Palo Verde National Park Costa Rica

Location: 19 km (12 miles) south from Bagaces, district: Bagaces, canton: Bagaces, province: Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Zone postal code: 50401.
Bagaces GPS Coordinates: 10.520894,-85.254769 (10°31’15.22″N, 85°15’17.17″W)
Size: 18.418 ha (45,492 acres)
Altitude: from sea level up to 200m (656ft)
Schedule: from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Hacienda Palo Verde Telephone: +506 2671-1290 and +506 2671-1455
Organization for Tropical Studies Telephone: +506 2524-0607
Fax: (506) 2671-1062
Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) Telephone: +506 2686-4967 / +506 2686-4968
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192

Click here to view directions from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), Alajuela, Costa Rica TO Palo Verde National Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica at Google Maps

Palo Verde National Park Costa Rica: created on April 30th, 1978, in order to protect forested areas and an extensive marshland between the Tempisque and Bebedero rivers, approximate 30 km west of the Cañas city in Guanacaste. Palo Verde National Park is a diverse patchwork of habitats located at the head of the Nicoya Gulf in the flood plain of the Tempisque River.

The Palo Verde National Park is form by a group of twelve habitats created by the topography and the conditions such as the drainage, the rivers overflow and the tides effects. This habitats includes freshwater and saltwater lagoons, wetlands, marsh and swamps, pasturelands, black mangrooves, rough-leaf tree grasslands, thorn scrub, lowland mixed deciduous forest, hillside mixed forest, riparian forest, savannah woodland, swamp forest, evergreen forest and the tidal estuarine ecosystem of the lower Tempisque River, making it one of the most varied national parks in Costa Rica. Besides, this park provides an important wintering ground to migrant North American waterfowl.

This area is subject to inundation’s of big magnitude. During the rainy season, and because of the little natural drainage the hill has, the place flood by effect of the combination action of the rain, the tides and the overflow of the rivers Bebedero and Tempisque, which tidal rises and falls up to four meters and is navigable for about 36 km, as far as the confluence with the Bolson River. In some occasions, the whole zone converted in a large lagoon. In the dry season, from mid-November through mid-May, the waters shrink back to scattered pools, making it one of the hottest and driest parts of Costa Rica with an annual average temperature of 28ºC. If visiting during the dry season, be sure to drink plenty of liquid and try to avoid staying in direct sunshine for very long so as to eliminate the risk of heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke.

Over 150 types of trees have been recorded, including the Palo Verde (Parkinsonia aculeata) meaning “Green Tree”, beacuase its levees, branches and part of the trunk are light green color. Between the biggest trees are the Wild Cashew or Espavé (Anacardium excelsum), the Kapok (Ceiba pentandra), the Pochote (Bombacopsis quinata), the Spanish cedar(Cedrela odorata), the Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), the Laurel (Cordia alliodora), the Tempisque (Sideroxylon capiri), the Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), the Rain Tree (Samanea saman), the Ron Ron (Astronium graveolens), the Ceibo Barrigón (Pseudobombax septenatum), the Guayabón (Terminalia oblonga), the Níspero or Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) and the Holywood Lignum-vitae (Guaiacum sanctum), tree of precious wood endanger extinct.

The natural hydrologic system of Palo Verde create the right conditions to produce in the zone the most important concentration of birds in the country and Central America, which was the primary reason that the park was created. The whole area is a bird-watchers paradise, with over 300 species recorded. It is the dry season that is most attractive to birders, because the birds concentrate on the remaining wet areas, and at the same time many of the trees have lost their leaves, making it easier to spot wildlife, besides, there are fewer mosquitoes and bugs. In the park nest the Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria), a specie endanger of extinct, and also subsist the only population of Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) of the Dry Pacific, as well as the Great Curassow (Crax rubra), the Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis) and the Great Egret (Ardea alba). It is estimated that over a quarter of a million wading birds and wildfowl, many from North America, spend the winter months here. Among the resident species are some of the country’s larger, more exotic birds, such as the stunning Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), the American Darter (Anhinga anhinga), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), Wood Stork (Mycteria americana), Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) and Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa). From September to March, thousands of sea gulls, herons (Egretta), falcons, ducks (anas) and water rooster concentrate in the lagoons and neighbor areas to feed and reproduce.

