Home to cloud forests and famous hiking, Chirripo National Park is a place where you can observe both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. This combination of five ecosystems promises an adventure for explorers.

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Discover the Majesty of Chirripo National Park

A Symphony of Ecological Diversity

Chirripo National Park is a testament to the incredible diversity of Costa Rica's ecosystems. Encompassing an expansive 50,150 hectares (125,600 acres), the park boasts elevations ranging from 900 meters to the towering Cerro Chirripo peak. Its well-maintained network of hiking trails guides you through a remarkable range of ecological zones, from the lush lowland tropical wet forest to the surreal subalpine wet forest, known as paramo or high moorland, adorned with towering oak trees, enchanting mixed and cloud forests teeming with ferns and bamboo.

But the true stars of Chirripo are its residents. The park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, offering glimpses of spider monkeys, Baird's tapirs, peccaries, and elusive jaguars and pumas. Over 400 species of birds grace the park with their presence, including woodpeckers, wood creepers, and trogons, making it a birdwatcher's paradise. Chirripo National Park is also home to more than 260 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Exploring the Park and Climbing Cerro Chirripo Grande

Managed by the Costa Rican government, access to Chirripo National Park is primarily on foot or horseback, as there are no paved roads leading into the park. The ranger station, conveniently located just south of San Gerardo de Rivas (a mere 13.6 miles northeast of San Isidro), is open daily from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm and provides public restrooms. To enter the park, there's an admission fee of $18 USD per person.

While camping is prohibited within the park, there are accommodations available for hikers with advance reservations. Crestones base camp, a rustic lodge with approximately 60 bunk beds and cold water showers, is situated 8.6 miles along the trail, approximately 5-10 hours of hiking time from the summit. Several other simple refuge huts are scattered along the trail, offering resting spots for trekkers.

The iconic Cerro Chirripo Grande is the crown jewel of the park and the primary attraction for visitors. The arduous eleven-mile hike, with an elevation gain of nearly 3,000 meters, is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. Permits are required to hike to the peak, and it's advisable to engage the services of a tour guide. For those seeking assistance with gear and meals, porters can be hired at the office of porters and guides in San Gerardo.

A Botanical Wonderland

As you traverse Chirripo National Park's diverse landscapes, you'll encounter a mesmerizing array of flora, from the pastures near San Gerardo de Rivas at 1,000 meters to the alpine tundra ecosystem near the peak at 3,800 meters. Thick forests transition to cactus-studded terrain, showcasing the dramatic shifts in environment dictated by elevation and climatic conditions.

Prepare for your adventure by packing sunscreen, ample water, and supplies. A map, available at the Chirripo National Park ranger station, is a valuable companion when exploring the trails. Whether you're an avid hiker, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a breathtaking vista of Costa Rica's natural beauty, Chirripo National Park promises an unforgettable journey through a world of ecological wonders.


Lagos del Chirripo

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San Gerardo de Rivas: A Charming Gateway to Chirripo National Park

San Gerardo de Rivas, a small village nestled in the Talamanca Mountains of southern Costa Rica, serves as the primary gateway to Chirripo National Park, making it an essential part of the experience for visitors embarking on a journey to Central America's highest peak. Here's what you need to know about this charming town and how to integrate it into your Chirripo adventure.

Getting There

San Gerardo de Rivas is situated approximately 30 kilometers (about 18.6 miles) northeast of San Isidro del General, the closest major town. Visitors typically travel to San Isidro del General first, either by bus or private vehicle, before continuing their journey to San Gerardo de Rivas. From San Isidro, it's a scenic drive through lush countryside and cloud forest, setting the stage for the natural wonders you're about to encounter.

Accommodation: San Gerardo de Rivas offers a range of accommodation options, including lodges, hostels, and cabins. Staying overnight in the village is a common practice, especially before and after the Chirripo hike. This allows you to acclimatize to the higher elevation and start your hike well-rested.

Rio Chirripo Lodge

Rio Chirripo Lodge: Rio Chirripo Lodge is a charming eco-friendly retreat nestled in the lush cloud forests of San Gerardo de Rivas. Located just a stone's throw away from the magnificent Chirripo National Park, it offers a tranquil and immersive natural experience for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The lodge provides comfortable and sustainable accommodations, seamlessly blending with the surrounding environment. Guests can wake up to the melodious sounds of birds, explore nearby hiking trails, and unwind in the serene atmosphere of this eco-conscious haven. With warm hospitality, breathtaking views, and a commitment to eco-responsibility, Rio Chirripo Lodge offers an unforgettable escape into the heart of Costa Rica's stunning biodiversity.

Local Cuisine: Savor delicious Costa Rican cuisine at the village's restaurants and sodas (local eateries). Try traditional dishes like gallo pinto (rice and beans), casados (typical Costa Rican meals), and fresh tropical fruits.

