National Parks of Costa Rica



National Parks in the Central Valley


Guayabo National Monument

Telephone: (506) 2559 12 20

  • Size: 222 ha
  • Foundation: 1973
  • Admission: $ 6 (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 8am to 4pm
  • Dry Season: December - April

Costa Rica’s only archaeological site is located 18 kilometres from Turrialba, in Guayabo. The site is easily accessible by a track from the Turrialba-Santa Cruz road. A 4x4 car is strongly recommended. This place offers you the only possibility for an insight into the country’s pre-Columbian past (beside the National Museum in San José). A trail of 1.5 km leads through secondary forest to aqueducts, tombs and an interesting monolith. The central pieces of the park are the cobbled roads and the stone mounds on which the indigenous thatched-roof huts were built over 1000 years ago. The village was deserted for unknown reasons before the arrival of the Spaniards. To find out more about the historical backgrounds there are exceptionally helpful and well-informed volunteers to guide you around the site.

There is also a nature trail, which is neat but unspectacular if you are familiar with other National Parks in the country (there is only secondary forest). There are many quaint hotels in Turrialba to stay.

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Braulio Carillo National Park

Rio SucioTelephone: (506) 2290 19 73

  • Size: 47’752 ha
  • Foundation: 1978
  • Admission: $ 10 (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 8am to 4pm
  • Dry Season: December - April
  • Wildlife: quetzals, hummingbirds

Braulio Carillo lies only 20 km from San José and is easily accessible, as highway 32 to the Caribbean runs through a part of the park. Four ranger stations are mostly occupied, of which Carillo and Zurqui stations are within the easiest reach from the capital. There are various different life zones. The volcanic terrain and various soil types provide for a rich biodiversity. Over 330 bird species and 6’000 plant types are found in this widely unexplored park. The park is very important for water resources in the region and there are several rivers and waterfalls running through it. Braulio Carillo forms an important protected corridor from low to high-elevation rainforest that permits safe migration for many species.


The sector of dormant Volcan Barva is best accessed from Heredia and there is an interesting trail to Lago Barva. From Carillo station there are good trails for walks between 2-3 hours. Sendero Botorama leads to the famous Rio Sucio (called the “dirty river” due to its sulphurous colour) and back in 2 hours. Sendero Natural is a loop trail giving you a quick insight of the vegetation in the area. Note: As you can easily get lost, check at the ranger stations before entering the park, or hire an experienced guide.

On the edge of Braulio Carrillo, you can fly over the canopy with an attraction called "Aerial Tram" (cable wires). Contact us for closer details on these activities.

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Irazú National Park

Telephone: (506) 2551 93 98

  • Size: 2’428 ha
  • Foundation: 1955
  • Admission: $ 10 (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 8am to 3.30pm
  • Dry Season: December – April

This national park is home to Costa Rica’s highest volcano, Irazú, on an elevation of 3432 metres. It is close to Cartago and can be reached easily, as there is a paved road all the way to the summit (this is also a nice tour for bicycle aficionados). Irazú has four craters, the main crater being 1 km in diameter and 300 metres deep. It is still active and it sulphurous fumes and fumaroles provide a fascinating sight.

Around the volcano’s flanks the dairy industry is thriving, profiting from the rich volcanic soil. Unfortunately, this has affected the vegetation – which is only in its original state in areas that are difficult to access. Still, there are zones of tropical montane wet forest with many old, slow growing oaks. On a clear day one can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean from the summit (the best chances are early in the morning). Note that due to the altitude it can get quite cold on the summit; don’t forget bring warm clothes.

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Poás National Park

Telephone: (506) 2482 21 65

  • Size: 6’475 ha
  • Foundation: 1971
  • Admission: $ 10 (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 8.30am to 3.30pm (May-December); Monday to Thursday, 8am to 3.30pm, Friday to Sunday, 8am to 4.30pm (January-April)
  • Dry Season: December - April
  • Hiking: easily accessible and well marked trails

Poás Volcano is easily accessible: most of the way can be covered by car and there is a good asphalt trail for the final ascent. As the wildlife is comparatively sparse, one comes here mainly to see the huge crater and the flora of the cloud forest.
Poás, a “composite volcano” with nine craters, is one of the oldest volcanoes of the country and it has a long history of eruptions. Nowadays it is relatively calm. There are geyserlike activities and occasional rumbles occur. From the visitor’s centre one can reach the 800 metres to the main crater in 15 minutes. Early morning is the best time to get a good, cloudless view of the 300 metre deep crater with a diameter of 1300 m. At times, thermal activities produce steam plumes that can reach an altitude of 250 m. A shadowy path leads to a second crater (Lago de Botos). Parking places, souvenir shop, cafeteria and a small museum about the volcano.

