Barra Honda National Park and Its Impressive Cave Systems

    A one of a kind experience unique in all of Costa Rica

    Barra Honda National Park has a very peculiar attraction that is the great system of caves formed by erosion, which have capricious shapes and figures. Barra Honda consists of 300 meters of reef rock with an elevation caused by tectonic defects 60 million years ago. This is the only park in the country that has a complex of underground caverns, although our country has other caves, this is the only one that has these types of formations.

    This park has coverage of charrales and tacotales, deciduous secondary forest and 290 hectares of evergreen forest. We can also observe various species of fauna, especially copetona magpie birds, collareja dove, and hummingbird dove. It is possible to observe pizotes, raccoons, guatusas, white-tailed deer and anteaters. The increase in the animal population has been noticeable in recent years, due to fire control and protection programs.

    It is located in the province of Guanacaste, 22 km northwest of the city of Nicoya. The park is constituted by Cerro Barra Honda and other neighboring hills. To visit the park there are two accesses from the city of San José. The Irma (inter-American highway) Amistad bridge, there are Nicoya Barra Honda bus services that continue after the bridge over the Tempisque river until you reach the entrance of the town of Barra Honda. In this last population that is at the park entrance, there are grocery stores. In the nearby towns of Nicoya and Carmona, there are hotels, restaurants, and markets. Paved and stone roads in the last six kilometers are the shortest routes from San José.

    These reef formations were constituted by blue and green calcareous algae, as well as tiny marine protozoan foraminifera covered by a calcareous shell, spongy and hedgehogs. It is one of the many arched calcareous hills that are located in the province of Guanacaste, on both sides of the lower basin of the Tempisque river, and the only one in the area that as investigated so far has large caverns and with a high degree of decor. Another important element of this area is its capacity as an aquifer reserve for the populations that are located around it.

    The Barra Honda formation, with a very local extension, dates from the Paleocene Upper Cretaceous, which is about 70-90 million years. It consists of limestone with very recrystallized shallow water and is made up of the Quebrada Honda, Coyol, Corral de Piedra, La Cueva, and Barra Honda hills. The basal section of these hills is composed of sandstone and shales while the Limestones are composed of two parts. A shell core 100 mt thick and an upper one of about 200 mt formed by poorly stratified limestones with fine homogeneous texture and yellowish-white; and the upper one has stratified caliras in layers of medium or thin thickness equal and is equal to the lower one in texture and color.

    The services offered for visitors at Barra Honda include drinking water, gazebo, guide service, chat trails, and a camping area; you can get all the information necessary with the park administration. There is a path with informative signs that leads to the top of the hill and has detours to the viewpoints and the entrance of the main caverns. It is forbidden to go into the caves except with the accompaniment or permission of the park authorities.

    The appropriate clothing to visit Barra Honda should include hoes suitable for nature walking, sandals are not recommended, because there are areas of sharp rock on the trails, also additional clothes to change sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, enough water or liquid for rehydration.

    The following security measures are recommended for a safe visit on the trails and the viewpoints:

    • Do not deviate from the trails.
    • Abide all the time by the recommendations of the guides.
    • When staying in the viewpoint do not climb on the railings.
    • In the caverns only one person at a time.
    • Follow the instructions on the descent process.
    • Walk on the defined paths inside the cave.
    • The caves are not recommended for claustrophobic people.
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    SOURCEYohander Rodríguez
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