Somewhere in between the Tilarán Mountain range, Peñas Blancas National Park in Costa Rica is a hidden gem on the outskirts of the province of Puntarenas.
Hiking in Peñas Blancas is not for the faint of heart. The trails are not regularly maintained, and the topography of the country is unforgiving. The ecosystems of the 2,400 hectares (5,930 acres) park are varied by elevations into the Cordilera de Tilarán. Much of the park is tropical dry forest, but in the higher elevations it becomes deciduous moist forest. Camping is allowed at Peñas Blancas, but you will need to prepare accordingly for staying here as there are no facilities on site.
The wildlife found in Peñas Blancas National Park is sparse when compared with some of the other parks in Costa Rica, but when being compared to some of the most biologically dense places on earth, this isn’t a hard feat to accomplish. Still, there are a number of animals to be found in Peñas Blancas such as pacas, monkeys, kinkajous, opossums, raccoons and red brocket deer. The rocky and canyon filled terrain of Peñas Blancas make it a difficult landscape for even the hardiest of creatures.
Peñas Blancas National Park in Costa Rica is also home to a less prolific display of flora than some of its brethren. With that aside, the plants that can be found in the park consist of orchids, bromeliads, the aguacatillo, the balsa and laurel trees. Much of the area is in a process of reforestation after a period of logging depleting much of the forest, and, thus, the habitat for much of the creatures that live in this area. The namesake of the park is based on diatoms, which make up the chalky faces of rocks in the park, and is the remains of algae that was indigenous to the region many years prior.
Visitors should pack a swim suit, towel, hiking boots and backpacking gear, a tent, rain gear, sun block, thicker clothes for higher elevations and insect repellent. The best time of year to head to Peñas Blancas National Park is in the dry season from December to May. The landscape being what it is, you are advised to travel into the area via a four wheel drive vehicle. Nearest to Peñas Blancas is the city of Miramar, Costa Rica, but further out are the cities of Macacona, Pitahaya and Barranca.
Location: Peñas Blancas National Park
Items to bring: a swim suit, towel, hiking boots and backpacking gear, a tent, rain gear, sun block, thick clothes, insect repellent
Species of fauna: pacas, monkeys, kinkajous, opossums, raccoons, red brocket deer
Species of flora: orchids, bromeliads, the aguacatillo, the balsa, laurel trees
Cities nearby: Miramar, Macacona, Pitahaya, Barranca
Ways to get here: rental car (4WD), taxi (4WD), private shuttle (4WD)