7 Best National Parks in Central America

Today’s guest blogger Marina K. Villatoro is an ex-pat who’s been travelling in Central America for over 10 years. You can read all about Central America travel on her blog, Travelexperta.com. But for now, check out her pick of the 160 National Parks in Costa Rica…

Central America is an area filled with natural beauty. Protected areas and national parks have been set up to preserve the rapidly disappearing rainforest. This has led to the National Parks of Central America being the most fascinating and ecologically diverse in the world. There are tons of great parks in each country so it can be hard to decide which ones to visit as you travel through this part of the world. To make it all easier here is a list with the ones you absolutely can’t miss…

1. Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park is the ‘most biologically intense place in the world’ and is home to 4% of the world’s total fauna species. Some common wildlife sightings are monkeys, exotic birds, iguanas and tapirs. This national park is located in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. It consists of beautiful white sanded beaches and pristine rain forests.

  • Entrance $10
  • Open Monday to Friday 7:30 am to noon, and 1pm to 5pm

2. Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Pacific Coast and offers the perfect combination of rainforest, beautiful beaches, hiking trails and reefs. It’s Costa Rica’s smallest National Park at just 683 hectares but it’s 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds should keep you busy. You’ll get to see white-faced monkeys, coatis, whales, bats and dolphins. This is one of the best places to enjoy all sorts of water sports and up close encounters with wildlife and is the second most visited park in Costa Rica.

  • Entrance fee $10/children under 12 free
  • Open Tuesday to Sunday 7am to 4pm

3. Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

The Poas Volcano National Park is home to an active volcano with a beautiful turquoise coloured lagoon in its crater. It’s located in the Central Valley region, just a short drive away from San Jose City. This is Costa Rica’s most visited park and one of the only places where you can walk up to the crater of an active volcano. There is also a beautiful cold, green water crater lake with a 1,200ft diameter. Make sure the park is open to visitors before you make the journey out there as it closes often due to sulphuric gas emissions.

  • Entrance fee $7
  • Open 8am to 3:30pm/students can get a small discount

4. Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Tikal National Park is located in the north of Guatemala. It was the country’s first national park created to protect the rainforest. It’s also home to the most important Mayan Ceremonial site that has ever been found. It’s believed to have been abruptly abandoned by the Maya tribes more than 1000 years ago. The site was then overgrown by a relentless jungle. In 1848 the legend was proven by the discovery of the site deep in the heart of the forest. Now you will find jaguars, crocodiles and tons of monkeys as well as the important archaeological gem.

  • Entrance fee $25
  • Open 6am to 6pm

5. Pacaya Volcano National Park, Guatemala

The Pacaya Volcano National Park is located in the south of Escuintla and hosts the active Pacaya Volcano. It’s popular among travellers interested in seeing lava flows just one metre away from them. In this park you’ll find bats, snakes, frogs and different kinds of birds. Don’t visit this park without a guide because it can be dangerous if you don’t know the terrain.

  • Entrance fee $5
  • Open from 7am to 7pm

6. Copan Ruins National Park, Honduras

This World Heritage Site of Copan Ruins National Park is located in the western region of Honduras, just a short drive away from Guatemala. It’s home to the Copan Mayan ruins which are known for having some of the most beautiful and most elaborate Mayan stelae. It’s also surrounded by old towns with beautiful hotels and lots of history.

  • Entrance fee $15, the museum is an extra $7, and the tunnels are $5 more
  • Open 8am to 4pm

7. Masaya Volcano National Park, Nicaragua

This Masaya Volcano National Park was created in 1979 as the country’s first national park. It’s home to twin volcanoes Masaya Volcano and Nindiri Volcano, and a total of 5 craters. The Masaya Volcano is also known as ‘Popogatepe’ meaning “Mountain that burns” in the language of the indigenous Chorotega. In this park you will also find coyotes, raccoons, iguanas, deer and monkeys. You can see the Santiago crater expelling gas with hot lava inside.

  • Entrance fee $4
  • Open from 9am to 5pm

Thanks to MiguelVieiraDoNotLickdewittnJetske19gregw66GOC53 and dane brian for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting. 

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