Braulio Carrillo National Park is a protected area of tropical rainforest located between the Central Valley region of Costa Rica and the Caribbean slopes. This area is almost always rainy.
If driving to the Caribbean coast from the San Jose area you will pass by this park.
For years, every time we would drive by we would think, “Should we stop for a visit?”
Well, we finally visited Braulio Carrillo National Park and are here to give you all the info you need in order to determine if you should visit this obscure (but interesting) jungle destination.
So, let’s get to it!
Background Info on the Braulio Carrillo National Park
Braulio Carrillo National Park was established in 1978 and covers an area of 47,589 acres of protected land.
It is one of the largest national parks in Costa Rica, but most of this area is inaccessible to visitors.
The national park also encompasses the inactive Barva Volcano which tourists can visit. The access to this point is above the city of Heredia.
Braulio Carrillo was a former president of Costa Rica. The park was named after him because he began the construction of Route 32 (the road from San Jose towards the Caribbean coast) in 1977. The national park was established as a way to offset some of the destruction caused by the road.
While hiking you may get lucky enough to spot an array of plants and wildlife including a variety of species of birds. Many of these are endemic to the area.
Some of the most notable species found within the park include jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, quetzals, and toucans.
Directions for Visiting Braulio Carrillo
The national park is located between the San Jose area and the Caribbean coast. There aren’t very many places to stay near the national park, so your best option for visiting is to stop while driving from the coast to the city or vice versa.
From San Jose Area
From downtown San Jose it will take about an hour to drive here.
Most of the drive is on Route 32. This road is a highway in the sense that there is a decent amount of traffic and cars go fast. But, it is probably way more curvy than a lot of highways you are used to.
Toward the beginning of your drive, you will have to pay a toll before going through a tunnel. You can pay in US dollars or colones.
The national park entrance will be on your right. There aren’t any signs until you are at the entrance so make sure you have your GPS on because otherwise you most certainly will miss it.
From the Caribbean Coast
From downtown Limon, it will take about two hours to drive here. I only suggest stopping here if you are driving back toward San Jose. Otherwise, it is too long of a drive for the experience.
There are a lot of big trucks on this road (Limon is a port town where almost all exports leave from Costa Rica), so use caution.
We always suggest renting a car while in Costa Rica to give you more travel flexibility. Our favorite local rental car company, Adobe, has given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you.
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Braulio Carrillo National Park is open from 8:00 am until 3:30 pm every day.
We suggest arriving by 1 pm to fully experience the park
$12 for adults (plus tax)
$5 for children between the ages of 2 and 12 (plus tax)
¢ 1000 for national and residents (plus tax)
¢ 500 for nationals and resident children (plus tax)
Just note: All the national parks in the country are going cashless. So, you will need to pay with your credit card.
There is a covered picnic area next to the Braulio Carrillo ranger station.
There are also basic bathroom facilities below the ranger station.
I think I remember there being a place to fill up your water bottle with potable water. But, I suggest bringing enough bottled water so you don’t have to risk that the water will make you sick.
The Two Hiking Trails
There are two hiking trail options here at the moment. We suggest hiking both trails. They aren’t that long or strenuous. These trails are:
Sendero Las Palmas
This is the longer of the two trails. The trail begins right next to the parking lot and ranger station.
The trail is unpaved but well-maintained. There are a few hilly spots, but nothing that is overly strenuous. I would say that any person in average physical condition should have no problem with this trail.
Length: One mile (1.6 km)
Time: This trail took us about 30 minutes. The sign suggests it will take about one hour. But, I think we just sped through it a bit because it was raining.
Sendero El Ceibo
This trail is located across the street from the ranger station. Please be careful when crossing the road, this is the main highway and cars, motorcycles, and large trucks frequently zip by.
I would say that this trail is a bit easier than the other trail. It is mostly completely flat.
About halfway through you will come to a viewpoint of Rio Sucio. In the dry season, it mostly dries up, but during the rainy season, it should be flowing.
Length: 0.6 miles (1 km)
Duration: 45 minutes
Other Ways to Visit the Braulio Carrillo National Park
The company Rainforest Adventures has an activity center located in the area. They are a great company for zip lining and enjoying the aerial tram.
