Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica

Travel Costa Rica

braulio carrillo national park

Don’t miss a visit to Costa Rica’s largest national park, less than one hour from the Central Valley and capital city, San Jose.  

Braulio Carrillo is the most extensive national park in Costa Rica and encompasses the steepest elevation change of all its protected areas.  Covering a massive 44,099 hectares, the park encompasses mountain terrain, including the Barva and Cacho Negro volcanoes, deep canyons, several rivers, and vast swaths of pristine rain and cloud forest stretching into the Caribbean lowlands.

If you’re driving to the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica, you will pass through a section of the park and get a glimpse of its astounding beauty. Route 32 is the main highway connecting San José to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. 

The Park was created during the highway’s construction in the 1970s to protect the region’s biodiversity from further development. The Zurqui Tunnel on Route 32–the only national underground tunnel–is a testament to the country’s conservation efforts. The mountain terrain above the tunnel forms a vital land bridge for migratory species living in the park.

Route 32 It’s arguably the most stunning of Costa Rica’s highways. It resembles a scene out of a Hollywood movie as it descends through the Central Mountains blanketed in towering trees and impenetrable tropical rainforest foliage.

Getting to Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo

There are two public access sites for visitors, the Barva Volcano and the Quebrada Gonzalez ranger stations. A third station, Ceibo Sector, is for conservation and research only and not open to visitors. 

We recommend at least two-day trips to the park to experience all that Braulio National Park, Costa Rica, offers. Once to explore the montane habitats of Barva Volcano, and once to experience the lush lowland jungles and towering trees in the Quebrada Gonzalez sector.

The perfect rental car for Braulio Carrillo 

What type of car should you rent to visit Costa Rica’s national parks? We at Adobe Rent a Car want our customers to be prepared for whatever the weather or the terrain presents.

We recommend a four-wheel-drive vehicle for clients interested in visiting Costa Rica’s wilderness. The added traction, clearance, and power are a big help when navigating dirt roads and steep inclines. 

We offer a variety of 4WD vehicles to match the size of your group – or your budget. Browse our cars to find the right model for you. 

We have everything from small and economic powerhouses like the Jimny Suzuki to full-size luxury SUV models like the Mitsubishi Montero Sport. Feel free to ask an Adobe agent for recommendations at reservas@adobecar.com. You can also call toll-free from the U.S. or Canada at: +1-855-861-1250. 

When to visit Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s dry season for the Central Valley and Pacific Zone runs from December through May. However, areas of dense rainforest such as Braulio Carrillo are the exception and rain is a near-daily occurrence.

Nonetheless, when visiting between December and March you’re likely to have bright and sunny mornings at the Quebrada Gonzalez sector and dry and windy conditions at Barva.

If you’re trip coincides with the rainier months, don’t dismay. You can prepare for wet conditions with a rain poncho or jacket, good hiking boots, and a dry change of clothes for when the adventure’s over.  

How much does it cost to visit Braulio Carrillo?

At the writing of this article, the Braulio Carrillo National Park entrance fee was $12 for non-resident adults and $5 for children 2 to 12 years old. Residents and nationals cost 1,000 and 500 colones respectively. The aerial tram, canopy tours, and other attractions are not included in the entrance fee.  

Brava Volcano sector

The Barva Volcano sector is the highest segment of Braulio Carrillo and is home to distinct flora and fauna than its steamy neighbor Quebrada Gonzalez sector to the south.  

The Barva Volcano entrance and ranger station are located 16 km north of Barva de Heredia in the town of Sacrament. Four hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty totaling approximately 10 kilometers depart from the station.  

The trails, Cacho Venado, Laguna Barva, Copey, and Mirador Vara Blanca, lead to unique landmarks and overlooks, including a volcanic crater lake, Puesto Barva, and three windy summits that can be seen from the Central Valley and are known locally at Las Tres Marias

If you are camping in Barva Volcano sector, it’s best to check the National System of Conservation for space availability and weather conditions. Temperatures can reach as low as 37.4° Fahrenheit (3°C) at the summit, so bring warm clothes and adequate camping gear. This is the only sector of the park with camping access.  

 

Entering with animals or pets is generally prohibited in Costa Rica’s national parks. Some privately owned reserves and picnic areas do allow pets. It’s best to ask before packing up the family furball. 

Quebrada Gonzalez sector

The Quebrada Gonzalez (Puesto Carillo) sector is located approximately 20 km northeast of the capital on the Guapiles Highway, Route 32.  Over the weekends and during the high season, naturalists usually wait outside the entrance at the ranger station, offering their services as guides. 

In addition to their high-powered binoculars and telescopes, Costa Rican guides have a wealth of knowledge about the diverse habitats, ecosystems, and wildlife in the park. As locals, they are also inclined to share stories about the history and culture of the region. 

Braulio Carrillo Park has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in Costa Rica, with more than 600 identified tree species, 500 species of birds, and some 135 species of mammals. Regular wildlife sightings include howler monkeys, sloths, snakes, white faced capuchin monkeys, iguanas and lizards, and exotic birds. 

Braulio Carrillo hiking trails 

The trails of Braulio Carrillo National Park are regularly maintained but still require good physical condition. Wet and slippery conditions, exposed roots and tree trunks, and uneven, rustic stairs on steep inclines are all standard.  

It’s possible to hike all three park trails in one visit. In all, the Las Palmas trail, El Ceibo, and Borarrama trails total just over 5 km. For visitors not interested in hiking, plenty of alternative tours give a glimpse into the wonders of nature the park offers. 

Visitors can take a gondola-style aerial tram through the treetop canopy for an additional price. It is a low-stress way to see the jungle creatures in their natural habitat. Other options include a hanging-bridges walk, canopy zipline tours, a butterfly garden, a serpentarium, and even an orchid garden.  

If you have additional questions or would like to share one of your experiences driving to Braulio Carrillo National Park, please share them here:

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