Hiking in Costa Rica
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore Costa Rica. Costa Rica offers many national parks and reserves with miles of trails for all skill levels from easy, family-friendly trails to more challenging multi-day excursions. Somo popular destinations include Cerro Chirripó which is the highest mountain in the country, Monteverde Cloud Forest and the Corcovado National Park. Many local tour operators provide guided hikes with knowledgeable guides who can provide insight into the flora, fauna, and history of the region.
Corcovado National Park
Located on the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is the largest park in Costa Rica. It encompasses the only remaining old growth wet forests on the Pacific coast of Central America, and 13 major ecosystems including lowland rain forest, highland cloud forest and mangrove swamps, as well as coastal marine and beach habitats. Corcovado National Park has several trails within the park that vary in difficulty and length. With a guided tour of the park you will be able to access more difficult trails, as well as gain valuable insight into the local flora and fauna. There is a good chance of spotting some of Costa Rica’s shyest and most endangered inhabitants here; Baird’s Tapirs, Jaguars, Scarlet Macaws, Harpy Eagles, Red-backed squirrel monkeys and White-lipped Peccaries.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Located along the Cordillera de Guanacaste, this park features two volcanoes, Rincón De La Vieja volcano and the Santa Maria volcano along with waterfalls and hot springs. There are various hiking trails for all different levels and two different sectors to choose from, the Santa Maria sector or the Las Pailas sector. The park is home to some wildly unique creatures including 300 different species of birds, the white-nose coati, agouti, and the nine-banded armadillo.
Santa Rosa National Park
This dry tropical forest is home to a variety of species such as the white-tailed deer, howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys. Inside the park there are two beaches: Naranjo and Nancite where Olive Ridley sea turtles nest. This area also has historical importance because of the Santa Rosa Battle that took place back in 1856. Some of the popular trails in the park include the Corobicí Trail, the Lomas Trail, the Las Pailas Trail, the Santa Rosa Trail and the La Cangreja Trail. All of these trails offer spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and are great for wildlife spotting. The park also offers guided hiking tours that provide a great way to learn more about the local flora, fauna, and history of the park.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is located on the Tilarán mountain range in northern Costa Rica at an elevation of 1500 meters above sea level. You will encounter lush evergreen vegetation and rich biodiversity and a variety of trails offering different landscapes and terrains. The Monteverde Nature Center offers trails that are suitable for novice hikers, including a nature trail, an orchid trail and a butterfly garden. Monteverde is also home to the iconic Sky Walk, a suspended bridge that allows visitors to traverse the treetops of the cloud forest.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is home to one of the best-known hiking trails in Costa Rica. The Sendero El Mirador is a challenging but rewarding hike that begins at the entrance of the park and winds its way along the coast, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and passing through lush rainforest. Along the way, hikers may spot monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and other wildlife. The trail eventually leads to the Mirador lookout point, where hikers can rest and take in the sweeping views of the coastline. The hike can be completed in 2-3 hours, depending on your pace.
Chirripo National Park
Variations in altitude, climate and soil give rise to one of the most ecologically diverse regions in Costa Rica. Chirripo features various sculpted glacial formations such as U-shaped valleys, lakes (moraines) and terraces. The most popular trail is the Chirripo Trail, which climbs from San Gerardo de Rivas to the top of Cerro Chirripó, the highest peak in Costa Rica. The trail is steep and can be challenging, but the reward is breathtaking views and the chance to experience the unique flora and fauna of the area. Other trails in the park include the Los Crestones Trail, which offers a scenic climb to the top of Los Crestones peak, and the Los Quetzales Trail, which is a more gentle hike through the rainforest. Visitor services include information, a park ranger station, trails, signage, restrooms, drinking water, several natural viewpoints and lodging.
La Amistad International Park
Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, La Amistad International Park protects lands in both Costa Rica and Panama, hence its name: “Friendship.” Considered the largest tropical forest-covered mountain system in the country, the park contains wet, rain and cloud forest. This protected area includes Tapanti National Park–Macizo de la Muerte, Chirripo National Park, the Hitoy Cerere Biological Preserve and La Amistad International Park. The park is a haven for hikers, offering numerous trails, both easy and challenging, with breathtaking views and opportunities to explore an array of wildlife. Some of the park's most popular trails include the Sendero de la Amistad, which takes hikers through a variety of ecosystems; the Sendero de los Lagos, which takes hikers past two volcanic lakes; and the Sendero Catarata del Toro, which takes hikers to La Cascada del Toro, the park's highest waterfall. Hikers should be prepared for the hot and humid climate of the park, as well as for potential encounters with wild animals.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Located 15 kilometers from Fortuna in the northwest part of Costa Rica, between the foothills of the Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range and the San Carlos plains, Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most visited destinations in the Northern Zone. Several trails—Heliconias, Coladas, Tucanes and Los Miradores—allow observation of much of the park’s flora and fauna, as well as the remains of lava tracts.