The dry season in the northwest corner of Costa Rica is very pronounced. To minimise water loss during this period of drought, woodland trees such as the guanacaste – the national tree of Costa Rica, the startlingly red flowered flamboyán, and the ‘naked Indian’ or gumbo-limbo, shed their leaves.
Such deciduous dry forests are scarce in the tropics and can be very good for wildlife viewing, particularly when the leaves are off the trees.
Black-handed spider monkey, white-headed capuchin monkey, coati, tamandua, agouti, blue jay, toucan and long-tailed manakin can all be seen quite readily.
The principal dry forests in Guanacaste, now protected against clearance for ranching, are found in the three national parks of Santa Rosa, Guanacaste and Rincón de la Vieja.
There are also good opportunities to see tropical dry forest in Nicaragua, the private Domitila reserve, just across the border, being a good example.
Rincón de La Vieja NP
A handful of lodges near Rincon de La Vieja offer rustic yet comfortable bases from which to explore the area.
Hacienda Guachipelín still operates as a working cattle ranch, where you might start the day watching the cows being milked followed by a hearty breakfast. Optional activities on offer include guided nature walks, horse riding in the national park, ranching the cattle, and full day hikes up the volcano itself.
Santa Rosa NP
Santa Rosa NP is home to several mammals including armadillo and white tailed deer as well as 253 species of bird and some 3,140 species of butterflies and moths.
A number of trails wind through the park, including the Quebrada Duende trail which passes petroglyphs carved by indigenous peoples.