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Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo
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Introducing Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo

Enter this underexplored national park and you will have an idea of what Costa Rica looked like prior to the 1950s, when 75% of the country’s surface area was still covered in forest: steep hills cloaked in impossibly tall trees are interrupted only by cascading rivers and canyons. It has an extraordinary biodiversity due to the range of altitudes, from steamy 2906m cloud forest alongside Volcán Barva to lush, humid lowlands on the Caribbean slope. Its most incredible feature, however, is that this massive park (the size of New York's Rhode Island) is only 30 minutes north of San José.

Founded in the 1970s, Braulio Carrillo’s creation was the result of a unique compromise between conservationists and developers. At the time, the government had announced a plan to build a new highway that would connect the capital to Puerto Limón. Back then, San José’s only link to its most important port was via a crumbling railway or a slow rural road through Cartago and Turrialba. The only feasible route for the new thoroughfare was along a low pass between the Barva and Irazú volcanoes – an area covered in primary forest. Conservationists were deeply worried about putting a road (and any attendant development) in an area that served as San José’s watershed. So a plan was hatched: the road would be built, but the 400 sq km of land to either side of it would be set aside as a national park. Thus, in 1978, Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo was born.

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