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Natural History Visitors – Palo Verde

General information

Palo Verde is one of the most important sanctuaries in Central America for migrating and resident species of waterfowl. Visitors will discover the natural beauty of the tropical dry forest and the magnificent wetlands, a rich mosaic that encompasses 15 different habitats.

During most of the year, the marshes, which can be seen from the station and reached within a few minutes’ walk, provide shelter for herons, storks, egrets, grebes, ibis, ducks, jacanas, and other waterfowl and web-footed birds, many of which are migratory.

In 1968, the Palo Verde area was chosen as a dry forest site for an OTS project on comparative ecosystem studies, which was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. This area is one of the few in Central America with remnants of tropical dry forest.

Due to the seasonal concentration of wading birds in its wetlands and the protection of last remnants of neotropical dry forest, the government of Costa Rica declared the site as a National Wildlife Refugee in 1977. In 1980, an adjacent property was aggregated to the conservation unit, and since then both the wildlife refugee and the new propriety have formed what today is known as Palo Verde National Park. The park has a total extension of 19,800 Ha.

Before becoming a national park, Palo Verde had been a cattle ranch for more than 50 years. It is believed that heavy grazing, along with seasonal fires, were instrumental in keeping the seasonal wetland free of invading plant species, such as cattails.

In 1991, the park was included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance due to: 1) playing an important hydrological, biological, and ecological role in the functioning of the Tempisque River Watershed and the Gulf of Nicoya, located 20 km downstream; 2) being a rare wetland within its biogeographic region; 3) having special value for the maintenance of genetic and ecological diversity in the region; 4) serving as valuable habitat for critical periods in the biological cycles of plant and animal species; and 5) hosting on a regular basis a population of over 20,000 waterfowl including many migratory species such as black-bellied whistling ducks (dendrocygna autumnalis), blue-winged teals (anas discors), American wigeons (anas americana), northern shovelers (anas clypeata), and ring-necked ducks (aythya collaris).

Palo Verde Highlights

  • Palo Verde is one of the last remnants of dry forest of the neotropics. There are more than twenty endangered hardwood tree species are protected.

  • The seasonal Palo Verde wetland is considered one of the most important marshes in Central America.

  • It is an important refuge site for resident and migratory waterfowl.

  • Palo Verde’s wetland is a Ramsar site.

  • Large numbers of aquatic birds can be seen: Grebes, Cormorants, Anhingas, Herons, Jabiru Storks, Ibises, Spoonbills , Falcons, Caracaras, Jacanas, and many more.

  • The mammal fauna is equally rich and visible, particularly during the dry season when peccaries, armadillos, Yaguarundis, coatis, agoutis, deers, and monkeys are attracted to the water holes.

  • Since 2001, OTS, MINAE, and the National Program for Wetlands have been working closely on the restoration of the wetland.

  • More than 60 species have come back and used this marsh for feeding, resting, and reproduction.

  • This is the home of the Mexican burrowing toad, an endangered species which lives underground and only comes out for mating in the early wet season.

  • More than sixty species of bats have been reported including the great false vampire.

  • Isla Pájaros in the Tempisque River is the most important nesting colony for wading birds in northwest Costa Rica. Eleven resident bird species and some 3,000 individuals altogether nest there late in the wet season.

  • The Tempisque River has one of the largest concentrations of crocodiles in Costa Rica.

  • Along the Tempisque River, within mangrove forests, nesting colonies of boat-bill heron, little-blue herons, and yellow-crowned herons are easily spotted among other species.

Facilities

  • Enjoy our rustic cabins with private bath, bunk beds, and fan. We also have dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds and shared baths.
  • Dining room. Vegetarian food is a daily option, and we can accommodate most dietary restrictions. Requests for take-away meals can also be honored with advanced notice. Please inform us of any dietary restrictions (i.e. vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.) when registering.
  • Trails (entrance fee must be paid in cash to the rangers when entering the national park)
  • Other amenities include free Wi-Fi and free parking

Climate

The annual mean temperature is 81°F (27°C) with a maximum of 99°F (37°C) during the dry season. Palo Verde is classified as tropical dry forest with an annual mean precipitation of 1500-2000 mm, distributed between June and November. The dry season months are from December to April. The rainy season begins in May and lasts until the end of November.

Species list

If you want to know more about the species list that you can to find at the research station, please click here.

Location

Zone: Parque Nacional Palo Verde, Bagaces, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Distance from San José: 230 km; 4.5 hours. The station is within the Palo Verde National Park on the Pacific slopes of Guanacaste Province in northwestern Costa Rica (10° 21′ N, 85° 21 W). The 20,000-hectare park has seasonally dry forest on limestone outcrops and extensive wetland vegetation bordering the Tempisque River that flows into the Gulf of Nicoya.
Getting there: Palo Verde Research Station is located in the Province of Guanacaste, 1 hour southwest of Bagaces on an unpaved road (28 km, 17 miles). From San José, it is 4.5 hours; from Puntarenas, 3 hours; and from Liberia, 1.5 hours. To get there, take Route 1 (Carretera Interamericana) north from San José (follow signs towards Nicaragua) to Bagaces. Once you arrive at Bagaces, go southwest on the unpaved road opposite to the gas station. The gravel road is rough and requires slow travel. You will encounter several forks in the road, follow signs.
Phones: San José Tel. + (506) 2524-0607 (ext. 1340), Fax. + (506) 2524-0608
Palo Verde Tel. + (506) 2661-4717, Fax. + (506) 2661-4712
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Palo Verde Research Station, Costa Rica

Image gallery

Guided Walks

GUIDED WALKS ARE SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY. IF INTERESTED, PLEASE INQUIRE WHEN MAKING RESERVATIONS.

