With three days in San Jose, you can relax into the city’s natural rhythm, which blends the sounds of tropical birdsong, bustling markets, and salsa beats. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the key sights, including Costa Rica’s lush rain forest, volcanic peaks, and coffee farms. Here’s how.
Chirripó National Park
Home to Costa Rica’s highest peak, Cerro Chirripó Grande, the rugged aChirripó National Park is an excellent introduction to the country’s diverse ecosystems. From tropical jungle with emerald green vegetation and waterfalls to cloud forest with giant oak trees shadowing ferns and bamboo, this national park is a lush refuge for hundreds of species of exotic birds and animals.
Chirripó National Park, Pérez Zeledón
The best way to explore the wild beauty of the park is by hiking the steep 9-mile (15-kilometer) trek up the Cerro Chirripó Grande, which is a challenging climb for even experienced trekkers. Two permanent shelters are along the way. Though the pass can be difficult, with elevation reaching nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), the views from the top—including the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea—are worth the effort. Less-fit travelers or those looking for a more laid-back experience have many scenic low-elevation options. On the other hand, if you want to turn up the adventure, take a whitewater rafting tour and navigate the roaring dips and bends of more than 20 Class III rapids along the Chirripó river.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Chirripó National Park is a perfect location for outdoor enthusiasts with an interest in exploring tropical wildlife.
- A small admission fee is required.
- Bring sun protection, water, and snacks.
- Acclimatize yourself to the altitude before arrival.
- The mountain huts do not have cooking facilities, but restrooms are available.
- Overnight stays are available at mountain huts, but only with advance reservations; camping is prohibited.
How to Get There
Chirripó National Park is located in central Costa Rica, about 92 miles (153 kilometers) southeast of San José . Take the 3-hour bus to San Isidro del General. From there, take a second bus to San Gerardo de Rivas, which typically leaves at 5am and 2pm and takes about 30 minutes. If driving, take the Pan American Highway and expect about 3.5 hours on the road. Be careful not to drive at night as the roads are dark and can take unexpected turns.
When to Get There
The park is open daily from early morning until late afternoon. Peak season in Costa Rica is from mid-December to April during the dry season. Book the refugios well in advance. During the rainy season, from May through November, the paths may be a bit muddy, though there’s the added benefit of seeing the jungle at its most green and wildlife at their most abundant and active.
Attractions Nearby Take your time exploring the area as there are wonderful places to explore. Talamanca Reserve is an enormous private forest with many trails and both upscale ecolodges and basic cottages. About a 20-minute walk from the San Gerardo de Rivas ranger station is a natural thermal pool. Since it’s on private property, there's a small fee to soothe your aching muscles.
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- National Museum (Museo Nacional)
- Morazan Park
- Yellow House (Casa Amarilla)
- Metallic Building (Ed)ificio Metálico)
- Jade Museum (Museo del Jade)
- Gold Museum
- Plaza de la Cultura
- National Theater (Teatro Nacional)
- San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)
- Children's Museum (Museo de los Ninos)
- Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)
- La Sabana Park
- Rescate Animal Zooave