When arriving to Costa Rica and to Playas del Coco in general many of our guests frequently ask us for advice on things to do in Playas del Coco and the surrounding area. While some are inquiring about nightlife, shopping and fine dining others are in it for the ADVENTURE and that is what Parque Nacional Santa Rosa is all about.
A Brief Overview of the Santa Rosa National Park
Santa Rosa National Park is a large protected area located off of Hwy 1 between Liberia and the Nicaraguan border in the Guanacaste Province. In 1856 the site was home to the Battle of Santa Rosa, the famous battle when the Costa Rican Army defended the land against Nicaraguan intruders led by the American Lawyer William Walker. To this day The Casona still stands at the spot where the battle took place and has since been converted into a museum depicting the battle and the park itself.
The park in total is just under 95k square acres. The expansive space creates opportunities for adventure lovers of all levels. Specifically hiking, surfing and scuba diving, So let’s dive right in and start with the Costa Rica’s underwater world of the Islas Murcielagos or Bat Islands as translated into english.
Diving at the Bat Islands
At the western tip of the park diving enthusiasts gather from around the world to descend into the depths and view the beauty and diversity of oceanic creatures found at the Bat Islands. There are many amazing dive spots including Bajo Pachote, Black Rock, Los Arcos and the infamous Big Scare. Before packing your gear and hitting the water please be advised that the biggest draw to diving this area is the probability of seeing MASSIVE Bull Sharks. The best time of year to experience the adrenaline of swimming next to these apex predators is the green season of May-November. Although if you get luck you can also see them in Costa Rica’s summer months of December-April.
If you are not up for the experience of swimming with sharks DO NOT BE AFRAID. Bull sharks are rarely seen in Guanacaste’s beach towns and typically stay near the Park as this is where their food source are more widespread because these are protected waters among other reasons.
If you would like to dive at the Bat Islands or anywhere else in the area take a look at our Diving/Lodging special rate sheet found here
Surfing at Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point
Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point are well known by surfers around the world for there excellent shaped waves and consistency. Witch’s Rock is closest to Playas del Coco. On the Southern end of the park located just off the coast of Playa Naranjo sits an enormous rock that seems totally out of place. This is Witch’s Rock, a surf break made famous in the movie Endless Summer 2. The best time to surf this break is as the tide is medium to high but check the local tide charts and surf reports before heading out there because it is quite far to show up and find there is no swell.
Ollie’s Point is named after US Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North who created and clandestine airstrip near the spot during the Nicaraguan Contras. Also known as Playa Potrero Grande, Ollie’s Point is a near perfect point break and will give surfers great rides on a consistent basis.
Hiking in Santa Rosa National Park
Hiking is one of the other great opportunities the park has to offer. A 4×4 is recommended as the roads get pretty sketchy in many areas of the park and you will only be able to confidently reach the Casona and Sendero Indio Desnudo (Naked Indian Trail) named after an specific tree that sheds its outer skin throughout the year. This trail is only half a mile long and in great shape for those that are not as physically advanced.
Some more difficult trails include Los Patos and the trail to the Mirador Valle Naranjo where you will arrive at an incredible lookout where you will get picturesque views of the aforementioned Witch’s Rock. Sendero Carbonal and Sendero Aceituna are both great trails but it is advised to arrive as early as possible unless you will be camping overnight. The roads are slow going to these destinations but well worth it if you are trying to get away from it all for a day or two.
Santa Rosa National Park is one of Costa Rica’s best locations for outdoor activities due to its abundant wildlife, various habitats and Costa Rica’s most conducive weather. Whether you want to swim with the fish, hike alongside the birds and primates, catch a wave or just relax on the shores of incredible beaches, Santa Rosa has something for just about everyone.