Talks give participants a glimpse into this endangered ecosystem as well as the research, education, and conservation activities carried out by the Organization for Tropical Studies at Palo Verde in conjunction with the National Parks System. Guided walks, when available, last two hours each and lead participants through the dry deciduous forests, limestone cliffs, and marsh.

Boat Tours

The Tempisque River is brackish water lined with a variety of species of mangroves and different invertebrates and vertebrates that depend on it. The river tour consists of two parts: Charco (up river) and Bird Island (down river). You have a choice of which one you would like to do. Each is unique in habitat and species richness.

Hiking

If you love to walk and get in some scenic views, we have four different trails that will definitely be worth the effort. You must be sure to take water, comfortable hiking boots, and, of course, a camera. Maps of these trails are also available.

Workshops/Lectures 

Do not forget to ask about our workshops and lectures on a variety of different topics with a focus on flora and fauna of the surrounding tropical rain forest.

Custom Designed Itineraries

We can help to design a custom day-by-day itinerary based on your wishes and preferences.

Things to take

You should bring all necessary prescription medicines, lightweight and fast drying hiking boots, hot weather clothes, insect repellent, umbrella or rain jacket, flashlight, binoculars, sunscreen, camera and film, extra batteries, and plastic bags to keep film/paper dry. Please take into consideration there is no a gift shop.

Read our Reservations
and Cancellation Policies

Our rooms:

 

Entrance fee to Palo Verde National Park – USD$12

Palo Verde Research Station does not administer or manage the national park.  Please be aware that the entrance fee must be paid in CASH to the rangers and always by the costumer. The national park’s administration has a schedule from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm (without exceptions).

**Rates subject to change by SINAC**

 

Regular Season
(from December 15, 2018 to April 30, 2019 and June 1 to August 31, 2019)

Standard Room – Full Board

Single occupancy $88
Double occupancy $168
Additional person $62
5-12 years old children $36
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: lodging and full room and board. The meal schedule is breakfast from 6:30 am to 7:30 am, lunch from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, and dinner from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm – CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm

 

Standard Room – Breakfast only

Single occupancy $61
Double occupancy $116
Additional person $42
5-12 years old children $25
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: lodging and breakfast. Breakfast is served from 6:30 am to 7:30 am. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm – CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm. Please take into consideration that we are inside of a governmental national park. There is no a gift shop or restaurant on site. You must drive approximately one hour to the next town, so we suggest to purchase the full board package. The rangers monitor the main gate, not OTS, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm without exceptions every day.

 


Green Season
(valid for May, September, October, November, Dec 1 to 14, 2019)

Standard Room – Full Board

Single occupancy $69
Double occupancy $130
Additional person $49
5-12 years old children $28
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: lodging and full room and board. The meal schedule is breakfast from 6:30 am to 7:30 am, lunch from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, and dinner from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm – CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm

 

Standard Room – Breakfast only

Single occupancy $48
Double occupancy $90
Additional person $34
5-12 years old children $19
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: lodging and breakfast. Breakfast is served from 6:30 am to 7:30 am. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm – CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm. Please take into consideration that we are inside of a governmental national park. There is no a gift shop or restaurant on site. You must drive approximately one hour to the next town, so we suggest to purchase the full board package. The rangers monitor the main gate, not OTS, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm without exceptions every day.

 


Guided walks
(from December 15, 2018 to December 14, 2019)
**GUIDED WALKS ARE NOT AVAILABLE, ASK FOR AVAILABILITY WITH RESERVATIONS**

Regular Short Walk, 2-10 people $34
Regular Short Walk, children (5-12 years old) $23
Notes: Rates per person in US Dollars, taxes included. Please take into consideration that the time of the walk might change according to weather. Available hours are 8:00 am or 3:00 pm. Enjoy and learn about the amazing natural history of the tropical dry forest and its flora and fauna.

 

Early Birding Tour, 1 person $90
Early Birding, children 5-12 years old $34
Early Birding, 2-10 people $54
Notes: Avifauna of Palo Verde at 5:45 am, 2-hour birding tour. Rates per person in US Dollars, taxes included, subject to availability. Birding tours must be coordinated when you make your reservations.

 

Nocturnal Wildlife Walk, 1 person $90
Nocturnal Wildlife Walk, 2-10 people $54
Nocturnal Wildlife Walk, children 5-12 years old $34
Notes: A 2-hour night tour to observe the research station wildlife at 7:00 pm. Rates per person in US Dollars, taxes included, subject to availability. Birding tours must be coordinated when you make your reservations or at the front desk (before 5:00 pm). Remember to bring your own flashlights.

 

Boat tour Tempisque River, 2-4 people $64
Boat tour Tempisque River, 5-37 people $51
Boat tour Tempisque Riverm, children 5-12 years old $40
Notes: A 2-hour boat tour without a guide but with an experienced captain. Rates per person in US Dollars, taxes included, subject to availability. Birding tours must be coordinated when you make your reservations or at the front desk (before 5:00 pm). Available hours are 7:30 am, 10:30 am, or 1:30 pm.

For boat tour reservations: Please take into consideration that we are inside of a governmental national park. The rangers monitor the main gate, not OTS, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm without exceptions every day. As a day visitor, the only option is at 10:30 am.

***Rates are subject to change***

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OTS´s commercial activities are handled by ESINTRO, S.A.
For information and reservations: visit.ots@tropicalstudies.org
Costa Rica (506) 2524-0607 (ext. 1340) | Fax (506) 2524-0608
United States (919) 684 5774 | Fax (919) 684 5661

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