This park is named alter the distinguished son of the motherland, Braulio Carrillo, third Head of State of Costa Rica. , is situated in one of the most rugged zones in the country. Almost all the countryside consists of high groups of volcanoes, densely covered in forests and furrowed by numerous swift flowing rivers that form deep canyons with sometimes vertical walls. The topography and high precipitation of around 4,500 mm per year give rise everywhere to countless waterfalls.
There are three volcanic edifices without any recorded activity in the park. The first is Barva at 2,906 m, which is a stratovolcano with several craters, two of which are occupied by the 70 m diameter Barva Lagoon and the 50 m La Danta or Copey Lagoon. The second is the 2,250 m conical Cacho Negro Hill that can be seen very well from the road that runs across the park. Thirdly, there are the Zurquí Hills, made up of a group of very steep former cones (as, for example, chompipe and El turú), which are visible northwest-wards as one enters the park from San José.
Most of this protected area is covered in dense evergreen primary forest thought to contain 6,000 species of plants. The highest forests and the richest in plant life are found in the lowest parts opposite the Caribbean plain. In general there are lots of heliconias (Heliconia spp.) palms, bromeliads and poor man's umbrellas (Gunnera insignis), unmistakeable for its enormous leaves.
There is an abundance of wildlife, especially birds; 347 bird species have been recorded, including the extremely beautiful quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), the curious umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis), which migrates altitudinally, the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and the clay coloured robin (Turdus grayi), which is the national bird. The variety of mammals is represented, in particular, by the large number of bats that live there. Frogs and toads are very numerous, especially in the Bajo de la Hondura area. The toad (Bufo holdridgei) is an endemic species common in the Barva Volcano and Bajos del Tigre areas.
On important historical feature in this park is the presence of the Braulio Carrillo Road. It is an arrangement of stones that describes a route more or less parallel to the present road, and formerly connected the Central Valley with the Caribbean Coast.
Braulio Carrillo Park is located in the Central Volcanic Cordillera. The San José to Puerto Limón road crosses it from northeast to southwest. This road offers excellent lookout points (not adequately marked) that provide visitors with views of the forest, waterfalls and river canyons. This protected area is divided into three sections. The main office is in Zurquí sector at Kilometre 20 on the San José to Limón road, 500 m before the Zurquí tunnel.
In this sector there is a circular path called Los Niños and one called Los Guarumos. The Quebrada González Sector offices are 13 km after the Zurquí tunnel, and there is also the Las Palmas Path. The Barva Sector offices are near Sacramento and the following paths exist: Principal, Laguna Barva, Laguna Copey, el Mirador, Poás Volcano and Sendero Secreto (Secret Path). Acess to the Barva Volcano is from Heredia via Barva, San José de la Montaña and Sacramento (23 km). In Quebrada González and Barva there are picnic areas with tables, toilets and drinking water. Quebrada González has an exhibition room.
There are bus services between San José and Guápiles which stop at the park offices in Zurquí and Quebrada González; and between Heredia and Porrosatí, a town 8 km form the offices in the Barva Sector. In San José and Heredia there are hotels, restaurants, and markets, and in Porrosatí there are grocery stores. For more information on this national park and on the Central Volcanic Cordillera Conservation Area, call (506) 290-8202.