Tapantí - Macizo Cerro de la Muerte National Park, Cartago

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What is the Cerro de la Muerte? It means the Mountain of Death. This highest peak in the Tapani Range became part of Costa Rica’s national park system in 2000. 583 square kilometers of rainforests surround the peak and protects an impressive collection of ecosystems.

The park is a crucial wildlife and bird refuge and a favorite location for amateur ornithologists. A paradise for birdwatchers, hundreds of different avian species live in the dense foliage, and about half of those specimens are unique to the area.

The park is also an essential wetland with over 150 rivers and waterfalls flowing through the area. The most important body of water is the Orosí River that runs down the middle of the park. Not only does this river support aquatic life in the area, but it's also important for Costa Rica’s hydroelectric power system.

Plan Your Trip

Camping is not allowed inside the boundaries of the park, but the La Esperanza de El Guarco Biological Station has enough lodging for up to 15 people. Facilities include running water, electricity, and showers. InBios manages the station, and you need to make reservations in advance if you plan to stay inside the park. Hotels are available just outside the boundaries.

The park has other day use facilities including picnic areas and a lookout point. It takes approximately 30 minutes to drive to the park’s entrance from Orosí. If you are traveling by bus from San José, take the route to Cartago. Then switch buses and ride the Orosí to Río Macho line. Expect to spend three hours traveling by public transit.

Things to Do

When you arrive, check out the small information center at the entrance to the park. Learn important details about the area, and look for recent notices posted by park rangers.

Marked hiking trails make navigating the rainforest on foot easy. The most extended path is about 4 kilometers long. Stay on the marked pathways to avoid getting lost.

Rent a kayak for the day and get out on the river. You can also swim if the weather is warm enough. Purchase a permit between April and October to fish the rivers and streams.

An Eco-Tourist Hotspot

Many enjoy the wild array of flora and fauna, and the biggest draw is the assortment of tropical birds inhabiting the area. You might need help spotting some of the wildlife. Dense foliage provides lots of hiding places, and an experienced guide shows you where to look. Researchers have cataloged the park’s diversity in 260 species of birds, 45 different species of mammals, 20 species of reptiles and 28 species of amphibians.

Bird lovers should look for the beautiful quetzal, hummingbirds, parakeets, and finches. Some birds of prey are also known to frequent the area, and you might be able to spot eagles or sparrowhawks.

Larger mammals roam freely through the forests. White-tailed deer are common, but you might also see tapir, ocelots, and howler monkeys. The rivers and wetland areas are full of rainbow trout, exotic reptiles, and amphibian species.

The terrain changes form as you travel along the paths. Four different ecological zones take shape each with unique characteristics. Low mountain pluvial forest, pre-mountain pluvial forest, mountain pluvial forest and pre-mountain forests. Be careful where you step and stay on the marked trails. Shifting geological features cause slides and changes in the terrain.

Come Prepared

The dry season is the best time of year to visit. Schedule your trip between January and April for the best experience, but rains come all year round. Plan for cold and wet conditions. Dress in layers and bring rain jackets and pants. You should also wear good hiking shoes and have enough food and personal supplies for the duration of your stay.