Costa Rica // The Valle Central and the highlands //

Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo

PARQUE NACIONAL BRAULIO CARRILLO, 15km northeast of Heredia, covers nearly 500 square kilometres of virgin rainforest and dense cloudforest, but draws few visitors on account of its sheer size and lack of facilities – most tourists experience the majestic views of thick foliage only from the window of a bus on their way to the Caribbean coast. Those that do spend any length of time here tend to spend it tackling Volcán Barva, which dominates the southwest corner of the park and is accessed from the village of Sacramento.

The park is named after Costa Rica’s third, and rather dictatorial, chief of state, who held office in the mid-1800s. It was established in 1978 to protect the land from the possible effects of the Guápiles Highway, then under construction between San José and Limón, a piece of intelligent foresight without which this whole stretch of countryside might have been turned into a solid strip of petrol stations and motels.

Note that, unfortunately, security is a growing problem in the park; if driving, never leave anything in your car, and always use a guide for longer hikes – though these are only available at Quebrada Gonzalez.