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Chirripó National Park

Lake at Cerro ChirripoTelephone: (506) 2771 31 55

  • Size: 50’240 ha
  • Foundation: 1975
  • Admission: $15 per day (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 5am to noon
  • Dry Season: December – March

Chirripó National Park is home to Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó. One enters the park via San Gerardo Rivas, about 100 km south of San José. Hiking up to Chirripó is an astonishing experience because you literally see the vegetation shift as you walk. While at the beginning there is lush premontane and montane forest (cloud forest), the area close to the summit is the most northern version of the “paramo” life zone – which is typical for Andean high-elevation plains. In fact, there is a lot of vegetation that is otherwise only found in South America.

The hike up to the summit should only be undertaken by experienced and strong walkers. Count a minimum of 3 days for ascent and return. You have to carry enough provisions and warm clothes with you (the temperatures can fall below zero at night). The most common route begins at the base camp of Crestones (dormitories and showers), where you can overnight before the final ascent (camping is also allowed). The Sendero de los Indios trail on the other side is more remote and only advisable for tours accompanied by an experienced guide.
Note that the access to the park is limited to 40 persons per day. Book early ahead as the park is popular with gringos and ticos alike (as part of a package holiday we take care of this for you).

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La Amistad National Park

Telephone: (506) 2795 48 55

  • Size: 198’758 ha
  • Foundation: 1982
  • Admission: $ 10 (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 8am to 4pm
  • Dry Season: December – March
  • Hiking: many kilometres of marked and unmarked trails

La Amistad spreads along the Talamanca mountain range, bordering Chirripó National Park. This is the biggest National Park in Costa Rica, with extensions well over the Panamanian border. The park is an internationally renowned biological corridor between the two countries and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Access to the park is difficult and you will need a guide to find your way. But it is largely unvisited and will allow you unique discoveries. San Vito, 100 km southeast of San Isidro is the main hub to enter the park. There are three ranger stations, of which Progresso is the most accessible (30 km from San Vito). La Amistad Lodge, near the town of Mellizas, is a good hub to explore the 40 km of walking trails in the area. This part of the country is still remote and sparsely visited by tourists.

La Amistad Park comprises mainly mountainous area with premontane and montane rain forest. Temperatures can get very cold and the climate is quite moist (because the weather is influenced from the Caribbean coast). This is also the perfect are for hardcore hikers, planning to cross the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. Ask us for more information in order to hire a guide that will lead you the way (expect to walk 7-10 days to cross the Isthmus). To explore this region we recommend: the OTS Research Centre Las Cruces and Cuenca de Oro, both located in the vicinity of San Vito.

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Wilson Botanical Gardens

Telephone: (506) 2524 06 28

The Wilson Botanical Gardens in San Vito are a good combination for this area. All their plants are well labelled, offering a good introduction into tropical ecology. The palm collection with over 700 species and the abundance of birdlife are what visitors like best about the Wilson Gardens.

The San Vito Wetlands are a private preserve protecting lowland areas in the foothills of the Talamanca mountains. The small wetlands (44 ha) are to be found northeast of San Vito (towards Lourdes) and offer some opportunities to spot water birds.

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Tapantí Wildlife Refuge

Telephone: (506) 2551 29 70

  • Size: 4’715 ha
  • Foundation: 1982
  • Admission: $ 10 (non-residents)
  • Open daily, 5am to 5pm
  • Dry Season: January – March

Located near the town of Orosi, 20 km southeast of San José. This makes a good day trip from the capital as there are some short trails offering an insight into the vegetation of the refuge’s cloud forest. The nature is lush, as there can be up to 7000 mm of rainfall per year. An interesting plant to spot is the “poor man’s umbrella” (Gunnera insignis) – you cannot miss it due to its huge size.


Rio Grande Orosi is a great place for birding and some fly-fishers claim that this is a great spot for trout fishing. The park offers 3 very pleasant hiking trails, of which one is easy to walk.

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