Santa Rosa National Park was initially created not to preserve a specific historical building, known as ‘La Casona’. La Casona played a crucial role in Costa Rica’s struggle for independence, and it just so happened that the land surrounding it was also very beautiful. In 1856 Costa Rican forces fought the Battle of Santa Rosa on the park grounds, forcing U.S. mercenaries to flee into Nicaragua.Costa Rica’s Santa Rosa National Park stretches across the far northern tip of the Guanacaste province on the nation’s sun-soaked Pacific coast. A great place to camp, surf, swim, or watch the olive Ridley sea turtle nest and hatch eggs, Santa Rosa National Park is Costa’s Rica’s first historic park preservation.
La Casona burned to ground in 2001 due to an unfortunate act of arson, but has since been reconstructed and a small museum opened nearby to commemorate the original. Today, tourists and locals are as likely to visit Santa Rosa National Park for the gorgeous scenery and wildlife as for the history, but both are available.
Camping at Santa Rosa National Park is safe and economical, and makes a good base from which to explore than many miles of park trails and pristine beaches that draw thousands of tourists each and every year.
Playa Nancite is the prime beach for turtle watching. During nesting season you will need to book a guided tour, since unguided tourists are not allowed during nesting as a protective measure for the turtles. Playa Blanca is also very beautiful and worth a visit. A remote, white sand beach that is only accessible via the small village of Caujiniquil during the dry season, Playa Blanca is worth the trek for its rare beauty and rare privacy.
For family swimming, try Playa Junquillal in the northern part of Santa Rosa National Park, (not the same beach as the larger, heavily developed beach of the same name farther south in Guanacaste). A small entrance fee is required at Playa Junquillal, but parking, bathrooms, and showers are provided and the waves are not too overwhelming for kids and sunbathers.
From mid-November through mid-May the winds kick up around the coastal portions of Santa Rosa National Park kick up and windsurfing and kite boarding become popular adventures for visitors. If you are game and want to give either sport a try, the folks at Tico Wind (www.ticowind.com) or the Kitesurfing Center (www.suntoursandfun.com) will be happy to set you up. The prime spot for wind sports in the park is Playa Copal on the shores of the Bahia Salinas.
If you aren’t quite up to roughing it, you can book a room at the Ecoplaya Beach Resort near La Cruz, or at Los Inocentes Lodge near the Nicaraguan border. Rooms at Los Innocentes date back to 1890 and feature lots of wicker, large verandas with hammocks and great bird watching.
Ecoplaya Beach Resort offers a variety of room sizes (suites are recommended unless you are on a budget, since the smaller rooms can feel a bit cramped) and has kite boarding and windsurfing facilities on site. Ecoplaya is situated on a quiet beach, but in the winter the winds there become quite intense and create a steady howl, so travelers looking for a more typical beach resort vacation might want to look for a room farther south.
Whether you take up budget accommodations Santa Rosa National Park’s attractive campgrounds, set up base at a La Cruz resort or hotel, or stay farther south and make the park a day trip, you won’t want to miss this memorable slice of Costa Rican history and the gorgeous beaches that line its Pacific border.