Guanacaste is famous for its beaches and is the reason why travelers visit that province. However, what you may not know is that Guanacaste has such many diverse landscapes. Besides beaches, there are volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls and caves.
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 so if you are in Guanacaste and want to do something besides beach hopping and ziplining, check out Barra Honda National Park. They offer cave tours where you can explore and go down into the caves.
We did the Barra Honda National Park cave tour and here is our guide to visiting the national park and the cave tour.
Hours and fee
The Barra Honda National Park entrance fee for foreigners is 5000 colones ($10 USD) and the caving tour is around 12,5000 colones ($25 USD) per person. This is the price for visitors who drive to the park on their own.
Reservations are now required for Barra Honda National Park. If anyone arrives without one, the park can’t guarantee them entry. You can make reservations by contacting their facebook or calling them at 506 8721 2444.
If you do not have your own transportation, you will need to book a tour with roundtrip transportation included as there are no buses directly to the park or Uber in the area.
You must enter the park before 1 PM to join a cave tour and only children over 10 are allowed on the tour. The entire tour takes about 3-4 hours.
Parking and Facilities
The national park has a large parking lot where the ticket office is and facilities with bathrooms.
Location of Barra Honda National Park
Barra Honda National Park map
Barra Honda National Park is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Liberia International Airport, a 1 hour and 30 minute drive. From San Jose, Barra Honda is 185 kilometers ( 115 miles) and a 3 hour drive.
Barra Honda Cave Tour
The main attraction of Barra Honda National Park are the caves but there are also hiking trails. To visit the cave, you have to go on a tour with a guide. For the hiking trails, you can do them self guided. Only 19 of the 42 caves have been explored by humans so many of them are still unknown. This national park protects these caves since they have found human remains and ancient artifacts inside.
Visitors can go on a cave tour which goes to a cave called Terciepelo, 60 meters (197 feet) down. To get to the caves, we had to hike over an hour climbing to an altitude of nearly 300 meters. We spent another hour or so in the caves, learning about the history and importance.
Hiking 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.
Reaching the Cave Entrance
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.
In the Caves
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.
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 and 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.
Finishing the Barra Honda National Park Caves Tour
Coming back up to the surface after exploring the cave was a fulfilling feeling. Knowing you overcame a fear, pushed yourself physically, looked at, touched, smelled a special piece of the earth. It’s exhilarating to say the least.
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. Do not do this tour if you are claustrophobic or have any hesitation about being in small spaces or in the dark.
- 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.
- Bring lots of water and snacks. Not available for those who book a tour directly at the national park. Sunscreen is a must as well. No convenience store or anywhere to buy water or snacks at the park.
- 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 (1 hour drive). You can even do this from Playas del Coco/Gulf of Papagayo (~ 2 hour drive).
- There are many hiking trails if you’re not interested in the caves. There are also bat tours.
- You can visit the national park on your own to hike but not visit the caves.
I would say that half the tour was hiking to the caves but it’s entirely worth it. For someone who is looking to experience something different than beaches, this is perfect for them.
We are staying in Santa Teresa and heading up to Playa del Coco. Would we be able to leave early in the morning and stop at Barra Honda on the way?
Sure, just remember that if you want to do the caves, you can only go with a reservation. For the hikes, you don’t have to go with reservations.
I called Barra Honda at 8721-2444 to make a reservation as this article mentioned, and they told me to call 8539-1010 for a cave tour reservation. Not sure if that would be with an official park guide, or if that’s some other private company. I called that other number and they told me it’s $42/person for doing the cave tour. Still more expensive than the $25 (plus $10?) stated on this blog. Is there any way to get that cheaper rate while doing a reservation ahead of time as required? I have a car and can drive there
Hello Chris, the national park runs their own cave tours so that should be right. We paid the Costa Rican national price which is cheaper than the foreigner prices (not to mention there is also a VAT tax that is added to the price now).
The park looks fairly close to Nicoya city. We’re planning to come up from Santa Teresa going to Barra Honda and then heading to Nosara. Would you recommend staying in Nicoya or somewhere else?
