One of the most overlooked and underdeveloped parks in Costa Rica is Barra Honda, not for its wildlife or hot springs, but for its world class, practically untouched network of limestone caves. Situated about halfway between Nicoya and the mouth of the Río Tempisque, this 2295- hectare national park protects a massive underground system of more than 40 caves, and is one of the most unusual (and also highly memorable) national parks in all of the country.
The caverns, which are composed of soft limestone, were carved by rainfall and erosion during a period of about 70 million years. Speleologists have discovered just more than 40 caverns, with some of them reaching as far as 200m deep, though to date only 19 have been fully explored. There have been discoveries here of pre-Columbian remains dating back to 300 BC. The caves come with the requisite cave accoutrements: stalagmites, stalactites and a host of beautiful formations with intriguing names such as fried eggs, organ, soda straws, popcorn, curtains, columns, pearls, flowers and shark’s teeth.
However, unlike caverns in your own country perhaps, Barra Honda is not developed for wide-scale tourism, which means that the caves here feel less like a carnival attraction and more like a scene from Indiana Jones. So, don your yellow miner’s hat, put on some sturdy boots and be prepared to get down and dirty. [lp]