Considered one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, Costa Rica's main attraction is its incredible wealth of flora and fauna. Within its borders, an exceptional park system represents thirteen per cent of the national territory.
As a reflection of a strong commitment to preservation, Costa Rica boasts twenty national parks, eight biological reserves, and a wealth of other protected areas that have captivated ecotourists for decades.
The definition of a protected area adopted by IUCN is:
An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means
Although all protected areas meet the general purposes contained in this definition, in practice the precise purposes for which protected areas are managed differ greatly.
While much of Costa Rica has been stripped of its forests, the country has managed to protect a larger proportion of its land than any other country in the world. In 1970 there came a growing acknowledgment that something unique and lovely was vanishing, and a systematic effort was begun to save what was left of the wilderness. That year, the Costa Ricans formed a national park system that has won worldwide admiration. Costa Rican law declared inviolate 10.27 percent of a land once compared to Eden; an additional 17 percent is legally set aside as forest reserves, "buffer zones", wildlife refuges, and Indian reserves.
Throughout the country representative sections of all the major habitats and ecosystems are protected for tomorrow's generations. The National Conservation Areas System (SINAC) protects more than 186 areas, including 32 national parks, 12 biological reserves, 13 forest reserves, and 51 wildlife refuges.
Besides providing Costa Ricans and foreign travelers with the privilege of admiring and studying the wonders of nature, the national parks and reserves protect the soil and watersheds and harbor an estimated 75 percent of all Costa Rica's species of flora and fauna, including species that have all but disappeared in neighboring countries.
With over 615 wildlife species per 10,000 sq km, Costa Rica sits atop of the list as the most bio-diverse region of the world. Home to an incredible plethora of exotic and tropical flora and fauna, this tiny Latin American country is the habitat of 12 key ecological zones. With an estimated 5% of the world's biodiversity found here, it is no wonder that Costa Rica is often referred to as "the living Eden" by many scientists and naturalists from all across the globe.
In an effort to preserve much of Costa Rica's natural beauty and surroundings, 25% of the country's land has been set aside and turned into protective parks and reserves so as to safeguard the beautiful and lush environs from deforestation and logging. To date Costa Rica has 26 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 wetland areas/mangroves, 11 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves, as well as 12 other conservation regions that protect the distinctive and diverse natural habitats found throughout the country.
The great diversity of flora and fauna found throughout the country is one of the reasons why national parks in Costa Rica cover such a great area: many species are unique to one single area and can't be found anywhere else. In Costa Rica, park systems strives to protect more than 221 mammal species, 150 amphibians, 215 reptiles, 830 bird species, 366000 species of arthropods and 1080 species of fresh and saltwater fish. Hand in hand with animal protection goes the conservation of vegetation as part of the habitat conservation.
The national park system protects almost all existing vegetation macro types like forested savannah, scrub, paramos, flooded forest, deciduous woodland, evergreen forests, umbrophilic forest, mangroves, swamps, herbaceous swamps, cloud forests and the marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, marshes and sandy beaches. Among the approximately 10 000 species of identified vascular plants that are protected, roughly 1600 are orchids: about 4% of the world's species. More National Park information is available all over the country for anyone who would like to go deeper about Costa Rica parks, or you can also have our travel advisors arrange a visit to any National Park in Costa Rica.
Deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, rainforests, herbaceous swamps, cloud forests, riparian forests, swamp forests and coral reefs are just some of the many habitats that are protected by the national parks and reserves of Costa Rica. Areas of geological and geophysical interests, such as active volcanoes, hot springs, caves and relict mountains as the result of plate tectonics setting; areas of historic and archaeological interest, such as battlefields and pre-Columbian settlements; areas of scenic beauty, such as beaches and waterfalls; and areas of conservational importance, such as islands where the brown pelican and magnificent frigatebird nest, or enclaves with the last remaining stands of Mesoamerican dry forest, or beaches where huge sea turtles flock, all fall under the protection of the national parks and reserves in Costa Rica.
For the past 20 years, Costa Rica has established itself as one of the world's premier ecotourism vacation destinations, this is related to the country's deep set commitment to the conservation of the national flora and fauna and geographically significant sites like volcanoes and coral reefs and specially Costa Rica's national park reserves. Travel and explore these areas in an ecological tour of the world renowned Costa Rica National Parks. In a national park, vacation gets a complete other meaning. These areas include wildlife refuges and forest reserves; some of these areas are privately owned, like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, or are government operated, like the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Travel through the 107 units of national parks and reserves that are spread through the country and roughly divided into 11 conservation areas. In addition, all mangroves in Costa Rica are also protected and belong to the state. The United Nations has recognized these efforts and graced Costa Rica National Park treasures with 3 official World Heritage Convention entries: The Guanacaste Conservation Area, the Talamanca Range-La Amistad International Park, and Coco's Island National Park. By this convention, these areas are considered of "outstanding universal value", as they are part of the heritage of all people and everyone has rights regarding their conservation. The Corcovado is currently being studied to be included in this list as well as the Reserve of the Biosphere by the by the United Nations Man and the Biosphere Program.
More than a century ago, long before "Saving the Planet" became the fashion, the people of Costa Rica realized that uncontrolled development could easily wreck the precious and fragile beauty of their countyside. To save their small corner of the earth from destruction, Costa Ricans began marking boundaries around forests, wetlands and coast-side areas they felt should be preserved for all time, for the pleasure of all people. Their foresight and sacrifice created a jewel box of natural treasures. There are parks in Costa Rica where visitors tramp through rain forests which stand today as they stood a million years ago. There are beaches where people look down through seawater clean as window glass at fish the color of rainbows and turtles big as Volkswagens, almost.There are parks built around steaming, grumbling volcanoes, parks alive with bird songs, parks with white-water rivers running through them and parks where you sit and read a book. There are One hundred and twenty four national parks, biological reserves and wildlife refuges in Costa Rica. They cover 2,853,869 acres of land. They are home to 4% of the world's total flora and fauna. They take up no less than 25% of the nation's territory.