Chirripo National Park occupies an area of 50,150 hectares, or 125,600 acres. The elevation ranges from 900 meters to 3820 meters at the peak of Cerro Chirripo. The park has miles of well-maintained hiking trails that take you through varied ecological zones, from lowland tropical wet forest up to subalpine wet forest, known as paramo or high moorland. At lower levels, you will find oak sections (with trees reaching 30m/ 100ft), mixed and cloud forest sections, with ferns and bamboo.
Wildlife found within Chirripo National Park include spider monkeys, Bairds tapirs, peccary, jaguars and pumas. Over 400 species of birds have been identified in the park, including woodpeckers, wood creepers and trogons. It is also home to over 260 species of amphibians and reptiles.
Chirripo National Park is managed by the government of Costa Rica. Access to the park is generally on foot or by horse; there are no paved roads into the park. The ranger station is just south of San Gerardo de Rivas (13.6 miles northeast of San Isidro), open daily from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm, and public restrooms are available. The entrance fee is 18USD per person. Camping in the park is prohibited, but overnight accommodations are available for hikers, with advance reservations. Crestones base camp is a rustic lodge with ~60 bunk beds and cold water showers. It is located 8.6 miles (5-10 hours hiking time) along the trail and 3 miles (2 hours hiking time) below the summit. There are other simple refuge huts along the trail as well. The round-trip hike to the peak of Cerro Chirripo generally takes 2 or 3 days, and a permit is required to hike to the peak. Tour guides are available and strongly encouraged. Porters can also be hired to carry your gear and prepare meals. Arrangements can be made at the office of porters and guides in San Gerardo. There are also a number of hotels and restaurants outside the park in San Gerardo.
More about Chirripo National Park
Climbing Cerro Grande
Cerro Chirripo Grande is what attracts most visitors to the area. When the weather permits, both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea can be seen from the peak, so be sure to bring your camera! Considering Cerro Chirripo Grande is an eleven-mile hike with nearly 3,000 meters of elevation gain, it is a very strenuous climb. There are two huts administered by park officials where visitors can spend the night if they care to rest up for another day of hiking, though a permit is required to do so. Visitors should also keep in mind that they will be close to the equator at extreme elevations, so sunscreen is an absolute must, along with plenty of water and other supplies. Be sure to take a map (available at the Chirripo National Park ranger station) when hiking the trails.
The forests of Chirripo National Park are amazing! There is astounding botanical diversity to see as you climb from the pastures at 1,000 meters elevation near San Gerardo de Rivas, to the paramo (alpine tundra) ecosystem near the peak at 3,800 meters. At one moment you'll be in thick forest and the next moment you'll be surrounded by cactus; this is due to elevation and how the environment reacts to different environmental conditions.
At a glance
Region: Southern Costa Rica
Closest town: San Isidro
Size in hectares: 50,150 (123,923 acres)
Year established: 1975
Elevation in meters: 900 - 3,819 (2,953 - 12,530 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: yes
Public restrooms: yes
Entrance fee: $18
Hours: 05:30 - 17:00
Hiking trails: yes
Boat tours: no
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 45 - 65
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 3,800
Habitat: rainforest, cloud forest, paramo
How to get there
From San Jose take the Interamerican Highway south towards Cartago. The main highway will climb Cerro de la Muerte, and then drop quickly, arriving in San Isidro del General. Turn towards San Gerardo de Rivas, the small town at the base of the park. From here, follow signs to the ranger station.
Weather and packing list
Located in the cloud forest, the weather in Cerro Chirrpio is fairly predictable. Expect cool and damp conditions and dress for rain. Daytime temperatures average in the mid-60s with night time lows averaging in the upper 40s. The most consistent rain is experienced between the months of May through November with the heaviest rains September through November. The dry season is usually from December through April, and the park is more crowded during these months. The average annual precipitation in the park is 380 centimeters.
Visitors should pack shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block. It is also advised to bring at least one pair of pants, a long sleeve shirt, and even a sweat shirt or light jacket. Check our Costa Rican packing list for more advice on things to bring.
Fun Fact: The peak of Cerro Chirripo is known to frost overnight at times.