A largely undeveloped park, Braulio Carrillo National Park lies in the mountains 40 mi/65 km east of San Jose on the way to Limon, and is sometimes referred to as "the lungs of San Jose." Some of its beautiful yet rugged mountain scenery and waterfalls can be seen from the San Jose-to-Limon highway.
Few travelers make it to the park's interior, given the scarcity of trails and the rainy conditions (even beyond the rainy season). There are a few turnouts along the highway where you can stop for photos, but don't leave your car unattended; break-ins are a problem. The park is a haven for jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, anteaters and hundreds of species of birds.
Perhaps the easiest way to see Braulio Carrillo is from the Rain Forest Aerial Tram on its eastern border, near the town of Guapiles, about an hour's drive from San Jose. Open-air carriages carrying six passengers ascend into the canopy about 120 ft/40 m off the rain-forest floor.
The modified ski-lift system was developed by rain-forest research scientist and author Donald Perry and was reportedly installed with a minimum of disturbance to the forest. The project, which shares a border with the national park, preserved a rain forest that likely would have been logged. (Perry's system has been reproduced around the world in places such as Australia, Africa, Alaska, the Caribbean, Panama and elsewhere in Costa Rica.) The remote Rara Avis nature lodge, where the tram was conceived, is still open and a true adventure destination.
A local guide joins the passengers in each bucket for the ride. Make arrangements to ride the tram at dawn or dusk, when animals tend to be more visible. (During our ride, we saw many small birds and an eyelash viper.)
The park is open Tuesday-Sunday 6 am-3:30 pm and Monday 9 am-3:30 pm. Park entrance fees are CRC 3,500. The tram ride costs about 57,000 CRC but includes a guided trail hike through the forest. http://www.anywherecostarica.com/attractions/national-park/braulio-carrillo.
Overnight accommodations are available but need to be reserved in advance. Reserve tram rides a day in advance. Phone 506-2257-5961. Toll-free 866-759-8726 (from the U.S.). Fax 506-2257-6053. http://www.rainforestadventure.com.
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