Guanacaste Conservation Area

Travel Guide Central America Costa Rica Guanacaste Conservation Area



Guanacaste Conservation Area is an administrative area which is managed by the Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion (SINAC) of Costa Rica for the purposes of conservation in the northwestern part of Costa Rica. It contains three national parks, as well as wildlife refuges and other nature reserves. The area contains the Area de Conservación Guanacaste World Heritage Site, which comprises four areas.




The Guanacaste Conservation Area, located in northwest Costa Rica, is a 163,000 hectare expanse of protected land and sea. It extends from 19 kilometres out in the Pacific Ocean to about 105 kilometres inland, ending in the Costa Rican lowlands near the Atlantic Ocean.

Across this large area, four of the five major tropical ecosystems are found: marine/coastal, dry forest, rainforest, and cloud forest. Desert is the only ecosystem type not represented. This protected area contains the largest amount of dry forest from Mexico to Panama. The area's altitude ranges from sea level to 1,916 metres above sea level at the peak of the dormant Santa María volcano. Four other volcanoes are found in the entire Guanacaste Conservation Area: the Cacoa, Orosí, and Rincón de la Vieja volcanoes are active, while the Cerro Von Seebach volcano lies dormant.

There are at least 32 rivers and 16 streams that originate close to the Rincón de la Vieja volcano and flow into the Tempisque River watershed. As part of the Riberino Zapandi Wetlands reserve, this watershed is of great ecological and agricultural value, providing habitat for aquatic organisms and a source of irrigation for farming land. Other aquatic and semi-aquatic areas that the Guanacaste Conservation Area span are open marine zones, marine islands, many of which are uninhabited, rocky coasts, dune systems, and beaches, including 20 kilometres of sea turtle nesting grounds.

Areas of unique value are the Bahía Potrero Grande and the Laguna Respingue located in the southern peninsula of Santa Elena. These wetlands have both been listed as important sites by The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, or the Ramsar Convention. Bahía Potrero Grande is the only intact mangrove ecosystem throughout the dry forest of Central America's Pacific coast, and Laguna Respingue is the only freshwater lake proximate to the ocean throughout Costa Rica and Central America’s Pacific north.



Sights and Activities


The Guanacaste Conservation Area has a highly diverse set of fauna. There are about 500 bird species, 100 reptile species, and an estimated 140 species of mammals, 40 of which are bat species. Invertebrate diversity is also very high in this area; as of 2014 it was estimated that there were 20,000 species of beetles, 8,000 species of butterflies and moths, and 13,000 species of ants, bees and wasps present.

Some of the mammal species present include the Central American tapir, jaguar, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, white-faced capuchin, howler monkey, spider monkey, collared anteater, white-lipped peccary, collared peccary, and ring-tailed coati. The Central American tapir, also known as Baird’s tapir, has a conservation status of endangered and the white-lipped peccary is considered vulnerable.

Some bird species present include the keel-billed toucan, elegant trogon, white-throated magpie-jay, blue-winged teal, laughing falcon, mangrove hummingbird, great curassow, jabiru, roseate spoonbill, great green macaw, and the military macaw. Both the military macaw and the great curassow have a conservation status of vulnerable. The mangrove hummingbird and the great green macaw are considered endangered.

Some interesting reptile species that inhabit this area include the American crocodile, spectacled caiman, the critically endangered Leatherback sea turtle, and the vulnerable Olive Ridley sea turtle.


Alongside the diverse fauna, a highly diverse flora is also present in the conservation area. It is estimated that there are over 7,000 species of plants in this area. Of them, about 3,000 species are orchids and other epiphytic plants. The most notable species present is probably the Guanacaste tree, Enterolobium cyclocarpum, which is Costa Rica’s national tree. Many types of plant communities make up the conservation area. These communities include mangroves, lowland rainforest, cloud forest, dry forest, savannah, oak forest, evergreen gallery forest, and pre-montane humid forest.

Part of the conservation area is composed of dry forest habitat. The majority of the trees in this area (80%) will drop their leaves during the dry season. These trees will remain bare for three to five months. The leaf litter provides nutrients and habitat on the forest floor which leads to a higher diversity of species. In recent decades, there have been efforts to restore dry forest habitats in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, which is where the conservation area is located.





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This is version 1. Last edited at 12:23 on Feb 9, 16 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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