There are two great tours that Rainforest Adventures offers
Aerial Tram Tour
This tour includes:
-A guided tour of Braulio Carrillo National Park
-A visit to specialty garden exhibits, including a butterfly and hummingbird habitat, reptile terrarium, and orchid garden
-A ride above the treetops on an aerial tram that provides a stunning view of the lush tropical environment
Note: This tour is wheelchair accessible and geared to please children and adults alike
You can also add an optional upgrade which includes hotel pickup and drop-off from San Jose
Braulio Carrillo National Park 6-in-1 Pass
This fun-filled tour includes;
-A ride on the aerial tram
-The chance to visit critters at a butterfly and frog garden,
-Crossing a hanging bridge
-Exploring the jungle on a nature hike
-And an adrenaline-pumping soar over the treetops on ziplines (including one of the longest and fastest in the country).
What to Bring and Wear
We suggest wearing water-wicking shorts or pants, a short sleeve shirt, hiking boots or good sneakers.
We suggest bringing:
– A rain jacket
– Layers (such as a button-up flannel)
– Plenty of water
– Your camera
– Bug Spray
– A waterproof backpack
– We didn’t have good cell phone service in the Braulio Carrillo area. So, if you will need Waze or Google Maps, keep in mind that you will need to use them in offline mode.
– We enjoyed our visit here, but I didn’t feel like it was something that I needed to seek out. If you are staying in the San Jose area and looking for a national park day trip, I would recommend Poas Volcano, Irazu Volcano, or Prusia Forest instead.
However, if you are driving through the area, I would say it’s definitely worth a stop.
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– If you are driving between San Jose and the Caribbean and are considering a stop here, I think you can feel mostly safe leaving your stuff in the car. The parking lot is right next to the ranger station and pushed back from the road. I can’t see a way that anyone could break into a car without the rangers noticing.
Our Experience Visiting Braulio Carillo
We have driven through Braulio Carillo National Park so many times on the way to or from the Caribbean coast, but we had never actually stopped at the national park.
And there are two reasons for that:
- I had just never really looked much into it. I knew there was a national park there, but it is really difficult to spot the entrance when driving by.
- We always had a lot of stuff in the car and didn’t know if it was a secure place to stop and leave our stuff unattended.
So, finally, recently we decided to visit as a day trip from San Jose. We were hoping for some dry weather because it was March and there hadn’t been rain anywhere else in the country yet.
But, I should have known better. It is almost always raining at Braulio Carillo!
Actually, it started raining heavily exactly when we arrived.
The ranger suggested we wait a bit before purchasing tickets because he said we wouldn’t see too much wildlife in that weather.
But, we had made the trip here so we decided to just deal with the weather and hike anyway.
The trails were both relatively easy and not overly exciting. Granted, the weather wasn’t the best so we didn’t have much of a chance to spot wildlife.
However, I think we both still really enjoyed it for a few reasons.
1. It was so jungly. I think the rain actually helped the mood in that sense. This area really does make me want to play the Jurrasic Park theme song and look for dinosaurs, and this national park did not disappoint with those vibes.
Here, I’ll embed the theme song so you can also fully embrace the vibe. 😉
2. There was nobody else there. We had the entire park to ourselves. Which is very rare for the month of March in Costa Rica.
Overall, it was a fun little outing!
FAQ: Braulio Carrillo National Park
Is Braulio Carrillo National Park worth a visit?
Yes, it is worth a visit. However, I don’t think it is worth driving from San Jose just to go here. I would only visit if driving to or from the Caribbean.
What is Braulio Carrillo National Park known for?
This park is known for its diverse landscape which includes dense jungle and primary forest as well its abundance of flora and fauna.
How do you get to Braulio Carrillo National Park
To get to Braulio Carrillo National Park, located in Costa Rica, you can take a scenic drive along Route 32 from San Jose, the capital city, for approximately 30 kilometers until you reach the park’s main entrance
If you have any questions about visiting the Braulio Carrillo National Park, just leave them in the comment section below! We are always happy to help you plan.
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