UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste

UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste
UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste

From the World Heritage inscription:

Guanacaste is located in north-western Costa Rica. It stretches 105 km from the Pacific, across the Pacific coastal lowlands, over three tall volcanoes and down into the Atlantic coastal lowlands. It includes the Guanacaste Cordillera and surrounding flatlands and coastal areas. The most notable volcano is Rincon de la Vieja, which has three craters and one lagoon. Its last eruption was observed in the 1970s, but some fumarole activity still occurs in one of the craters. At the base of the volcano are several minor craters.

At least 32 rivers and 16 intermittent streams originate in the vicinity of the volcano, and flow into the Tempisque, a river of enormous importance for irrigation of agricultural land in the Guanacaste Province. The marine area includes various near shore islands and islets (mostly uninhabited), open ocean marine zones, beaches, rocky coasts, and approximately 20 km of sea turtle nesting beaches and a high diversity of wetland ecosystems (37 wetlands). The wetland forests are considered to be among the most pristine in Central America and worldwide.

The Guanacaste Conservation Area comprises three national parks in the Northwest of Costa Rica:

  • Rincón de la Vieja Volcano NP
  • Guanacaste NP
  • Santa Rosa-Bolaños Island NP

There are also other, smaller protected areas as well which are included in the World Heritage Site.

My visit was to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, which is the most popular of the group and the easiest to visit. The major city in the region is Liberia and there are daily tours to the park which can be arranged at most hotels/hostels.

The park does take some dirt road driving to get to and you can easily spend a full day there walking the trails. In addition to volcanic hot spots, there are waterfalls and ample wildlife. During my day I saw wild monkeys, tropical birds, snakes and a tapir.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.