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Barra Honda
General information


The Barra Honda National Park is located in the area called Bajuras del Tempisque, in Guanacaste, 22 km northwest from the peninsula of Nicoya, 335 km from San Jose.
Conservation Area:
Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT)
2.297 hectares
Schedule: For visiting the trails: from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Tour to Caverna Terciopelo (Terciopelo Cave): from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm Hosting service: from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm
When to go?

Dry season: January to March

Conatct information
Regional Office:
(00506) 2659- 1551
Send mail
Web Page:
Visit Wen Page
Camping permissions:
General information
The Barra Honda National Park represents thousands of years of geological history, with a large system of caves with stalactites and stalagmites. It is composed by marine coral reefs formations that emerged from the bottom of the ocean around 60 million years ago.

Barra Honda has a cave net (around 42 caves) that have been explored by scientists and speleologists. About 19 caves have been investigated, and are incredible attractions due to their stalactites and stalagmites, which are formations made by the effects of water on calcium carbonate.

One of the caves (Caverna Terciopelo) has public access because it offers the required conditions to descend for inexperienced visitors. This cave is perfect for adventure tourism.

Besides the caves (main attraction), there are forest parks, regenerating lands, waterfalls and spring waters. Due to the protection the park gives to many species, a lot of them are not endangered anymore.

In the highest part of the Cerro Barra Honda you can see some holes of different sizes, which are the entrances to the caves. There are also some depressions (sinkholes) that formed when the ceiling of some caves collapsed, and you can find as well very eroded rocks with cutting edges.

This park protects the dry tropical forest that has a small change to the humid forest. It has tall trees that lose their leaves (deciduous) during the dry season. This forest has grown in a system that has calcium phosphate, which reflects impressive ways of adaptation of its organisms.

The park has spring waters that supply around 19 nearby communities during both rainy and dry seasons.

The average annual rainfall is of 1.970 mm and the average temperature is 28°C.

The park has dry tropical forests in the Pacific section, empty lots (that cover around 330 hectares), deciduous secondary forests (which cover around 1.405 hectares), and 290 hectares of evergreen forests.

The typical forest of the region is the semi-deciduous forest (some of its trees lose their leaves in a certain time of the year), which has two levels: trees that are 20 to 30 m tall with short and thick trunks and extended leaves, and the trees of the understory, which are 10 to 20 m tall with thin, bent trunks and small treetops. The bushes range from 2 to 5 m in height, and their lower areas are less dense than the superior areas, where you can find reeds, epiphyte plants and bromeliads.

There are 150 species of trees, such as the ron ron, the gallinazo, the gumbo-limbo, the poro-poro, the strawberry tree, the crust tree and bromeliads. There’s also the Guanacaste, the shortleaf fig, the mahogany, the rain tree, the true yellow mombin, the yellow timber tree, the pink shower tree, the savannah oak, the bull horn acacia, the holywood lignum-vitae (endangered species), the bully tree and the laurel tree.

In Barra Honda National Park there have been identified 11 species of reptiles, 6 types of amphibians, 80 kinds of birds, bats, mammals and a great variety of insects.
Among the bird species you can see the white-throated magpie (Calocitta formosa), the orange-foreheaded parrot, the band-tailed pigeon (Columba fascinata), the blue-crowned motmot, the white-tipped dove (Leptotila verreauxi), the turkey vulture, the scarlet macaw, hawks and magpies.

There are 44 species of mammals, with howler and white-faced monkeys as the most common ones, coyotes, coatis, raccoons, Central American agoutis, white-tailed deer, anteaters, common opossums, armadillos and skunks.

You can also find snakes and other reptiles and amphibians like iguanas, lizards, toads and frogs that have developed special adaptations for the hot and humid weather of this particular region.

Services and facilities on the Park
Stay and meals: for 18 people
Environmental education showroom
Experimented local guides
Required equipment for visiting the caves
Telephone and fax
Appropriate ambience for investigators
Park’s administration booth
Drinking water
Camping area
Radio communication
Tables and sinks

Inside the Park:
Walking through the trails
Visiting the Mirador Nacaome
Visiting the caves

Outside the Park
There are hotels, restaurants and marketplaces in Nicoya.

