Palo Verde National Park is an extremely important area in Costa Rica as it encompasses over 45,000 acres (18,210 hectares) of the Tempisque Conservation area and one of the most endangered ecosystems in Central America, tropical dry forest.
Furthermore, there are 15 different kinds of habitats from mangroves to swamps in Palo Verde, all home to thousands of animals throughout the year. During rainy season the Tempisque river overflows, creating the perfect habitat for the wildlife to spend their winter months.
For those that want to see wildlife in Guanacaste, the Palo Verde National Park boat tour is one of the best. If you’d like to book this tour, please click here to go to our booking form.
Palo Verde National Park Location
Here is the Palo Verde National Park map.
Palo Verde National Park is in the Guanacaste province, part of the Tempisque Conservation Area. Palo Verde is 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Liberia Airport.
Palo Verde National Park Boat Tour Video
We made a video of our recent Palo Verde boat tour in March 2021 which you can watch below!
Palo Verde National Park Boat Tour
The best way to experience the national park is by taking a guided boat tour down the river to go wildlife watching. The boat tour is about 1.5 hours long, going down the Tempisque River in a 20-25 seat motor boat.
The Palo Verde National Park boat tour is an excellent day trip from Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, Gulf of Papagayo, Flamingo, Potrero, Conchal and Liberia. It’s also a great tour for families and senior citizens who may have trouble walking long distances but want to see wildlife and nature as there is no strenuous activity involved.
Palo Verde National Park Animals
Here are some photos of the tour and animals. The most common animals you will see on the Palo Verde National Park boat tour are iguanas, crocodiles, white face monkey, howler monkey, herons and birds.
We have done this tour 4 times during different times of the year. March was a great time to see migratory birds and crocodiles. We went during low tide and there are a lot of crocodiles during low tide.
We have also went in November. During this time, we saw a ton more monkeys and iguanas.
In May and August, we saw lots of crocodiles and baby crocodiles but not quite as many birds.
Sloths are not really found in this part of Costa Rica so no sloths in Palo Verde, sorry. Just in case, you can read about a wonderful rainforest and sloth tour from Guanacaste in this post though!
Things to Know About the Palo Verde Boat Tours
For the Palo Verde National Park boat tour, definitely your camera! DSLR would be perfect for this trip to capture those great shots and bring the telephoto zoom lens. A light jacket (during rainy season in case), binoculars if you have one to get a close up view, a wildlife field guide if you want, sunscreen and bug repellent.
The best time to go to Palo Verde National Park is during summer (December – April). This is because all the migratory birds are in Costa Rica so you will see way more birds. If you visit after May, you won’t see as many birds but you can see baby reptiles.
Palo Verde National Park Boat Tours
If you have a car and don’t want to book a full tour with transportation
The national park itself does not offer guided boat tours. There are locals with their own boats, waiting at the boat dock but they speak very limited English and aren’t naturalist guides so you will need to hire a guide separately.
If you want to drive, you’ll meet the guide in Filadelfia and go together to the national park for the boat tour.
Book Your Palo Verde National Park Boat Tour!
If you do not have transportation and would like to book the full boat tour, please fill out the form and we’ll help you book the day trip! Likewise, if you have a car and would like just the guide, please write that in the comment section and we can help you book a guide.
Want to read about other national parks in Costa Rica? Here you go!
Manuel Antonio National Park: A popular national park in the Central Pacific with white sand beaches, hiking trails and lots of wildlife. About 3 hours from San Jose.
Barra Honda National Park: A national park in Nicoya that protects dry tropical forest and has a plethora of caves. You can go hiking or take a guided caving tour.
Arenal Volcano National Park: Popular national park in the Northern lowlands, near La Fortuna city. Has the Arenal Volcano and rainforest. Great hiking and views of the volcano and Lake Arenal.
Poas Volcano National Park: Home to Poas Volano, one of the largest volcano craters. Newly reopened in 2018. Short walk to the volcano crater, reservations required. About a 1.5 hour drive from San Jose.
Tortuguero National Park: One of the best national parks for wildlife, especially turtles and birds. No road access as they are rainforest covered sandbars and canals. Must go via plane or boat.
I’ve been reading several of your articles about the Palo Verde/Tempisque River tours, either with Palo Verdo Boat Tours in Ortega or with Hacienda El Viejo.
One option I was considering is to visit and take the boat tour with Palo Verde en route from Tamarindo to Arenal, since we will have a car. My concern is obviously having luggage in the car, and can’t find information on where we would park and if it would be safe for the luggage. If not, then obviously I’d need to adjust my plans to do a day trip and back from Tamarindo. I’d rather not have a lot of backtracking with the cost of gas these days, but would rather do that than leave luggage in the car in an unsecured location.
Thank you for you guidance, and all of the blogs and articles you’ve put so much time into!
