The Santa Rosa National Park was founded in the year 1972, one of the oldest national parks of Costa Rica. Initially the park was created to commemorate the Battle of Santa Rosa. In 1856 William Walker and his troops were defeated in a bloody combat, they were forced to return to Nicaragua. Subsequent there was another battle in Nicaragua, in which Juan Santamaria set the fortress of the invaders on fire. He was a drummer boy from Alajuela who later died from injuries incurred during that last battle at Rivas.
Costa Rica's leading airport, the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José is named after him and April 11th is a national holiday.
In 1955 Santa Rosa was once again the site of battles when Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, crossed the border in an attempt to overthrow the Costa Rican government. Somoza and his troops were beaten but 42 people lost their live in this battle.
The park is divided in two sections, in the South the Santa Rosa sector and in the North the Murcielago sector. The latter includes the whole peninsula of Santa Elena. Abandoned tanks from Anastasio Somozas troops are rusting away at the entrance of the San Rosa sector.
6 kilometers further stands the "La Casona", as well known as "Hacienda Santa Rosa". Inside is a museum with photos from the historic events that took place at this location. This is one of the most visited places in the park, because the Costa Rican independency and democracy where defended here.
One of the hiking trails that starts here is the „Naked Indian Trail". The name originates from the medium-sized, red trees the "Naked Indian Trees".
The trail leads through a cave where several different bat species have their habitat. Later one reaches a river bed, which almost dries out completely in the dry season. This is a good location to observe animals like peccaries, coatis and tapirs.
Passing the "Hacienda Santa Rosa" one reaches Playa Naranjo and Playa Nancite. Therefor one needs an all-wheel-drive vehicle, especially in the rainy season! The way back from the beach, uphill, is more difficult than driving down.
Playa Nancite is a nice bathing beach and an important turtle nesting area. From September till November thousand of sea turtles bury their eggs on this beach. Manly the olive ridley turtles, but as well green sea turtles and the big leatherback turtles. Observing the turtles at night when they come on shore is only permitted accompanied with a guide. Playa Naranjo is famous for its perfect waves amongst surfers. Across from the gray beach one can see the legendary Witches Rock emerging out of the ocean. Camping is permitted in the park, but here have been some problems in the past because the administration was afraid that too many surfers would endanger the natural balance of the park. Especially the number of boats the bring surfers from near by surf camps to Witches Rock have increased. Meantime a maximum permitted number of surfers have been established.
The Murcielago Sector forms the northern part of the San Rosa National Park. The "Hacienda Murcielago" was owned by the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza's family before being expropriated in 1979. This was the site for Oliver North's secret airstrip that was built to supply the contras.
Playa Portrero Grande offers excellent conditions for surfers. This surf spot, Ollie’s Point, is part of the legendary surf movie Endless Summer 2! The beach has to be reached by boat. In the close by villages one can usually organize a trip or get a lift from a fisher man.
A bit further out in the ocean are the Islas Murcielagos, a great spot for divers. Dive boats leave from Coco Beach and dive trips can be easily arranged in town. Bull sharks, whale sharks and tiger sharks can be observed while diving.
The Santa Rosa National Park has a lot to offer and shouldn't be missed.