Barra Honda
  • Recomendations
  • Interesting data
Tips para el viajero
Access recommendations
For visiting the trails: from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm
Tour to Caverna Terciopelo (Terciopelo Cave): from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm
Hosting service: from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm

General recommendations inside the park
You must hire a local guide or have special authorization from the Tempisque Conservation Area to visit the caves.

Weather recommendations
During dry season, only 4-wheel drive vehicles can go to Cerro Barra Honda, where the main trails of the park begin.
During rainy season, all the tourists must leave their cars in the park’s office and walk to the caves.

Clothes and accessories recommendations
Bring water bottles, sunscreen, hat or cap and sunglasses.
Bring light and comfortable clothes and shoes, suitable for walking.

Stay recommendations
Stay and meals: for 18 people
Next to the park’s administration you will find a camping area with tables, sinks and drinking water.

Recommendations when walking through the trails
In Cerro Barra Honda, there’s a small parking lot where you must leave your car, and from here walk to the trails.
You must have the required equipment to visit the caves: a secure metal ladder, ropes, harness, snap hooks, safety helmets and lamps.
The park’s staff can also work as guides and help you go to the caves.
You cannot descend to the caves without an authorized guide.

Recommendations for a responsible tourist
Please do not litter; pick up the garbage and throw it away properly.
Respect the animals and the surrounding vegetation.
Loud noises are not allowed (stereos, speakers, etc.), since they can disturb the peace and calmness of the park and its animals.

Recommendations with the animals
It may be hard to find some animals because of different reasons, like the fact that they're night creatures, their reproductive or migratory behavior and the forest's density.

Datos interesantes
Datos interesantes:
Cerro Barra Honda (450 meters above sea level):

It is composed by sand reefs that are 60 million years old, and that emerged due to the movement of tectonic plates. The slopes of this hill are steep but its top part is almost flat. Most of the vegetation found here is deciduous, and among the animal species, there are white-faced monkeys (Cebus capucinus), coyotes (Canis latrans) and deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

The Cerro Barra Honda has about 40 caves that are independent from each other, and one of the largest known cave systems in Costa Rica.
1. Terciopelo (Velvet Cave): this cave is the one with most formations, like El Organo (The Organ), which was named after the different sounds it makes when you hit the walls softly.
Caverna Terciopelo:
It has public access and is 62 meters deep, and to climb down you first begin with a vertical descend of 17 m, and then continue towards the bottom through a 35°-inclined slope in the east section. This is the most impressive cave due to its formations. El Organo is one of its main attractions, which is formed by different columns that are attached to each other, and produce different sounds when you hit them softly. Other attractions are La Cabeza de Leon and Cortinas.

2. Cuevitas: this is the other cave that has public access.
RECOMMENDATION: for tourists that don’t have a good physical condition, like children under 12 years of age that cannot visit Caverna Terciopelo, or people with some limitations.
It is a small cave with only one room, but with many stalactite and stalagmite formations.

3. La Trampa (The Trap): it has the deepest dropdown; with a first vertical descend of 52 m (from the entrance to the first base). It also has the biggest rooms, and one of them is made of white-colored calcite, which produces and amazingly beautiful effect. It has a maximum depth of 110 m and its access is very difficult, that’s why it’s called “The Trap”.
Access: you begin with a vertical descend of 52 m to get to the first room. You go through a narrow passage that takes you to the second room, which is 80 m deep. Then you keep going down to the bottom of the third room, which is 110 m deep. On top of this room there are some vertical access ducts, but their range remains unknown.

4. Santa Ana: this is the deepest cave, with 240 meters. Inside you can find the room named “Pearl Room”, which owes its name to the large number of “calcareous pearls” that cover the ground.

5. Pozo Hediondo (Stinky Pit): this is the only cave that has plenty of bats. It was named after the smell of the excrement (guano) of these mammals. It has a maximum depth of 60 m.

6. Nicoa: this is the spot where many human remains, utensils and native ornaments of the pre-Columbian era were found. Its maximum depth is of 30 m and has 3 entrances.

