Los Quetzales National Park, San José

Head south from San José and past Cartago along the Inter American Highway to skirt the northern edge of Los Quetzales National Park.

Formerly known as the Los Santos Reserve, Costa Rica reorganized the region as an official park in 2005. It is one of the best places for observing the country’s natural beauty and a top spot for eco-tourism.

The diversity of living things and easy access make it a popular destination for the country’s visitors, but serious students of natural sciences also find rewarding opportunities.

Trek Through Ecologically Diverse

The park is a wealth of ecological resources. It sits along the Talamanca mountain range and has an elevation of 2000-3000 feet. It is part of Costa Rica’s famous cloud forest system.

Researchers have identified three different types of rainforests and 14 distinct ecological zones each with their unique qualities in this national park. In all of Costa Rica there are 6 different kinds of forests.

Take a leisurely stroll through oak forests and find four different kinds of oak trees, visitors can also admire lagoons and wetland areas with bogs and amazing cloud forests with short trees and ferns covering the mountainside. There are several trails through the park that take you to the different regions.

Obtain a trail map before you arrive, and always stay on the marked paths to avoid getting lost or injured.

Discover the Queztals

The park gets its name from its most prodigious inhabitant. A quetzal is a tropical bird with distinctive green and red plumage. Known for their long tails and bright colors, these birds are the main draw for amateur ornithologists.

Mating seasons is the best time to see them in action. Trail guides point out nesting grounds where you can watch the brightly colored males compete for the attention of females. This lively display happens between February and July and corresponds with Costa Rica’s drier weather through the year.

Other exotic wildlife species live in the forest, and you may catch a glimpse of mysterious creatures on your visit such as species of birds like hummingbirds, trogons, colibri, and tanagers. Also, visitors can admire sometimes wildcats like the puma, jaguar, and ocelots. Some other mammals like sloths, white-tail deers, otters and anteaters call this place home.

Some of these species are endangered, and the park provides a safe zone for them to roam freely. The larger animals often hide in the dense ferns and ground covering of the forest.

Visitors should stay on the marked trails to avoid unexpected encounters or causing damage to habitats.

The Water Ways of Costa Rica

The basin of the Savegre River sits in the middle of the park. This critical river feeds water to lowlands as it travels out towards the coast. It supports the ecosystems and agriculture of the entire region and is critical to all inhabitants.

As a visitor, you may find small streams and waterfalls feeding into this critical river system. Swimming and fishing are permitted inside the park. If you are adventurous, hire a rafting tour and ride the rapids for extra thrills.

You may also rent a kayak and paddle along the river stopping to explore as you go.

Plan for Your Trip

Los Quetzales is one of the newer national parks in Costa Rica.

While the county dedicated resources to developing and protecting the region, some projects remain incomplete, and staffing is limited. You need to be ready to fend for yourself.

Aside from the visitor center and parking lot, there are no facilities in the park for tourists. Find restrooms and water at this site before heading deeper into the park. Carry everything you expect to need with you.

Dress comfortably for a day with rugged shoes for walking. January through April are the dry seasons in Costa Rica, but rain can happen at any time.

Wear layered clothing and keep a hat and jacket with you just in case things turn chilly or wet.

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Where to Stay near Los Quetzales National Park

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Things to Do near Los Quetzales National Park