Hi Laura, we just sent you an email with more information, you can also book your tour with Hacienda El Viejo and get a discount for it here: https://mytanfeet.com/special-deals/hacienda-el-viejo-booking-page/
Hi! First and foremost, thank you so much for putting together this blog post/website. I’d share this with friends and family without a doubt. It’s going to be my first trip to Costa Rica and staying at the El Mangroove for 5 day. What would be your recommendations of must see or do, other than the Rincon de la Viega National Park? Also do you recommend signing up with a guided tour to visit these destinations? I know there is an inquiry that you provide for services does it include roundtrip transportation to and from the hotel? Thank you so much for your time and advice
Hello Christine, we sent you an email with information.
If you book a boat tour with a guide, but wish to drive there, where do you meet the guide and the boat?
In this case, you need to hire a guide first and the guide will make the arrangements to hire the boat because the boats stationed at Palo Verde do not automatically have guides, they are just boat drivers. Normally how this works is to hire a freelance guide, meet in Filadelfia and then follow the guide in your car to the park to do the tour.
Steve And Jana Miller says
We are interested in the Palo Verde boat tour but would drive ourselves. Can you hook us up with a guide?
Yes! Just sent you an email.
Hi I appreciate all the work you do and love the blog I was wondering where is the best place to get safe up close interactions with animals In Costa Rica?(with non caged animals)
Corcovado National Park is a great place to see wildlife, of course it is nature so there’s no guarantee for up close interactions, usually they are seen from a distance.
You can try to contact them and see if they will be open for your dates, they’ve been posting on Instagram. You can also message them on IG as they’re pretty active on there.
I would recommend to hire a private guide that can take you around Palo Verde National Park to the best spots to see the birds. We’ve also visited Hacienda EL Viejo for their boat ride down their private reserve that also has the Tempisque River. We also went on a short walk to a spot on their property where they have a very impressive pond area with hundreds of waterfowl including the jabirus.
It appears that Hotel Rancho Humo Estancia is temporarily closed since 2020/03. I could find a number of boat tours online but none caters my interests of watching wetland waterfowls. Is there any recommendation? I’ll rent an SUV to reach Palo Verde. Thanks!
Good evening, We are planning our trip to CR set for November 2020. We only have 7 nights and land at Liberia at 6pm. We know we want 3-4 nights at a beach location minimum. I wonder if we do NOT go to Arenal, amazing as it is, and instead get our rain forest, wetlands, nature hike experience on a long day trip to Palo Verde or someplace else you recommend. Or a one over-night. The 3 hour drive from Tamarino beach area to Arenal might be difficult for us so I welcome other ideas.
Hi Catherine, the forest in Arenal and Palo Verde are completely different. La Fortuna is tropical rain forest, Palo Verde has dry tropical forest so it is different nature. Both nice but different. November is towards the end of our rainy season though so Guanacaste (where Palo Verde is) will look very green for being dry rainforest, normally in summer it is dry and yellow but at the end of rainy season, it will be green.
N. Rizvi says
We did the Hacienda El Viejo tour two days ago – we enjoyed it and it is as you described it above. For those wishing to go: This place is outside the park and in fact 1.5 hours away from the Palo Verde Park itself. The tour goes up the river that forms a boundary with the park. They charged us for the price of the park ticket in their tour which we were not able to get to as it was too far away. Palo Verde boat tours is also outside the park and does not charge this fee.
Found your website by chance searching for a day-trip from the W at Reserva Conchal and we took your recommendations and went to do the boat tour at El Viejo Wetlands with our rental car. None of our Costa Rica Travel Guide Books mentioned this, but it was really fantastic and we hugely enjoyed the tour. Many thanks it was an awesome experience.
Glad you had a great time! They run a very nice operation there.
Dany-Martin Leclaire says
Hello, I will be in Sámara next week and thinkink of staying extras days for birding and take pictures of wild Life. Is there any guided tour for this. Not necessarly on boat but i prefer land so i could get closer to take pictures.
Hi Dany, I’d recommend talking to Samara Info Center and see if they can set you up with a guided walking tour of Palo Verde National Park. Most people go on the boat but they can see if they can arrange a tour on land.
Hi again. I am a little confused. We are staying in Huacas area during part of our time in CR in feb. We have our own transportation, do you recommend that we drive to El Viejo wetlands and do that tour vs the park tour? I’m thinking maybe you are recommending the park tour as a package including transport to and from, but if we have our own vehicle to just drive to the wetland? Either way, I am definitely interested in checking one or both of these out during our week in Guancaste. We are starting with 5 days in La Fortuna, then Huacas/ Basilito then quepos for a week each. cant wait!
Hi Kent, yes so at the national park, the park itself doesn’t offer guided boat tours. They have some locals who own a boat and will drive you around the river but they aren’t guides so you won’t have anyone pointing out animals or sharing information about the animals. So if you have a car and do want an actual guided tour, then it is better to go to El Viejo and do a guided boat tour there. If you don’t really care and just want to ride down the river, you can go with the locals at the park (they usually leave by noon or so).
Rob Rice says
I may have made a mistake today (Sept 16, 2018), but I will share my story in the hopes that it may help others. Perhaps things are different during rainy season.