The most attractive and interesting caves are: Terciopelo, La Trampa and Santa Ana, which have many stalagmites, stalactites, columns, pearls, flowers and plaster needles, helicites, mushrooms, shark teeth and other formations.
All the explored caves have many different formations and show a fast deposition of calcium carbonate.

Tour to the caves:

In order to visit the caves you must go with local guides and speleological equipment. The tour begins in the office and you must walk about 2.5 km. The first part of the way is a little steep; the rest is flat.

You first visit Caverna Terciopelo, and then descend using the required equipment. You go through the three rooms.

Environment: there are no bats, water or breathing problems; the temperature is very similar to the outside, perhaps a little warmer.
Time: you remain from 45 minutes to 1 hour inside the cave.

Mirador Nacaome (Nacaome Viewer):
It has an altitude of 423 meters above sea level and offers a 180°-panoramic view. It is considered a strategic site since the times of colonization, and therefore one of the best viewpoints in the country. From here (south border of the top of Cerro Barra Honda) you can see the gulf of Nicoya, the Isla de Chira and the nearby hills (Cerro Jesus and Mansion).
Here you will find a wooden house with some benches that were built in order to provide more safety to the tourists.

Los Mesones:
This area has an extension of more than 290 hectares, and has a high-altitude evergreen forest. From here, many springs that supply nearby towns begin their flow.

Las Cascadas:
These are impressive waterfalls with deposits of very porous limestones (formed by water with calcium carbonate). The best time to see them is during rainy season, from August to September.

IMPORTANT: The waterfalls do not have public access because they don’t have marked trails. They are dry the most part of the year.
1. Los Laureles trail: it is 6.5 km long and takes about 4 hours to go over it, with access all year long. It has a medium difficulty level because some parts have steep areas with lots of sharp-edged rocks.
This trail goes through Caverna Terciopelo and Mirador Nacamoe. Here you can see a great variety of plants and animals, and also get to know more about the forest and the different relations among its organisms.

2.La Ceiba trail: it is 1.5 km long and takes about 40 minutes to go over it, with a low difficulty level and access all year long. It is ideal for birdwatching.

3.La Palma trail: it is 800 m long and takes about 40 minutes to go over it, with a medium difficulty level. It is ideal for birdwatching and also observing the regenerating process of the dry tropical forest.

4.Main trail: it takes you to the highest part of the hill with some deviations to the viewer and to the entrance of the main caves.

Formation of the caves
The caves in Barra Honda National Park were formed by the effects of water on limestones. Since limestones are porous rocks, rainfall goes through their cracks, and this way erodes them and also makes them bigger, allowing even more water to go through.

At the same time, a corrosion chemical process takes place when water mixes with carbon dioxide (CO2), which is found in the air and in the ground, to form carbonic acid. This acid has an effect on calcium carbonate or calcite (the mineral found in limestones), turning it into calcium bicarbonate. This makes the limestones water-soluble, and this way allows the water to exit the rock, leaving an empty space.

The chemical reaction is reverted when the water reaches an air-filled room and evaporates; this way the carbon dioxide escapes and leaves a deposit of calcium carbonate. Some formations begin to shape in the ceilings, walls and grounds of the caves: the stalactites (hang from the ceiling) and stalagmites (grow from the ground up).

Barra Honda
como llegar?
How to get there?
Transportes Alfaro (San Jose, Street 14, Ave. 5)
From San Jose to Santa Cruz, passing through Pueblo Viejo:
Every day: 10:30am
From Santa Cruz to San Jose:
Every day: 10:30am
Office phone number: (506) 2221-7202, (506) 2680-0392


Let the driver know that you will get off in the stop at Pueblo Viejo. From there you must walk to Nacaome (Barra Honda) towards the park’s entrance.

From San Jose, take the route #1 heading north, passing through the towns of San Ramon and Esparza, until you get to a gas station in Limonal. Once here, cross the bridge La Amistad de Taiwan, and keep going towards the community Quebrada Honda, passing through Tres Esquinas and finally arriving to Pueblo Viejo. When you’re here, take the exit for Nacaome (Barra Honda). After Tres Quebradas and before Santa Ana there’s a road that takes you directly to the park’s entrance.

Other kind of transportation


Barra Honda
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