Barra Honda National Park is located in western Costa Rica and is part of the Tempisque Conservation Area. It was created in 1974 to protect its famous cave systems under the Barra Honda Peak which was formed when islets from the Miocene Era were raised above the plains of the river.
Barra Honda National Park
Barra Honda National Park is located in western Costa Rica and is part of the Tempisque Conservation Area. It was created in 1974 to protect its famous cave systems under the Barra Honda Peak, which was formed when islets from the Miocene Era were raised above the plains of the river.
The nearly flat mesa of the Barra Honda hill looms 300 m (984 ft) above the Tempisque valley and has its highest peak at 450 m (1,476 ft) altitude. Its base consists of a former coral reef dating back over 60 million years.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Barra Honda National Park is the caves, which have been cut through the small mountains by water. Tectonic faulting uplifted the reef from its former seabed and the action of rain filtering through the limestone over 70 million years or more created underground waterways, which carved out the caves.
There are more than 40 limestone caverns at the park, all of which are still in very good condition due to the fact that the entrances are difficult to navigate. As a result, climbing gear, a guide and permission from the Parks service are all needed to enter the caves.
They include Nicoa, where pre-Columbian human remains, artifacts and jewelry were found dated to approximately 300 BC as well as Santa Ana, the deepest cave known in the complex which is unusual for its unique and numerous stalactites and columns. This cave plunges some 240 m (787 ft) into the earth.
Until now, only 19 of Barra Honda's 40+ caves have been explored. The cave system was only discovered in the late 1960's. Before that, people believed that Barra Honda was a volcano.
One of the largest and most beautiful caves is Terciopelo which along with la Cuevita, is the only one open to the public. The cave has an extremely vertical descent and tours must be accompanied by a local guide. In addition to the caverns, Barra Honda National Park also boasts an extensive network of hiking trails.
Due to its unique underground features, the park is also home to several rare species. These include blind salamanders and endemic fish that have adapted to living in complete darkness. Various colonies of bats roost within the cavern system.