Using the GPS coordinates on the map on this message board I did get to the entrance of Palo Verde National Park. The cost for foreigners is now $12.00. The gentleman taking the fee did not speak English, but when I asked about a river boat cruise, he pulled out a map and drew a line to the river (I believe he said it was 18 km away). The dirt road was quite rough in spots, but being careful with my small rental car I was able to make it to the river. However, along the way I did not notice a “biological station” or did I see one on the map (I did see turtles, iguanas, cranes, deer, and what looked like wild boar). When I got to the dock as directed there is a sign that notes “Dear Visitor National Park Service Has No Boat Tours.” As I noted above, perhaps I misunderstood the messages, but it appeared to me if you showed up in the morning one would be able to take a river cruise. Not complaining, I found this site extremely useful and informative, just hoping to give back and maybe help others.
Hi Rob! Thanks for your feedback. You do need to get to the national park before 1 PM to catch a boat since that is when the last boat is and it is dependent upon availability if you don’t have reservations with a tour company. There are other places to go on a boat cruise on the same river (not in the national park) so probably the gentlemen pointed you to one of those places (El Viejo is another one). I’m glad at least you were able to see some animals, we appreciate your feedback!
I’m confused about where to find the boat tours. This suggests you can go right into the park, another site says boat tours start in Puerto Humo outside the park. Could you explain? Thanks!
There are several places to do boat tours down Rio Tempisque. You can do it in the national park or there are other private boat docks like El Viejo. I’m not sure about Puerto Humo but I know when you are in the park, you can hire a boat.
Perfect – thank you. We will follow your directions to get to the biological station and go from there.
Sorry – one more question: Is there anywhere to stay near Palo Verde? We were hoping to do one day at Catarata Llanos de Cortes, spend the night somewhere nearby, and then do a boat tour in Palo Verde the next day.
Not really… Palo Verde is in a local town called Filadelfia and there’s not really anything there. Liberia would be a good option though, close to both.
I’m really interested in seeing the Guatil indigenous village! Is this something that tours offer, or is it something I have to find myself? Any other info or tips about this? Thank you so much!
Hi Leah! Most of the tour companies combine the Palo Verde and Guatil visit together so you can ask them if they have any tours running for the day you want to go. It’s a popular tour so there’s a good chance to join one if you’re a solo traveler as most companies require a minimum of 2 -3 people for this tour.
Hello Dyana, Another activity that you can do is to visit the Catarata Llaonos de Cortes Waterfall. It is very nice and great for children since it’s a beautiful waterfall with lots of places to have a picnic and enjoy. The only thing is that it is about a 1 hour drivef rom Playas del Coco but you can book a tour or rent a car which we recommend. You can stay at the waterfall for a whole day or half day. If you’d like to rent a car, we have an exclusive discount for our readers which includes free delivery and pick up at Playas del Coco. You can make a reservation or quote here: Costa Rica car rental discount.
I’m going in a couple of days with my family! I have one son (3years) and daughter (1 year) what would you recommend beside going to the beach? we will be near Playa Panama and Playa Cocos. Thank you very much for your recommendations!
Thanks for a great website.
Are there hiking Maps somewhere online for this park?
There isn’t but most people take the boat ride as the hiking trails are fairly short and not well maintained. You can ask for a map at the park entrance office
Going down in June, the rainy season. Can you recommend a specific tour company? Ant other tips?
Yes! Randall from Shaman tours is excellent, I went with my parents and grandmother with him to Palo Verde and he’s super knowledgeable and an excellent naturalist guide. You can email him here to inquire about tours and book with him: firstname.lastname@example.org
You will find boats ready to go most of the times, you just have to show up but you need to go in the morning, they stop running boat tours in the afternoon.
Where is the best place to find a tour?
You can show up at the national park and hire a boat there, but if you don’t have your own transportation you’ll need to book a shuttle or go with a tour company.
Hi There – Last year we drove on our own to Palo Verde and got a boat tour. The cost of the boat tour was $15 us. I would like to do that again but can not find out what time the boats leave the dock. Would you know where I could find a departure time ?
Everyone seems to be quoting in USD but I would imagine they take their local currencies too 🙂 Do most places have prices in both as I don’t plan on bringing USD with me, would that be a problem?
Also regarding the Palo Verde NP, how are the tours organized? Can I find a tour in the park upon arrival or do I need to book a guide with someone outside of the park who will take me on the tour of the park. Also is there any decent hiking trails in the park to see the wild life?
Hi Daniel! Yep you can pay with colones or USD and you can ask them how much it will be in both currencies. You can book the Palo Verde tour with a tour company beforehand if you like and they will take care of the transportation and be your guide. We went with a tour company since we wanted transportation and a knowledgeable guide but I think you can go there yourself and book a boat. I’d suggest booking a tour since boat tours only run certain time of day and can fill up fast during high season. There are quite a few hiking trails in the park, but I’d check beforehand if you’re going in rainy season since it can get flooded with the river rising. It’s a great place to see tons of birds and wildlife!
Thank you for quick reply. Is there any tour companies that you would recommend?
Rachel M says
Nice article. BTW, do they charge different entrance fee rates between foreigners and locals in Costa Rica?
Yep! It’s $10 for foreigners and I think $1 or $2 for residents/citizens, they do this for all national parks too.