Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa, is the oldest national park in Costa Rica, it was founded in 1970 to safe guard the vast extensions of tropical dry forest and the scene of the two most important battles of the country. The Murciélago section was added in 1979 thanks to the country acquiring land from the Nicaraguan Dictator Anastasio Somoza.  The president Oscar Arias declared the land situated between Murciélago and the park property of the park at the end of the 80’s, so that Santa Rosa could occupy all of the Santa Elena Peninsula, some 50.000 hectares in total. It is a park of historical interest, with large extensions, coral reefs and several kilometers of virgin beaches in the Santa Elena and Papagayo Gulfs. The beaches in Santa Rosa are nesting areas for three species of marine turtles. This is an area where the largest amounts of Lora Turtles arrive from the American Tropics.

How to arrive and leave

The entrance is located to the west of the Interamerican, 35 Km to the north of Liberia, and 45 Km to the south of the border with Nicaragua. It is right next to the exit of the Interamerican highway. 2 Km from the entrance there is a turnoff on the right that tanks take, iron clad vehicles that where seized from the Nicaraguan troops in 1955 during the attempted invasion of Somoza. The administration offices of the park are in La Casona, 7 Km to the west of the Interamerican highway.

La Casona

Houses a camping area and a center for scientific investigation, one of the posts used for the study of the most important dry forest in the world.  La Casona has been very well restored and at present is a museum that honors the battle of the 9 thousand Central American volunteers that defeated William Walker and his American filibusters. The accident that happened in 2001 was started by two hunters, a father and a son, who were angry because they were not allowed to hunt; their sentence was 20 years in prison for burning down a building that had a lot of cultural significance and historical value, for both the Costa Rican and the visitor. Opposite the house there is an enormous Guanacaste tree that gives shade to the 200 year old stone coral where the great battle took place. On the hill behind the house there is a monument Los Héroes, dedicated to the brave Costa Ricans who defeated the mercenary army of Walker in 1856 and that thwarted the invasion of Somoza in 1955.

Footpaths and Beaches

Close by you will find a natural footpath called Indio Desnudo, which takes you on along a 1 Km path through the tropical dry forest. The footpath owes its name to the trees of the area, so called because of red tone of their bark, similar to the skin of an Indian. Other longer footpaths are Los Patos, the Valle Naranjo footpath and the Palo Seco footpath, offering a chance to see fauna from the park. The best times to see the animals and to take photos are the early hours in the morning and the late afternoon.  Santa Rosa also has a fabulous coast. During the dry season, you can travel by car along the 13 Km that separate La Casona from the Papagayo Gulf, you will need a 4X4.  The road forks before you get to the beach. The route to the south, to the left, will take you to Naranjo Beach, one of the best beaches to go surfing. In this area you will also find the Limbo Lagoon, the habitat of many aquatic birds. The road to the north, to the right, goes to Nancite Beach, at the extreme north of the Real Estuary, where close to 100 thousand turtles lay their eggs during the rainy season between September and October. The Murciélago section is on the north side of the Santa Elena Peninsula, and you can get here by traveling along a gravel potholed road Cuajiniquil. Before arriving at the park you will pass by a National Guard Camp on the right, which used to be the residence of Somoza and a training base for the CIA, for the guerillas and layer on as a landing strip covered in grass that was used by Oliver North & Co., to defeat the Nicaraguan rebels. The landscape of Murciélago is magnificent: Virgin Beaches and coral reefs with dense forest in the background. Blanca Beach is 17 Km from the Forest Ranger post in Murciélago, and is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica with its soft white sand. Hachal Bay, some 5 Km away, offers a grey rocky beach with turquoise colored water. Those that are looking for more tranquility should travel to the Western Parts of Santa Rosa, such as Cabo Santa Elena, Coloradas Playas and Bahía Potrero Grande, another surfing hot spot that is only accessible via the sea.


Ph (506) 2666-5051, Ph/fax (506) 2666-5020. The forest post, leaving the Interamerican opens daily from 08:00 a.m to 04:30 p.m. Entry is 6 US$ and to camp it is 2 US$ extra per person. The offices and the camping area are 7Km from where the buses arrive you can walk or ask for the bus stop. It is also possible to accompany the forest rangers on their routes around the park. The administration of Santa Rosa is also run by the Conservation Area of Guanacaste (ACG) and offers information about the Rincón de la Vieja and Guanacaste National Parks and other protected areas.

Naranjo is the next most important beach of those that are in the south of Nancite.  Close to the extreme south of the park, it is known for its good surf, especially close to Witches Rock. It is a popular place to camp and practice sports.

Where to eat and sleep

Camping areas 2 US$ per person, close to the park offices, with installations that include drinking water, picnic benches, barbeques and bathrooms. Beds 20 US$ per person. There are eight bedrooms, each one with a capacity for 8 people and with shared bathrooms. The price does not include meals; each meal costs between 3 and 6 US$, and you will need to ask for them in advance, as well as accommodation. A café sells drinks and some snacks, some there are simple meals or they make lunch.