Exploring the coast of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province, Santa Rosa National Park cruises feature treks through tropical forests in search of playful monkeys and elusive jaguars, snorkeling in crystal clear waters adjacent to turtle nesting sites, and learning about Costa Rica’s tumultuous past through visits to an important historical monument.
Located on the north Pacific Coast of Guanacaste and established in 1972, Santa Rosa National Park was Costa Rica’s first national park. It covers over 225 square kilometres (140 square miles) and encompasses ten distinct natural habitats, including mangroves, tropical forest and savannah. It’s known for its rich wildlife, including jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundi and cougars, as well as hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Cruises to Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica also include visits to La Casona, the site of several important battles throughout Costa Rican history and a monument to fallen soldiers.
Top things to do and see in the Santa Rosa National Park
Santa Rosa National Park is a frequent stop on Costa Rica small ship cruises and a favorite among adventure cruise itineraries, given its many opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking. Two of its beaches are especially popular for very different reasons: Playa Naranjo is known for world-class surfing, while Playa Nancite is a sea turtle nesting site. The park also contains much of the last dry tropical forest in the world, and is home to whitetail deer, collared peccary, olive ridley turtles and leatherback turtles, as well as several species of monkey, including spider monkeys, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins.
The Islas Murciélago, or Bat Islands, are known as one of the world’s top diving sites for those with the required experience. Located on the western end of Santa Rosa National Park, Islas Murciélago feature encounters with a variety of shark species, including huge bull sharks. The islands also act as a waterborne gateway to the national park.
Hacienda Santa Rosa, more popularly known as La Casona, is the site of important battles in Costa Rican history, starting with the famed Battle of Santa Rosa, in 1856, when Costa Rican forces defeated filibuster William Walker. Walker, an American lawyer, was a real life James Bond villain, intent on taking over five Central American countries, including Costa Rica. La Casona was the site of several later battles as Costa Rica fought back invaders from Nicaragua. Today the hacienda serves as a monument and small museum. There are also several enticing walking trails around the monument offering excellent views of the surrounding beaches and the Pacific beyond.
Top Tips for visiting the Santa Rosa National Park on a cruise
- Guanacaste is hot and dry, so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and wear sunglasses. Bring extra water for hikes.
- Pack good hiking shoes for the treks included as part of the cruise.
- Though many Costa Rica boat cruises provide snorkeling gear, bring your own to ensure availability and proper fit.
- Note that Isla Murciélago is considered an advanced dive spot. If your cruise includes the opportunity to dive the area, be sure to bring your certification to ensure access.
Best time to cruise the Santa Rosa National Park
There is no best time to visit Santa Rosa National Park, though plan ahead based on your interests and preferences.
Santa Rosa National Park in November to April is the dry season, when it is hot and sunny but the crowds may be bigger. The area is especially busy from December to April and during Easter Week, so be sure to book ahead for these periods.
Santa Rosa National Park in May to early November is the wet season, with more rain but smaller crowds and generally lower prices. Note that some Costa Rica cruises may not be available during this period.
The best time to see nesting turtles are January to March and October to December, though olive ridley turtles can be seen nesting almost year round and can be seen by the thousands.
Where do Santa Rosa National Park cruises depart from?
Typically, Costa Rica cruises that include Santa Rosa National Park depart from Puerto Caldera, Herradura or Puntarenas. Regardless of departure point, visitors will fly into San José’s Juan Santamaria International Airport, serviced by most major airlines. From the airport, transfers take visitors to their point of departure.
Only Costa Rica cruises that include Manuel Antonio National Park on their itinerary typically depart from Herradura.
Note that Costa Rica to Panama cruises may have differing departure points, particularly if leaving from Panama. Please check your chosen itinerary for specific details.
Please contact our reservations team to book your next adventure cruise to Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica.