Chirripó National Park, Cartago

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Chirripó National Park is shared among the provinces of Limón, San José and Cartago Costa Rica. It is located south of San José in the Talamanca mountain range and encompasses 124,000 acres of Costa Rica cloud forest, swamps, glacier lakes, fern groves and grasslands. The entrance to the park is located at San Gerardo de Rivas. The park is known for its impressive variety of ecosystems and for being home to the highest point in the county. Visitors to the park enjoy the unspoiled remoteness of the wilderness, as well as the beauty of the flora and fauna.

Things to do

Chirripó National Park offers some of the best Costa Rica hiking. The park is named for the tallest mountain in the country, Cerro Chirripó, where you can hike to 3,820 meters above sea level. The trail is 9 miles long and you can stay overnight at a refugio with bunks and limited electricity. The hike is rugged and demanding of moderate physical fitness, but no technical hiking skill or experience is required to summit. The views at the top of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean are worth the effort.

Other than the challenge of summiting the mountain, there are many opportunities to enjoy trails through a variety of ecological zones. The wildlife is varied and includes jaguars, pumas, peccaries, and monkeys. Birdwatching within the park is a rewarding diversion, with over 400 species known to habit the area including quetzals, tanagers, macaws, trogons and hummingbirds.

Plan Your Visit

In order to hike Cerro Chirripó you must have a hiking guide and reserve a permit online ahead of time. You will also need to make a reservation at the refugios for overnight accommodation.

Even if you are not hiking overnight, entrance to the park is limited. Only 60 visitors can be inside the park at one time, so arrive early to make sure you don’t have to wait long to get in.

The wet season in Costa Rica is from May to November, with a dry season from December to April. Any time is a good time to visit, but the weekends during the dry season are likely to be busier.

What to take

Bring binoculars to take advantage of the wildlife viewing. In both the wet and dry season the weather is prone to change quickly, so it is smart to have a hat, gloves and rain gear. At higher altitudes the sun poses a greater threat and sunscreen is always recommended.

Travel

By car from San José take the Pan American Highway east for 92 miles to San Isidro del General. Expect potholes. Driving at night is not recommended. Pass through town and turn south towards San Gerardo de Rivas. Bus service is available from San José to San Isidro (plan on 3 hours of travel) and from San Isidro to San Gerardo de Rivas.

Nearby

After enjoying what Chirripó National Park has to offer, you can also explore nearby attractions. La Amistad International Park is close by and has more hiking at its highest point, Cerro Kamuk. The preserve of over 1 million acres of Paraguayan and Costa Rican land is mostly wild.

A few miles from the entrance to the park in San Gerardo de Rivas there is a natural hot spring that attracts visitors to the Chirripó region. Swimming in the Rió Chirripó at any of its many access points in the area is also popular.

Visit Costa Rica

Whether it is to take on Costa Rica hiking or just to take in the beauty of the Costa Rica cloud forest, a beautiful expedition awaits you. Put Chirripó National Park on your list of locations to visit.