Renowned for its wildlife, which is easy to spot in the dry season, thanks to sparser foliage, Santa Rosa protects the largest swath of tropical dry forest in Central America. It is officially known now as the Santa Rosa sector of the even larger Guanacaste Conservation Area. Camping expeditions serving bird-watchers, naturalists, and backpackers often venture deep into the interior, but it's possible to experience a good bit of its impressive flora and fauna on a full-day
or half-day visit. Treetop inhabitants include spider, capuchin, and howler monkeys, as well as hundreds of bird species. If you station yourself next to water holes during the dry season, you may also spot deer, coyotes, coatis, or armadillos. Typical dry-forest vegetation includes kapok, Guanacaste, mahogany, calabash, acacia thorn, and gumbo-limbo trees.
Santa Rosa's wealth of flora and fauna is due in part to its remoteness, since much of it is still inaccessible to the common tourist. To get anywhere in the park, you must have a vehicle—preferably 4WD. The park headquarters, a historic ranch house and museum called La Casona, and a nearby camping area are 7 km (4½ mi) from the Pan-American Highway via a paved road. Within this dense, shady forest, temperatures drop by as much as 5°C (9°F).
In rainy season the park's rough road to the beach cannot be accessed by even 4WD vehicles, but several short trails head into the forest from its first, flat stretch, and day hikers can easily explore the first stretch of the steep part on foot. Park off the road just before it descends into the forest. From the park headquarters it's 11 km (7 mi) to Playa Naranjo, where the famed Witch's Rock surf break is located (surfers often get there by boat). Playa Nancite —the site of one of the world's only completely protected olive ridley turtle arribada, or mass nesting (accessible primarily to biologists and students; permit required)—is an additional 5 km (3 mi) by footpath north of Playa Naranjo. For more information, visit the park's website.
Km 269, Pan-American Hwy. 35 km/22 mi north of Liberia, Santa Rosa National Park, 50804, Costa Rica