Guanacaste

Area
Approx. 80,300 acres
Precipitation 70 – 120 inches annually
Location Guanacaste Province 10.830°N   85.324°W
Date of Creation 9 July 1991

 

 

Cacao Sector

Park Attractions

Cacao Volcano Guanacaste National Park

Cacao Volcano Guanacaste National Park

Steep terrain surrounding the Cacao Volcano transitions from dry tropical forest in the lowlands to cloud and rain forest in the higher altitudes. Trails through the forest and to the summit. The fire lookout station at Pedregal hill offers a panoramic view of the Costa Rica countryside.

 

Driving Directions

Cacao Dorm Guanacaste National ParkFrom San Jose, take the Interamerican highway to Liberia.

Continue on the Interamerican highway past Liberia about 20 miles to Potrerillos. Turn right and drive 6 miles to Quebrada Grande, then left and follow the Park  signs.
 

Park Facilities and Hours

The Biological Station at Cacao Sector is open 24 hours with visitor attention from 8am to 4pm. Dormitory style lodging of four rooms with a capacity of 32 people, 4 restrooms and 2 showers. Caretaker on-site, kitchen and dining hall for researchers and groups.
 

Maritza Sector

 

Park Attractions

Archaeology Guanacaste National Park Costa RicaThis sector protects the headwaters of several important rivers at the continental divide. The biological station conducts research in aquatic biology and insects, under the direction of the Stroud Water Research Center. Costa Rica. Archaeological interests include hundreds of petroglyphs scattered around an extensive area.
 

Driving Directions

Maritza Biological Lab Guanacaste National ParkFrom San Jose, Costa Rica, take the Interamerican highway to Liberia.

Continue on the Interamerican highway past Liberia and through Potrerillos. A few miles before you reach Colonia Bolanos, turn to the right and follow the Park  signs.

 
Park Facilities and Hours

Lodging Guanacaste National ParkThe Biological Station at Maritza Sector is open 24 hours with visitor attention from 8am to 4pm. Dormitory style lodging of four rooms with a capacity of 32 people, showers and bathrooms, electricity. Large research lab and classroom.




Pitilla Lab Guanacaste National Park Costa Rica
 
 

Pitilla Sector

 
Park Attractions

Largely unexplored rain forest area with biological diversity. Trails to Orosilito Hill and Orosi Volcano.

Driving Directions

From San Jose, Costa Rica,  take the Interamerican highway to Liberia.

Continue on the Interamerican highway past Liberia and through Potrerillos. A few miles before you reach La Cruz, turn to the right and drive 20 miles to Santa Cecilia. From there turn right and go 1 mile, then turn right again and follow the Park signs


Pitilla Sector
 (cont’d)


Park Facilities and Hours

The Station at Pitilla Sector is open 24 hours with visitor attention from 8am to 4pm. Two room dormitory with 20 beds, three showers and restrooms, no electricity. Laboratory and classrooms.



Tropical Dry Forest Research Center



Tropical Dry Forest Research Center Guanacaste


Park Attractions

Conference Room Guanacaste National Park Costa RicaAdministration building and offices for the ACG (Guanacaste Conservation Area). Laboratories, documentation center, and conference hall.

 


Driving Directions

From San Jose, take the Interamerican highway to Liberia.

Continue on the Interamerican highway. A few miles after you pass through Potrerillos, you will find the Research Center near the entrance to the Santa Rosa Sector.


Park Facilities and Hours

Dormitory style lodging for up to 64 people. Dining area, electricity, water, laundry,  telephone, fax and photocopying.

National Parks of Costa Rica
 

Área de Conservación Guanacaste

The ACG is a permanently conserved, government-owned wildlands in northwestern Costa Rica that is climatically, hydrologically, ecologically, and taxonomically diverse. 

The Área de Conservación (ACG) in northwestern Costa Rica is a large (113,000 terrestrial hectares or ~2% of Costa Rica, with an additional 43,000 marine hectares), permanently conserved, government-owned wildlands in northwestern Costa Rica that is climatically, hydrologically, ecologically, and taxonomically diverse. Its environments range from extensive dry forest in the lowlands and foothills near the Pacific Ocean to cloud forest atop the mountains and rain forest on the Caribbean foothills.

In 1999, the ACG was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site representing the best dry forest habitats from Central America to northern Mexico. ACG is also the site of the largest forest restoration project in the tropics, with the ultimate goal of reestablishing a major tropical dry forest wildland from large remnants of pristine forest and reclaimed pasturelands.

Today, the ACG is a mosaic of successional stages — most mid-elevation (i.e., 200-500 m a.s.l.) hill slopes are still open grasslands/savannahs while other areas have already developed young forests. Extensive changes in species composition and productivity are expected as trees grow and early colonizing species are replaced by slow dispersing and shade tolerant species.

Forest regeneration will make the ACG watersheds not only invaluable biodiversity resources, but irreplaceable reference points for understanding the ecology of former dry forest landscapes that surround the  ACG and are being converted and managed as multi-purpose agroforests.


Rivers and streams of the Área de Conservación Guanacaste. 

At a time when tropical habitats are increasingly deforested and fragmented, this represents a unique research opportunity to study 100s of kilometers of streams flowing beneath a dry forest canopy.

With the backdrop of a natural and successional mosaic, we established the small to intermediate size streams of the ACG as a LTREB site in the Central American, tropical forest. We will address hypotheses regarding the response of stream ecosystems to large-scale, passive restoration of tropical forests, and to a steep moisture gradient (with spatial and temporal components). These hypotheses build upon the long-term database that Stroud Water Research Center has established for ACG streams, especially near Estación Biológica Maritza.

