Underrated National Parks in Costa Rica

Close to 25% of Costa Rica territory is protected as national parks, reserves, or refuges. The national parks with more visitors per year are Manuel Antonio, Arenal, Poás, Irazú, and Tortuguero. But there are other national parks which are likely to have few or any visitor at all. Take note and do not miss any of them.


Piedras Blancas National Park was once part of Corcovado National Park. It is situated at the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica. This park has an incredibly amazing biodiverse and it is a heavily protected area of Costa Rica. Surprisingly, it is a relatively unexplored part of Costa Rica, especially by international visitors. Within this dense tropical rainforest park are hidden beaches, exquisite waterfalls, and lively reefs off the coast.


Barra Honda National Park is one of the most unique national parks in Costa Rica and one that many people miss. It is the intricate limestone cave system what makes this park so unique and particular. Only around half of the 42 caverns have been explored. The limestone caverns are spectacular and well preserved in part because of the difficult access. This caves are home to a colony of more than 5,000 bats. A guided hiking and cave tour is the way to go about exploring this incredible geological attraction.


La Amistad National Park is the most remote and the largest park in Costa Rica. It is also one of the few parks in the world that is shared between two countries, Costa Rica and Panama. A hike through this protected area of Costa Rica is only for the most determined and adventurous hikers, as there are no roads to get into the park and no accommodations and amenities once you are in. There are four entrances to the park and all can only be accessed by foot or horseback. Nearly 2/3 of all the animal species in Costa Rica reside in this park.


Located 550 kilometers off the coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island is known as the only eastern Pacific island with a tropical rainforest. Surrounded by deep waters and counter-currents, it is a mecca for scuba divers. Here you can get face-to-face with a huge population of scalloped hammerhead sharks, rays, moray eels and dolphins. As nobody is allowed to stay on the remote island, except for a few chosen Costa Rican park rangers, visitors can only explore this national park aboard a professional Costa Rican live-aboard dive boat. It is the extreme remoteness, difficulty of access, and high price of the excursion that keeps this national park on the top of the list as the least visited.


Barbilla National Park is located along the Caribbean and is predominantly lowland rainforest. This is one of Costa Rica’s least visited parks. There may be as few as two dozen visitors a month. This park is also home to Costa Rica’s indigenous tribe, the Cabécar. Barbilla National Park is home for the endangered jaguar, ocelot, and tapir. The best way to experience this amazing park is with an experienced and knowledgable guide. The hiking trails are a bit rugged and you will definitely see and learn more if you have an expert with you.


Juan Castro Blanco National Park is located in the northern central lowlands and is home for a primary rainforest, three volcanoes and hot springs. This is an excellent park for those who love hiking and birdwatching. Aside from the hiking trails, there are no other park services available here. While the Juan Castro Blanco National Park is easy to access, especially if you are coming from San José, it is often overlooked by visitors who tend to visit the other famous national parks in this part of the country.


Chirripó National Park is known to be the highest peak in Costa Rica. It is a hot spot for adventurous hikers, but outside of that select group, this national park doesn’t see nearly as many visitors as some of the more popular parks. Chirripó National Park is host to multiple ecosystems including moorland, glacial lakes, cloud forests, and premontane forests. The rewards of spending time in this extraordinary national park are great, as it is famous for its variety of exotic birds and vast panoramic views.