Proximity to the Park: San Gerardo de Rivas is strategically located just a few kilometers from the park entrance. It's the ideal starting point for your Chirripo adventure, offering easy access to the trailhead.

How to Integrate San Gerardo de Rivas Into Your Chirripo Adventure

Pre-Hike Stay: Arriving in San Gerardo de Rivas at least one day before your Chirripo hike is highly recommended. This allows you to acclimatize to the higher altitude and ensures you're well-prepared for the challenging ascent.

Last-Minute Supplies: San Gerardo de Rivas has small convenience stores where you can purchase any last-minute supplies you may need for your hike, such as snacks and water.

Meet Fellow Hikers: The village is a hub for Chirripo hikers, making it a great place to meet fellow adventurers, share experiences, and exchange tips and advice.

Post-Hike Relaxation: After completing your challenging hike, returning to San Gerardo de Rivas is a welcoming and comfortable way to recuperate. Enjoy a hearty meal and rest in one of the village's cozy accommodations.

San Gerardo de Rivas isn't just a logistical necessity; it's an integral part of the Chirripo experience. Its picturesque setting, warm hospitality, and proximity to the park make it a delightful place to start and end your adventure, ensuring you make the most of your visit to Chirripo National Park.

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Permits for Chirripo National Park

Obtaining permits for Chirripo National Park in Costa Rica is a crucial step in planning your hiking adventure to the highest peak in Central America. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to secure permits for your Chirripo trek:

1. Plan Your Trip in Advance: Decide on the dates you intend to hike Chirripo. Permits are limited, so it's essential to plan well in advance.

2. Check Availability: Contact the park administration to check permit availability for your desired dates. The park limits the number of hikers each day to protect the environment and ensure a quality experience. Reservations may be made up to 6 months in advance. Note that the park is closed the last weekend of February for the annual footrace and also the last 2 weeks of May for maintenance.

3. Gather Required Information: Prepare the necessary information for each member of your group, including full names, passport numbers, nationality, and date of birth. This information will be needed for permit applications.

4. Submit Your Request: You can apply for permits online through the official website of Chirripo National Park or in person at the park's administrative offices (though permits are almost never available within a week of the visit). Online applications are generally more convenient.

5. Complete the Application: Fill out the permit application form with accurate details for each member of your group. Double-check the information to ensure it's correct.

6. Pay the Permit Fee: There is a fee for Chirripo permits, which can vary depending on your nationality and the type of permit (e.g., Costa Rican resident, foreign resident, foreign tourist). Pay the permit fee online using the provided payment options.

7. Verify Your Reservation: After submitting your permit application and payment, you should receive a confirmation email or receipt. Keep this document safe, as it serves as proof of your reservation.

8. Check-In at the Park Office: On the day of your hike, arrive at the Chirripo National Park office in San Gerardo de Rivas at the scheduled check-in time. You may need to provide your confirmation email or receipt at this point. 

9. Acquire Your Permit: Once you've checked in, park officials will issue your official Chirripo hiking permit. This permit must be carried with you throughout your trek and presented upon request by park rangers.

10. Follow the Rules: Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of Chirripo National Park. Respect the environment, stay on designated trails, and follow the Leave No Trace principles.

11. Enjoy Your Hike: With your permit in hand, you're ready to embark on your Chirripo adventure. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery, diverse ecosystems, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the summit.

Important: The steps for purchasing and instructions for using permits have changed several times over recent years. Pay close attention to the national park's website and save all information. If anything changes and differs from the above information, follow their instructions.

Remember that Chirripo National Park permits are in high demand, especially during peak hiking seasons, so securing your permits as early as possible is essential. Be prepared with all required information and documentation to streamline the permit application process. With your permits secured, you can look forward to an unforgettable hiking experience in Chirripo National Park.

Lagos Las Morenas

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Crestones Base Camp

Crestones Base Camp is a significant and popular stopping point for hikers embarking on the challenging trek to the summit of Cerro Chirripo, the highest peak in Central America, located within Chirripo National Park in Costa Rica. This base camp serves as a crucial rest area for hikers and offers essential amenities to ensure a comfortable and safe overnight stay during the ascent to the summit. Here's what you should know about Crestones Base Camp:

1. Location: Crestones Base Camp is strategically located along the trail to Cerro Chirripo, approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) from the Cerro Chirripo summit. It is situated at an elevation of approximately 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) above sea level.

2. Accommodations: The base camp provides basic accommodations for hikers. There are bunk beds available for lodging, allowing hikers to rest and recover before continuing their journey to the summit. Keep in mind that these accommodations are rustic and may not offer the same level of comfort as a traditional hotel. The camp provides light blankets and sleeping bags but you will likely want to bring your own. 