It is right in Nicoya. It’s a bit of a far drive from Santa Teresa (3 hours) so I would personally stay around if you guys want to do the caves or hike a lot since some of the trails are not for easy hikes or beginners.
Hi! We’ll be down there on Friday and would like to tour the caves. I’m only finding tours for $120 and more! Who do you recommend? There are 2 of us.
Hi Don, if you need transportation and want to do the cave tour, that price is about right (actually a bit cheaper than what I’ve seen). If you have a car, you can drive to the park in the morning and sign up for a tour at the national park office for cheaper.
We did this yesterday and loved it! Thanks for all the tips. We went early (drove from playa hermosa-got there by 10am). We hiked up. Samatha was right about this…very long and up hill. It was tough, but I think worth it. We would not have seen the monkeys, iguana’s, birds and other very cool things we saw if we had driven. We brought lots of snacks, had our lunch when we got back and headed out. We got back to the resort at about 4pm.
One important tip I would like to add. This is a CASH ONLY spot. We came with a credit card, thinking a national park would accept. There is nothing around, so you would need to drive back about 10 km or so (on rocky road so it takes longer). We were able to scrape together USD and colones to enter but its a lot easier if you know going in they only take cash:)
Enjoy the trip:)
Thanks for the feedback Kelly and glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Larissa Cruz says
Hello and Greetings,
My family and I are staying in Playa Hermosa (in Guanacaste) for Christmas. We are interested in seeing the Barra Honda caves but had a few questions.
Is it possible, if we leave early in the morning, to drive to the caves, do the tour and leave before dark, in one day? We are concerned about the road conditions and would prefer getting a hotel to avoid driving at night.
Secondly, are there any hotels that you would recommend nearby the caves?
Hi Larissa, it is possible and actually what we did. We left quite early in the morning (depending on where you are in Guanacaste) to get to the national park by around 9 AM to do the 10 AM I believe tour. It’s only about a 1.5-2 hours the whole duration and then we had lunch in the area then drove back in daylight. We also drove in a sedan as the main road is all the way paved to Nicoya but it does get gravel for the last bit into the national park but we made it in our sedan fine (just go slow).
I plan on visiting the Barra Honda Caves from Playas Del Coco in early July. Can you please recommend to me some possible tour companies?
Hi Erin! How many people will you be? Usually this tour requires a minimum of 2-3 people or else its very expensive for 1 person.
There will be two of us
Great thanks for the information, I just sent you an email!
Laurie-Anne Beausoleil says
We are going to Barra Hondo on February 2018. Where can we find informations about the caves’ guided tour? Can we just show up at the rangers station in the morning?
They only informations I found is to phone to the ranger station, but we don’t speak spanish !
Hi Laurie-Anne. Yes, you can show up in the morning to join a tour if you have your own transportation which is what we did. It’s not a super busy park and there are always rangers and guides at the station, just arrive before 1 PM for a tour and I do recommend going early in the morning around 8 or 9 because it does take a few hours and it’s very hot in the park. Have a great time, this is one of my favorite unique things to do in CR because not a lot of people do it so we got a really cool personal private tour of only 4 people in March!
Hi it depends a what time of the year you come, on the rainy reason you will find a little bit more but we always recommend everyone to be ready for mosquitoes you can check this article Best mosquito repellent
Phuong Mai says
Thank you for your details posting about this cave. The pictures has help a lot. I’ve read some reviews mentioned that there are lots of mosquitoes on the hike ?!
hi. i will be in costa rica next year and just have 1 question which im sure i already know the answer to but just want to varify it. that is exploring the cave with your own group without a guide. is it possible?
Hi Graz, no you have to go with a guide (safety reasons).
How/ Where did you get your guide?
If you’re not going with a tour company, you can go to the main station at the entrance of the park to join a tour.
Do you know how often the tours run?
They run every day but if you are going in September/October, I would check with the ranger station just in case because they may not run the tour if it is raining too hard.
Jim Wei says
Fascinating place. The story is very well written. You should try to publish it on a travel magazine. Wish we were there also.
Give us something to look forward to for next trip. Keep writing. I enjoy it.
Samantha Wei says
Now I have a list of more adventures we can do next time everybody comes to visit 🙂