Barra Honda National Park is located on the Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica. It was created to protect the cave systems under the Barra Honda Peak, formed when islets from the Miocene Era were raised above the plains of the Tempisque River.
Barra Honda National Park
Barra Honda National Park is located on the Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica in the province of Guanacaste. It was created in 1974 to protect its famous cave systems under the Barra Honda Peak, formed when islets from the Miocene Era were raised above the plains of the Tempisque River.
The nearly flat mesa of the Barra Honda hill looms 300 m (984 ft) above the Tempisque River valley and has its highest peak at 450 m (1,476 ft) altitude. Its base is 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 rain filtering through the limestone over 70 million years or more created underground waterways, which carved out the caves.
The more than 40 limestone caverns at the park are still in very good condition because the entrances are difficult to navigate. As a result, climbing gear, a guide and permission from the Park 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, and 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.
Only 19 of Barra Honda's 40+ caves have been explored. The cave system was only discovered in the late 1960s. 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 a highly vertical descent, and a local guide must accompany tours. 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 adapted to living in complete darkness. In addition, various colonies of bats roost within the cavern system.