Santa Rosa National Park


Santa Rosa National Park, 148 square miles (385 km2), was set aside to commemorate the historic defeat of a North American mercenary who planned to conquer and rule all of Central America. It’s better known now for jaguars, monkeys, parrots, and especially the peaceful nesting of thousands of rare sea turtles which lay eggs in spectacular mass “arribadas” on pristine Pacific beaches just south of Nicaragua.

Formerly these eggs were quickly eaten by hungry animals—and humans. Now they are protected, allowed to hatch, and send new-hatched young members of these endangered species out to sea.

Protection has enabled other wild creatures to flourish as well. In one of the country’s last fragments of tropical dry forest—one of the best places in this tiny country to see wildlife—prehensile- trunked Baird’s tapirs, peccaries, and others concentrate at water holes during the dry season.

Troops of coatimundis amble along trails. Howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys swing overhead. Turkey-sized great curassows and curly-topped crested guans drink at streams. Five cat species—jaguars, jaguarundis, ocelots, margays, and pumas—lurk warily anywhere.

Orioles weave intricate pouch nests in bull’s horn acacias, sharp-thorned trees which also provide nectar and homes to aggressive stinging ants and in return are protected by them from any other creature. Long-nosed armadillos find invertebrates in leafy underbrush. Fishing bats skim estuaries snagging small fish detected by their sensitive sonar.

But the park’s major spectacle is the nesting of three sea turtle species, green, huge leatherbacks, and rare, smaller Pacific olive ridleys which come ashore in mass “arribadas” from June to December. During one season alone 288,000 ridleys laid altogether 11.5 million eggs in three “arribadas” lasting three days each. Catching sight of these mass turtle nestings is chance—but at least a few come ashore most evenings through the season. (Caution: watch by moonlight. Artificial lights disorient and can endanger nesting success.) Access is sometimes restricted. There’s a fine system of trails, short and long.

Adjoining Santa Rosa across the Inter-American Highway is Guanacaste National Park, which continues up through cloud forest and surrounding volcanoes in an innovative concept (called GCA or Guanacaste Conservation Area) protecting species that migrate seasonally between the two parks.

Down the coast just south of Tamarindo is Las Baulas Marine National Park where thousands of leatherbacks, world’s largest sea turtles, visit and nest on Playa Grande beach in October–March.

 Ringtailed coatimundis are a true matriarchal society, females and offspring foraging and grooming in sociable groups up to 30, inviting males to join them when females are in estrus, excluding them when mating is completed. They range through savannahs and forests from southeastern Arizona to Argentina, nosy, busy little creatures, chattering among themselves, holding striped tails erect, leaping into trees with loud clicks and woofs if surprised.

Ringtailed coatimundis are a true matriarchal society, females and offspring foraging and grooming in sociable groups up to 30, inviting males to join them when females are in estrus, excluding them when mating is completed. They range through savannahs and forests from southeastern Arizona to Argentina, nosy, busy little creatures, chattering among themselves, holding striped tails erect, leaping into trees with loud clicks and woofs if surprised.


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SANTA ROSA NATIONAL PARK as well as...

Guanacaste National Park

Las Baulas Marine National Park

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