Parque Nacional Palo Verde
Lonely Planet review
The 184-sq-km Parque Nacional Palo Verde is a wetland sanctuary in Costa Rica’s driest province. It lies on the northeastern bank of the mouth of Río Tempisque, and at the head of the Golfo de Nicoya. All of the major rivers in the region drain into this ancient intersection of two basins, which creates a mosaic of habitats, including mangrove swamps, marshes, grassy savannas and evergreen forests. A number of low limestone hills provide lookout points over the park, and the park’s shallow, permanent lagoons are focal points for wildlife.
The park derives its name from the palo verde (green tree), which is a small shrub that’s green year-round and abundant within the park. The park is also contiguous in the north with the 73-sq-km Refugio de Vida Silvestre Dr Rafael Lucas Rodríguez Caballero and the Reserva Biológica Lomas de Barbudal, which, along with Parque Nacional Barra Honda, make up part of the Area de Conservación Tempisque, a large conservation area containing some of Costa Rica’s last remaining strands of dry tropical forest. A recent addition to this project was Refugio do Vida Silvestre Cipancí, which protects the corridors linking the various parks from being clear cut by local farmers.
Palo Verde has the greatest concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds in Central America, and over 300 different bird species have been recorded in the park. Bird-watchers come to see the large flocks of heron (including the rare black-crowned night heron), stork (including the endangered jabirú), spoonbill, egret, ibis, grebe and duck; and forest birds, including scarlet macaw, great curassow, keel-billed toucan, and parrots are also common. Frequently sighted mammals include deer, coati, armadillo, monkey and peccary, as well as the largest population of jaguarundi in Costa Rica. There are also numerous reptiles in the wetlands including crocodiles that are reportedly up to 5m in length.
The dry season, from December to March, is the best time to visit as flocks of birds tend to congregate in the remaining lakes and marshes and the trees lose their leaves, thus allowing for clearer viewing. However, the entire basin swelters during the dry season, so bring adequate sun protection. There are also far fewer insects in the dry season, and mammals are occasionally seen around the watering holes. Take binoculars or a spotting scope if possible. During the wet months, large portions of the area are flooded, and access may be limited.