3. Cold Water Showers: Crestones Base Camp offers cold water showers. These showers can be refreshing after a long day of hiking, but be prepared for the water temperature, as it can be quite chilly at this elevation. Towels and soap are provided. 

4. Dining Facilities: There is a dining area where hikers can enjoy meals but you may no longer cook your own food but you can bring in your own cold food. Breakfast ($10), lunch ($13), and dinner ($13) are available for purchase.

5. Spectacular Views: One of the highlights of staying at Crestones Base Camp is the opportunity to witness breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Weather permitting, you can enjoy stunning sunrises and sunsets from this high-altitude location.

6. Reservations: To stay at Crestones Base Camp, you need to make advance park reservations first and then email the details to info@chirripo.org to make your reservations at Crestones. Note that similar to the park, this facility requires very early reservations and nearly always sells out.

7. Packing Essentials: Hikers staying at Crestones Base Camp should pack appropriately for the cold temperatures at this elevation. Warm clothing, a sleeping bag, and personal necessities are essential. Be prepared for unpredictable weather conditions, including rain and cold nights.

8. Summit Ascent: Crestones Base Camp serves as a launch point for hikers aiming to reach the summit of Cerro Chirripo. The final ascent to the summit from the base camp is typically completed in the early morning to catch the sunrise from the highest point in Central America.

9. Leave No Trace: As with any wilderness area, hikers are expected to follow Leave No Trace principles, respecting the fragile ecosystem and leaving minimal impact on the environment.

Crestones Base Camp is a critical component of the Cerro Chirripo hiking experience, providing hikers with a place to rest, refuel, and prepare for the challenging ascent to the summit. It offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature in one of Costa Rica's most pristine and beautiful national parks.

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Embark on an Unforgettable Journey: Hiking Cerro Chirripo

Hiking Cerro Chirripo is a thrilling adventure that promises awe-inspiring vistas, diverse ecosystems, and a profound connection with nature. As the highest peak in Central America, Cerro Chirripo Grande stands tall at 3,820 meters (12,533 feet) above sea level, beckoning intrepid explorers to conquer its majestic heights. Here's all you need to know to embark on this unforgettable journey.

Preparing for the Hike

Hiking Cerro Chirripo requires careful preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some essential tips:

  1. Obtain a Permit: Before embarking on your hike, you must obtain a permit. These permits can be obtained in advance and are essential for accessing the park and summit.
  2. Physical Fitness: The hike to Cerro Chirripo is demanding and covers challenging terrain. It's crucial to be in good physical condition and adequately prepared for long hours of hiking.
  3. Proper Gear: Ensure you have the appropriate gear, including sturdy hiking boots, layered clothing for varying temperatures, rain gear, a comfortable backpack, and a walking stick if desired.
  4. Food and Water: Carry sufficient water and snacks, as there are limited opportunities to purchase supplies along the trail. A water purification method is also recommended.
  5. Sun Protection: The sun at high altitudes can be intense. Don't forget sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

The Hike Itself

The hike to Cerro Chirripo is an extraordinary journey that typically takes two to three days to complete. Here's a general overview of what to expect:

  • Day 1: Begin your adventure early in the morning from the park entrance near San Gerardo de Rivas. The trail meanders through lush forests, gradually ascending in elevation. You'll pass through various ecological zones, each with its unique charm. Crestones Base Camp, located approximately 8.6 miles along the trail, serves as your resting place for the night.
  • Day 2: Rise early and start your ascent to the summit before dawn. The final stretch involves a steep climb, often on uneven terrain. Reaching the summit is a breathtaking moment as you're rewarded with panoramic views that extend from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. After taking in the vistas, begin your descent, which can be just as challenging.
  • Day 3 (Optional): For those who prefer a more leisurely descent, you can spend an extra night at Crestones Base Camp (note that this requires its own separate reservation) before making your way back to San Gerardo de Rivas on the third day.

Why Hike Cerro Chirripo?

Hiking Cerro Chirripo is a unique and exhilarating experience for several reasons:

  • Spectacular Views: The summit offers unparalleled views of Costa Rica, with both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans visible on a clear day.
  • Biodiversity: You'll traverse diverse ecosystems, encountering a rich variety of flora and fauna along the way.
  • Physical Challenge: The hike is physically demanding but incredibly rewarding. Conquering Central America's highest peak is a significant accomplishment.
  • Connection with Nature: Immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Chirripo National Park is a transformative experience that fosters a deep connection with the environment.
  • Adventure: It's an adventure of a lifetime that allows you to explore some of Costa Rica's most pristine and remote wilderness.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo is a journey that combines physical challenge with unparalleled natural beauty. It's an experience that will stay with you forever, a testament to your determination and a lasting memory of Costa Rica's extraordinary landscapes.

