrance.
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
- You need to be in moderately good condition to do this tour. The hike is steep and long and you need to climb a tall ladder. Not ideal for those who are claustrophobic.
- If you don’t have your own transportation, you need to book this tour with a tour company. There are no public buses that go directly to 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 in hot weather, but for the cave part, you definitely want closed toed hiking shoes
- Bring lots of water and snacks, the hike will get you tired! Sunscreen is a must.
- There are no hotels or lodging in the national park itself. This is best as a day trip. If you’re in Tamarindo/Samara, this is a great option. You can even do this from Playas del Coco/Gulf of Papagayo.
- 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. It’s 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.
Read about more national parks here!
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