If you want to do something truly different, you’ll want to check out the caves in Barra Honda National Park. You’ll hike through a rare protected dry forest before reaching the entrance to the cave system. Secured by a harness, you’ll make several vertical descents into various chambers using a series of fixed ladders attached to the cavern wall. Your guide will point out many types of rock formations along the way.
Arriving at the Barra Honda National Park you’ll be greeted by the staff and given an overview of the park’s unique features and history. Your guide will lead you on a 2 kilometer uphill hike lasting approximately 30 minutes on a well maintained trail meandering through a lowland Pacific tropical dry forest. This type of forest, with its beautiful deciduous flowering trees almost became extinct since it was the easiest to clear cut for wood during years of rapid development, as well as cut for pasture by cattle ranchers. Once the wood was gone and the lean, grass fed cows were no longer popular for market, this now protected area was reforested in the 1980s in order to bring back the natural environment. It is possible you might see some animal life along this hike such as monkeys, iguanas or anteaters. Your guide will tell you about various medicinal plants provided by these forest trees utilized by indigenous people for centuries. You will want to use plenty of insect repellant for this part of the trip.
When you reach the cave entrance, you’ll be given a head lamp to wear and fitted with a safety harness before beginning the vertical descent of approximately 50 feet down a fixed ladder into the first chamber. A rope attached to your harness, fed through a pulley system and handled by your guide will ensure your safety as you climb down. Here among slippery and muddy rocks you’ll learn how these limestone caves were formed amid walls covered with stalactites and stalagmites. You’ll want to wear shoes with good traction and clothes that can get dirty.
Continuing down another 90 feet via vertical ladders into the heart of the cavern you’ll discover additional interesting calcified rock formations including features described as popcorn, roses, grapes and fried eggs! Passing through a narrow opening into the third chamber, you’ll have an opportunity to experience total darkness for a moment with all the lights turned off. Your total time in the cavern will be approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
Modern explorers discovered these caves in the 1960s. The system consists of 42 caves with only one open to the public. These caves show little previous human activity probably due to the difficulty with the long vertical entrances and so are excellent places to observe the natural structures created over eons of time as well as the various forms of cave life such as bat habitats.
Climbing back up the vertical ladders you’ll emerge again into daylight and be led to a spectacular Mirador, or look-out point, where you will see breathtaking views of the beautiful Tempisque river valley and tropical islands in the Gulf of Nicoya. Afterwards you’ll be treated to a full typical Costa Rican meal. You’ll also have a chance to change your clothes which will likely be wet and muddy from your cavern expedition.
Round trip transportation is included and can take between 1 and 2 hours each way depending on traffic and which beach area your lodging is in. This enlightening adventure tour is best for people in reasonably fit condition who can hike uphill, climb up and down the long ladders as well as navigate the slippery, rocky cave terrain. It is a unique way to experience Costa Rica’s “underground”.