Cave exploration is an exciting adventure activity

Stalactite in Barra Honda's caves
Stalactite in Barra Honda's caves

When you think of caves, you probably picture them deep underground. They’re cold, damp, dark and maybe have a bat or two. That’s where most of them begin, beneath the earth where they are carved over time by water and nature. For spelunking (cave exploration) at one of the best Costa Rica caves, you should look up, to Barra Honda Peak in the Nicoya Peninsula. That is where you’ll find the Nicoya cave, which was indeed formed underground, but moved upward as the earth shifted over millions of years. Today the peak stands about 1,000 feet above ground in Barra Honda, one of the unique sites among Costa Rica National Parks.

Barra Honda National Park

Stalagmites jut up from cave floors as stalactites thrust down from the ceilings in more than 40 limestone caves in Barra Honda National Park, only half of them explored to date. Although known to the aborigines, they went undiscovered by modern residents until the late 1960s, before which time experts thought the central peak to be a volcano. Along with unique ceilings and floors, park caves offer visitors a view of ancient marine fossils and a glimpse of the individual bat species that live below ground.

Setting the Stage for Exploration

The distant sounds of rushing rivers and crashing waterfalls help set the mood to explore area caves, which range in depth from several feet to about 800 feet. One of the more notable caves to visit here is the high-rising Nicoya, which contains burial sites and has yielded discoveries of pre-Columbian artifacts and jewelry. The Pozo Hediondo is another one to visit if you don’t mind bats, and the Terciopelo is where you’ll find the most substantial number of formations. Another cave worth a look is the Santa Ana, which reaches the deepest underground.

Be Prepared for Spelunking

You should be up for a physical challenge if you want to explore the caves at Barra Honda, where some are accessible only with the use of pulley harnesses. Since you’ll need equipment anyway and because it’s not safe to go it alone, consider joining a guided expedition. The passages can be a little close and somewhat narrow at Barra Honda, so take this as a warning if you are claustrophobic.

Venado Caverns Are Great for Beginners

If you’re not up for the challenge of Barra Honda, head to the Venado Caverns near Arenal Volcano, which are more appropriate for beginners. The terrain here is a little easier to manage, and the passages are not as close and confining. Spelunkers can enjoy views of seashells that still lie in the ground and a gigantic brain coral that in one of the main cave chambers.

Ready to Join a Spelunking Expedition?

Are you a spelunker? Would you like to be? Cave exploration is an exciting activity that continues to grow in popularity in Costa Rica, a land of never-ending beauty and adventure. Known for diverse habitats, wildlife and some of the best adventure travel on the planet, this Central American country offers visitors another great way to become acquainted with its attractions through spelunking. There are several cave sites across the nation, which was still mainly underwater when caves began to take shape more than 20 million years ago.

Plan Cave Explorations Around the Weather

Make sure you can enjoy the spelunking adventure of your choice by planning ahead for Costa Rica weather. Spelunking is not available during rainy seasons when caves close due to flood risks. For the Nicoya Peninsula and the Barra Honda National Park, the rainy season begins in May and lasts until November. For the Arenal Volcano and Venado Caverns, the rainy season is December to April.