Santa Rosa National Park (Parque Nacional Santa Rosa) encompasses much of Costa Rica’s Santa Elena Peninsula and is one of the country’s oldest protected areas. Thick jungles and mangrove forests give way to rolling ocean and white beaches along the country’s coastline, while further inland, dry tropical forests teem with flora and fauna.
Keep an eye out for iguanas and monkeys, as you trek through the forests of Santa Rosa National Park, or walk along the coast and scan the sands for sea turtle tracks. In addition to the park’s wealth of wildlife, one of Santa Rosa’s most popular attractions is the historic Hacienda La Casona. Tours of the hacienda, which commemorates the 1856 victory of Tico civilians against foreign mercenaries, allow you to explore the jungle and learn about the settlement’s storied past.
Farther west, the park’s coastline is famously home to Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point—two world-class surfing beaches. While these locations are remote and difficult to access, surfing tours provide transportation by boat and allow you to discover some of the area’s more hidden spots.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Santa Rosa National Park is a must-see for nature and history lovers.
- The park’s Nancite Beach (Playa Nancite) is a protected nesting spot for olive ridley sea turtles. As such, all visitors to the beach must arrange a permit in advance from the National Park office.
- Santa Rosa is a haven for many protected species; be careful not to disturb wildlife as you explore.
How to Get There
Santa Rosa National Park lies on Costa Rica’s northwest corner, less than an hour by road from the city of Liberia, the departure point for most tours. It’s possible to arrive by private vehicle, although guided excursions typically provide round-trip transportation.
When to Get There
Dry season in Santa Rosa National Park usually lasts from December through April. The peak wet season is September through October, and while rains can occasionally wash out roads, many times precipitation comes in the form of short-lived afternoon storms. Pacific ridley sea turtles nest and hatch on the beaches in late summer.
Santa Rosa National Park History
Costa Rica is famously known for its pristine national parks, and Santa Rosa is the country’s oldest. Established in 1972, the park began Costa Rica’s tradition of conservation. Santa Rosa National Park is the site of the 1856 Battle of Santa Rosa, during which Costa Rican forces defeated a force of mercenaries backed by foreign businessmen.