Generally, Costa Rica is a very peaceful place. Our country doesn’t have a military, and we’re well-known around the world for “Pura Vida,” which above all is a “Live and let live” way of life. That’s why it’s funny that one of our major national parks, Santa Rosa, became a national wildlife refuge because of a battle that took place there in 1856.
The March 20th battle was between William Walker, a North American who had taken over Nicaragua, and a Costa Rican civilian militia organized by then-President Juan Rafael Mora. The Costa Rican militia took just fifteen minutes to beat Walker’s mercenaries and save the country.
Because of that brief battle’s historic importance, Costa Rica can boast a 50,000 hectare park just about twenty miles north of Liberia. Come for the history if you want – the old hacienda house where the pro-Nicaraguan forces took shelter is still there – and stay for coastline, savannah, 253 species of birds, 3,200 butterfly species and 115 species of mammals.
What else will you find at Santa Rosa?
Unsurprisingly, Santa Rosa is divided into seven areas or stations: Islas, Murcielago, Santa Rose, Nancite and Naranjo Stations, Station Santa Elena, and the separate Junquillal Bay Wildlife Refuge. Each area has different attractions from the Historical Museum at La Casona – the site of the 1856 battle – to beaches, mangrove swamps, and more. Camping is allowed in limited areas, and people also come to the park to hike, surf, swim, and view wildlife.
At Nancite Station’s Playa Nancite you can experience one of the worlds biggest sea turtle nesting grounds – from July through November, hundreds of thousands of turtles arrive here to lay their eggs.
However, don’t just decide to take a day trip to Santa Rosa without some advance preparation! There are areas within the park, like Playa Naranjo, which is only accessible during the dry season with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
The Bottom Line: Visiting Santa Rosa National Park is very reasonable at $15 at the gate and $10 if purchased in advance, but before you choose a Santa Rosa adventure please talk with your concierge to help you decide where in the park you’d like to visit and what kind of equipment (and vehicle!) you need to take. For more information check out the Santa Rosa website here – and you can find out more about the 1856 battle at Costa Rica Outdoors.
(Note the park is adjacent to the Guanacaste National Park/Conservation Area and from The Palms is in the same broad direction as the Rincón de la Vieja National Park.)