Maritza Biological Station (Estación Biológica Maritza)

In early 1988 Stroud Water Research Center began to transform a small farm into a biological field station (i.e., Maritza, at 10º 57´ 25″ N, 85º 29´ 42″ W, 590 m), the only research station in the ACG devoted to understanding tropical streams and their watersheds. This location was chosen because provides easy access to numerous permanent and intermittent streams that drain watersheds on the slopes of Volcán Orosí (1450 m a.s.l.) and Volcán Cacao (659 m a.s.l.). These dormant volcanoes define the northern limit of the Cordillera de Guanacaste.

Vegetation immediately adjacent to and upslope of Maritza is characteristic of mid-elevation tropical dry forest that is semi-deciduous during the dry season. Read more about Maritza’s vegetation below.


 

Stroud Center staff quickly set up research projects and worked with local officials to design and construct the research and living facilities. Under an innovative “debt-for-nature” swap orchestrated by The Nature Conservancy and the Costa Rican government, the Stroud Foundation and the Stroud family and friends provided the funds to construct and equip five buildings on the site.

When President Rafael Calderón dedicated Maritza as a permanent research facility in 1991, Stroud Center staff already had intensive long-term investigations under way on six streams that drain the area’s virgin forest.

The ongoing research at Maritza includes detailed studies of hydrology, biogeochemistry, microbiology, organic chemistry, organic food inputs, population and community ecology, pesticide analyses and genetics.

In the process of pursuing our ecological questions and the assistance of our colleagues in aquatic insect systematics, we have discovered numerous new species and associated named adults with previously undescribed larval stages that live in these streams.

Our work on pristine streams near Maritza forms a baseline foundation from which we are now asking fundamental questions about streams in other environments throughout Costa Rica.

Climate at Maritza

Climatic diversity is a major contributor to the large diversity of ecosystems found in the ACG. They range from the cool moist cloud forests atop the mountains that separate the hot, dry (<1000 mm rain per year) plains near the Pacific ocean and the warm wet (>3000 mm of rain per year) lowland rain forests of the Caribbean.


Seasonal climate data at Maritza Biological Station, 1990-2006.

Based on data from 1990-2006, Maritza has a strong seasonal climate — total rainfall averaged 2748 mm/yr (9 feet/yr), with 93% of total precipitation occurring during an ~8-month wet season (May-Dec; > 100 mm rain per month) and only 7% during a 4-month dry season (Jan-Apr). Sep (460 mm) and Oct (472 mm) are the wettest months and Mar (23 mm) and Apr (29 mm) are the driest months. Air temperature also exhibited a seasonal pattern, albeit not as dramatic as for rainfall. Maximum air temperature at Maritza averaged 27.2ºC (81ºF) while minimum air temperature averaged 20.4ºC (69ºF), a difference of only 6.8ºC (12ºF). Apr (max= 29.5ºC; min= 20.8ºC) and May (max= 28.7ºC; min= 21.1ºC) were the warmest months while Dec (max= 25.5ºC; min= 19.9ºC) and Jan (max =25.6ºC; min= 18.9ºC) were the coolest months.

Wind velocity has not been measured, but can be extremely high during the dry season months of January through March. These winds reflect an orographic interaction between the northeast trade winds and the Cordillera de Guanacaste.

Meterological data were collected manually at Maritza with daily records of maximum and minimum air temperature and total precipitation (24 h period beginning at 0700 h). Daily air temperature and precipitation (collected manually) span 1990 to present. Air temperature and precipitation at Santa Rosa are also available from the ACG (1979-present),  while the Stroud Water Research Center has collected precipitation data (1998-present) and air temperature (2006-present) at San Cristóbal between Volcán Cacao and Volcán Rincón de la Vieja.

Vegetation at Maritza


Vegetation of the ACG.

Vegetation immediately adjacent to and upslope of Maritza is characteristic of mid-elevation tropical dry forest that is semi-deciduous during the dry season; vegetation at higher elevations in the watersheds transition into rain and cloud forests. Lowland dry forests are almost completely deciduous while higher elevation rain and cloud forest are evergreen.

There are no visible signs of anthropogenic disturbance in the primary forest above Maritza. Much of the land downslope from the station has been cleared and was maintained as grazing land by annual burning until inclusion in the Parque Nacional Guanacaste in 1987. Even in these cleared areas, mature riparian forests were traditionally maintained along most perennial and ephemeral stream corridors.

Stream Research and Data

Estación Maritza is located near the banks of the Río Tempisquito, and within easy walking distance of five other permanent streams that are all tributaries of the Río Tempisque.

These streams have been the focus of many of our studies of stream ecology and biogeochemistry. Our efforts have also extended to permanent and temporary streams near other research facilities such as Santa Rosa, Cacao, San Cristóbal, and Pitilla.


Dormitory at Maritza, with Volcán Orosí

The facilities at Maritza include two research laboratories dedicated to stream research, two large, multi-purpose classrooms, and a dormitory that can house 32 people in four large rooms, with showers and bathrooms. Potable water and electricity (110 v) are continuously available. Contact with ACG officials is maintained by radio and cellular telephone. No public telephone and internet access are provided. The nearest medical hospital is in Liberia.

Students, teachers, researchers, and ecotourists are all welcome for day and overnight visits to Maritza. However, visits require permission of the ACG and reservations. This helps insure the availability of support staff and dormitory and dining facilities, and safe journeys to and from this remote station.