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Choosing between Costa Rica’s numerous national parks is no easy task but the following profiles, based on first-hand Costa Rica travel experience, should help.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
This dense blanket of mountain-side cloud forest is over 10,000 hectares in size and is among the most popular of Costa Rica’s protected areas thanks to its ethereal, mysterious atmosphere, stunning mountaintop views, and a vast collection of exotic, but often elusive, wildlife.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is owned and maintained by a private, non-profit organization, the Tropical Research Center. A popular bird-watching destination, the reserve is home to hundreds of bird species. Monteverde tours are available and can be booked in advance through a provider of Costa Rica vacation packages.

Entrance fee: $ 16. Insider’s Tip:
Monteverde cloud forest is a justifiably popular stop on a Costa Rica vacation, the only drawback being the number of visitors the reserve attracts on a daily basis. For a much quieter experience with a higher chance of spotting some of the area’s timid wildlife, try the neighboring Santa Elena reserve too.

Corcovado National Park
For visitors looking for a much more secluded spot during their Costa Rica travels, the Corcovado National Park, at the country’s far-southern tip on the remote Osa Peninsula, is the idea destination.
This is the most isolated of Costa Rica’s national parks; arriving here usually requires an internal flight followed by a boat transfer. This national park is a true natural gem, the only major lowland tropical forest left in the world, it is home to a bewildering number of species including jaguars, pumas, tapirs, crocodiles, giant anteaters, sloths and numerous species of monkey.

Getting to the peninsula, arranging accommodation in the national park and finding a reliable and professional guide can be a tricky business, so it is recommended to book one of the Corcovado tours on offer from reputable Costa Rica tours operators.
Insider’s Tip:

Tortuguero National Park
From one extreme to another, Tortuguero National Park is almost as isolated as Corcovado, but lies several hundred kilometers away on the far northern side of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Aside from turtle watching, Tortuguero’s waterways are ideal for guided boat trips to spot some of the region’s other wildlife, including spider monkeys, capuchins, sloths and manatees, plus huge numbers of bird species.
Most visitors choose to stay within the national park itself in a jungle-style lodge, although it is possible to stay in a hotel in the nearby Tortuguero village, from where you can take excursions into the park.
As with Corcovado, Tortuguero National Park is remote and fairly inaccessible. Insider’s Tip:

Cahuita National Park
Heading further south down Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast eventually brings you to a much more accessible stretch of the country, a place where the Caribbean influence remains strong, especially in the vibrant town of Puerto Viejo.
The nearby village of Cahuita, although much sleepier than its vivacious neighbor, is home to a small but attractive reserve,
Cahuita National Park.
Scores of crabs scuttle across the narrow stretch of sand and further inland the trees are home to sloths and howler monkeys alongside ibises and herons. Insider’s Tip:
This is one of the most accessible national parks in Costa Rica and makes for a pleasant day’s hike from the town of Cahuita.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Finally, another of Costa Rica’s smaller and more accessible protected areas, Manuel Antonio National Park is handily situated a few hours from San Jose on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast near the town of Quepos.
A beautiful arrangement of tropical forests, secluded beaches and ocean views make this one of the most attractive parks in Costa Rica, although its beauty is also its curse, as the park draws a steady stream of visitors year round, making it one of the busiest national parks in the country.
Manuel Antonio tours operate from the town of Quepos and can be booked in advance or you can hire a private guide at the park.

Insider’s Tip:
Manuel Antonio National Park is perhaps the most visited of all Costa Rica’s national parks so those looking for some serious wildlife watching should probably head elsewhere, or aim to visit away from the peak season from January to March.

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