(Barva Volcano sector): Although Barva Volcano has not been active for many millennia, it is in some ways more attractive than either of its neighbors in the Central Volcanic Cordillera, Poás and Irazú. Barva's dormancy has allowed the majestic highland forest to cover its misty summit, and thus, the associated wildlife is more abundant here than at the two aforementioned volcanoes. At 2906 meters above sea level at its highest point, Barva reaches 200 meters higher than Poás, yet does not approach the timberline as Irazú does at another 500 meters in elevation.
From the ranger station at the entrance to this sector of Braulio Carrillo National Park, there is a fairly flat 1.5-kilometer trail to the Laguna Barva, a rainwater filled lake inside a long-inactive crater. For the really intrepid (and well-prepared) hiker, there is a trail which descends down an elevational transect from the top of the volcano to a mere 35 meters above sea level at La Selva Biological Station -- in other words, an almost 3,000 meter drop in 60 kilometers of trail. This hike takes about four days and requires serious planning. Prior permission should also be obtained from the Park Service.
The epiphyte-laden cloud forests on top of Barva Volcano are home to many beautiful birds found only in the highlands, a few examples being the Resplendent Quetzal, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Flame-throated Warbler, and Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher.
Getting there: To drive all the way to the Barva Volcano ranger station, a four-wheel-drive vehicle with good clearance is necessary, otherwise you'll have to park about three kilometers down the hill from the station and walk up. Even getting that far, however, is not easy since the route is not well marked.
From San José, drive to Heredia and head north out of town towards Barva; from here, continue on to the villages of Birrí, Porrosatí, and Sacramento (where the pavement ends). The route winds up through coffee plantations and dairy farms and is quite scenic, but since there are several places where you could take a wrong turn, it's a good idea to ask directions frequently. The best way to see this part of Braulio Carrillo National Park is probably to use the services of an experienced local tour operator.
Climate: The high elevation of Barva Volcano means cool temperatures, so have several layers of clothing to be comfortable. From May through November, afternoon showers are a strong likelihood. It can be blustery and misty from December through February. March and April are the driest and calmest months, but even then you could get wet. Waterproof footwear is highly recommended.
History: The creation of the extension of Braulio Carrillo National Park from Barva Volcano down to the Atlantic lowlands, where the park abuts the La Selva Biological Station, was an ambitious achievement in tropical conservation. Declared a Protected Zone in 1982, this altitudinal transect of almost 3,000 meters in elevation was officially decreed as part of the park by the out-going President Luis Alberto Monge in 1986, after an international campaign had been successful in raising more than two million dollars for purchasing the 12,700 hectares of land in question.
The various life zones protected in this extension to the park are important not only as home to the plants and animals that are adapted to live in each of them, but also as seasonal home to the many creatures, particularly birds, that migrate up and down slopes within the tropics in search of food resources, especially flowering and/or fruiting plants.
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