Barra Honda Caves
A Treasure under the Surface
Text: Andrés Benavente
Photos by: Diego Mejías
We were in search of a place unlike any other we knew, and that is exactly what we found.
The road would lead us this time…. to the entrails of the earth itself.
Costa Rica is known worldwide as a synonym of natural beauty due to the incredible aesthetic display found in its extraordinary life forms and the spectacular views offered in its forest, beaches, valleys and mountains.
However, secreted some distance below the surface, Barra Honda National Park holds a treasure that is totally different; a subterranean system of caves made up of impressive caverns, deep trenches and underground creeks, majestically decorated with calcium sculptures molded by nature over thousands or even millions of years.
Access to these enigmatic places used to be a privilege reserved for geologists and mountain climbers, but thanks to the infrastructure of the park and its seasoned guides, in Barra Honda any person in good physical condition can live the experience of descending to explore this mysterious subterranean world.
Photographer Diego Mejías joined us on this adventure and there is nothing better than his pictures to describe the incredible beauty of this hidden treasure.
Of the 42 caverns in the park, the “Terciopelo” is the most visited due to the existence of a stairway, built in 2002, and security ropes that allows everyone to see this magnificent site. Its depth is -134.5 feet and its length is 295 feet.
Caverns are formed by the erosive action of the water that slowly but progressively dissolves limestone for centuries, resulting in the creation of these huge caverns.
The minerals infused in the dripping water are slowly deposited to other areas. With the passing of years this produces statuesque structures in the depths.
Barra Honda National Park
Located in Guanacaste, 22 kms from the city of Nicoya (See location on Guanacaste’s map, page 66). It was created in 1974 and is made up of 5,600 acres of dry tropical forest. Besides the caves, the park has a look out point that offers impressive views of the valleys of the Tempisque River and the Golf of Nicoya with some of its islands. At anytime of the year one can see monkeys, deer, raccoons, ocelots, peccary, opossum, tepescuintle and anteaters, in addition to an ample variety of birds and plants typical of the dry tropical forests. At first light in the morning, the forests shines with the morning dew and the animals are much more active. Therefore, arriving early will increase your chances of sighting them.
There is a good information center at the park, and you will also find picnic tables and trails in very good condition. Depending on the rains, you can drive very close to the entrance to the caves, thereby shortening the hike from 2 hours to only 40 minutes.
Hours of operation are 8 am to 1 pm.
We recommend groups no larger than 8 persons due to the characteristics of the tour. Bring trekking shoes, insect repellent and some fruits.
A call the day before your planned visit is required to confirm the availability and to reserve the tour guides and the safety equipment you will need to carry. (Tel: 2659 1551 or 2659 1099)
We hope you enjoy this original experience as much as we did.
To learn more about the caverns