The main nesting area is an island in the middle of the Tempisque River, known as the Pajaros Island, located in front of the park. This is home to the country’s largest colony of Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) and for being a nest area for the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis).

Some of the mammals most common are the Howler and Capuchin Monkeys, Porcupines, Coaties, White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Collared Peccaries (Pecari tajacu), Coyotes (Canis latrans), Variegated Squirrels, Tayra or Tolomuco (Eira Barbara), Central American Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), Tepezcuintle or Lowland Paca (Cuniculus paca), Margays (Leopardus wiedii) and Pumas or Cougars (Puma concolor). Besides, near the Tempisque River you can observe crocodiles up to five meters long as well as frogs, iguanas and snakes such as the Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), Tropical rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) and the Central American Coral Snake (Micrurus nigrocinctus).

Geologically, the lower Tempisque River basin is unique in Costa Rica since the surrounding hills are of limestone and not volcanic rock. This material was originally formed by corals some 40 to 60 million years ago when the area was part of the ocean floor. Subsequent shifting of the continental plates has caused these low hills to rise to their present heights and also changed the course of the Tempisque River that once flowed directly out to sea in the general area of what is now the Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge.

In the past century, extensive cattle ranching was the principal agricultural activity in the area that is now Palo Verde National Park. The haciendas were characterized by having large tracts of land on which the cattle roamed and grazed freely with little care. This meant that the natural forests suffered relatively minor disturbance and the human population level stayed quite low, since just a few men could handle a large herd. Thus, wildlife fortunately is still fairly abundant throughout the park and much of the original natural habitat has been preserved.

The park headquarters are based at the old “Hacienda Palo Verde”, which yards and old buildings are a reflection of the life of the “Sabanero Bajureño” and constitute an important element in the antic Guanacaste culture.

This protected area also incorporates the Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve and the Dr. Rafael Lucas Rodriguez Caballero National Wildlife Refuge. Now the three, together with Barra Honda National Park and adjacent areas, form the Tempisque Megapark.

The park is operated by the Organization of Tropical Studies. There well-maintained trails lead from the station through the forest to lookout points over the river and marshland. It also has a small dock near to the administration center, where boats may be hired to view Pajaros Island, where landing is not permitted. Among the nature spots that are worth visiting are the look-outs on Catalina and Guayacán Peaks, two of the most spectacular in the country, as well as the Tiger Cave (in the refuge) and the Hollow Stone (in the park) which are magnificent limestone formations that are both caves and veritable handing gardens; and the Bocana Lake, which gives shelter to an incredible number of birds all year long.

The Palo Verde Ranger Station is open for visitor attention a has potable water and restrooms. Besides, the Organization for Tropical Studies operates a Biological Station in Palo Verde, which has a shelter for up to 36 people, a dining room, a classroom, laboratory, and also offers excursions. Other nearby Costa Rica parks includes Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve, Dr. Rafael Lucas Rodriguez Caballero National Wildlife Refuge ,Cipanci National Widlife Refuge, Barra Honda National Park and Palustrino Corralde Piedra Wetlands

Getting to Palo Verde National Park:

From San José, take the Pan-American Highway north to Bagaces. Turn left down a gravel road and travel south about 19 km to the park entrance, following the signs to the Palo Verde National Park. From the entrance it is another 9 km to the administration building at the old Hacienda Palo Verde. Now you can also take the new Caldera Highway to Puntarenas and then follow the Pan-American Highway.

Entering by boat from the Tempisque River is also possible. Six kilometers up river from the village of Puerto Humo (where boats can be hired), there is a rustic dock at a spot known as Puerto Chamorro, about 2km beyond the administrative area via a dirt road.

From Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR), drive south for some 14 km from Liberia to Bagaces. Then turn right down a gravel road and travel south about 19 km to the park entrance, following the signs to the Palo Verde National Park. Now you can also take the new Caldera Highway to Puntarenas and then follow the Pan-American Highway.

By bus

Take a local bus from San Jose – Liberia, which takes about 4 hours making the stop at Bagaces (Pulmitan Liberia, +506 2222-1650). From here you can rent a car and drive, or take a bus or taxi to Palo Verde National Park, which is about 15 minutes.

By plane:

You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to Daniel Oduber Airport, either with Sansa Airlines or Nature Air every day. From here you can rent a car and drive, or take a bus or taxi to Palo Verde National Park, which is about 45 minutes.

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