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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
Days: daily
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

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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.

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Cerro Chirripo Weather

The weather at Cerro Chirripo, the highest peak in Central America, can be quite variable and is influenced by its elevation. Understanding the weather conditions is crucial when planning a hike to the summit. Here's what you can expect in terms of Cerro Chirripo weather:

1. Temperature:

Temperature variations are significant due to the altitude. At lower elevations near the park entrance, temperatures can be relatively warm during the day, ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F). However, as you ascend, temperatures drop considerably. At the summit, nighttime temperatures can plummet to near freezing or even below, especially during the dry season.

2. Rainfall:

Cerro Chirripo experiences a pronounced wet season and a dry season. The wet season typically spans from May to November, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in September and October. During this time, the trail can be muddy and slippery, making hiking more challenging. The dry season, from December to April, offers more stable weather conditions with lower chances of rain.

3. Fog and Clouds:

Due to its high elevation and proximity to cloud forests, Cerro Chirripo often experiences fog and cloud cover, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. Clouds can limit visibility, so hikers should be prepared for reduced views, particularly at dawn and dusk.

4. Wind:

Wind speeds can increase as you ascend higher into the paramo (alpine tundra) ecosystem. It's advisable to bring wind-resistant clothing, especially for the final ascent to the summit, where winds can be strong.

5. Sunrise and Sunset:

Clear mornings at the summit of Cerro Chirripo offer stunning sunrise views. However, during the wet season, cloud cover may obstruct sunrise vistas. On the flip side, clear evenings may provide beautiful sunset opportunities.

6. Microclimates:

Cerro Chirripo exhibits a variety of microclimates due to its different ecological zones. Hikers will encounter rainforests, cloud forests, and paramo as they ascend. Each zone has its own unique weather characteristics, so it's essential to dress in layers and be prepared for changing conditions.

7. Safety Precautions:

Hikers should be well-prepared for varying weather conditions. It's essential to carry suitable clothing for cold temperatures, including warm layers and waterproof gear. Additionally, check the weather forecast before embarking on your hike and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.

8. Guided Tours:

Many guided tours to Cerro Chirripo provide valuable weather information and can help hikers plan their ascent based on the forecast. Guides are knowledgeable about the changing weather patterns and can enhance the safety and enjoyment of the hike.

In summary, Cerro Chirripo weather can be unpredictable, with temperature variations, fog, rain, and wind. Hikers should be prepared for changing conditions and dress accordingly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience when hiking to the summit of Central America's highest peak.

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Packing List for Cerro Chirripo

Preparing for a hike to Cerro Chirripo requires careful packing to ensure your comfort and safety during your journey. Here's a comprehensive packing list:


  • Moisture-wicking base layers (top and bottom)
  • Long-sleeved shirts for sun protection
  • Lightweight, breathable pants
  • Insulated jacket or fleece for cooler nights
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket and pants
  • Warm hat and gloves for high elevations
  • Comfortable, moisture-wicking underwear and socks
  • Hiking boots with good ankle support and sturdy soles
  • Gaiters to keep mud and debris out of your boots
  • Sandals or camp shoes for resting your feet

Gear and Equipment:

  • Hiking backpack with rain cover (40-50 liters)
  • Trekking poles for stability and support
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen for UV protection
  • Wide-brimmed hat or cap
  • Water purification system (filter, tablets, or UV purifier)
  • Reusable water bottles or hydration reservoirs (2-3 liters)
  • Basic first aid kit with bandages, pain relievers, and blister treatment
  • Map of Cerro Chirripo trails and surrounding area
  • Lightweight, quick-dry towel
  • Plastic bags or dry sacks for organizing and waterproofing gear

Camping Gear (if staying overnight at Crestones Base Camp):

  • Sleeping bag suitable for cold weather (0°C/32°F or lower)
  • Sleeping pad or inflatable mattress for added insulation
  • Lightweight camping stove and cookware
  • Lightweight eating utensils and a cup
  • Food and snacks for the duration of your stay (consider lightweight and non-perishable options)
  • Trash bags for packing out all waste

Personal Items:

  • Passport or identification
  • Money and small denominations for park fees, guides, and tips
  • Mobile phone with portable charger and local SIM card (for emergencies)
  • Personal toiletries (biodegradable soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste)
  • Insect repellent (consider DEET-based repellent for leeches)
  • Toilet paper and trowel (if necessary)
  • Small multi-tool or knife
  • Travel towel or washcloth

Optional Items (based on personal preferences):

  • Camera and extra batteries
  • Binoculars for birdwatching
  • Book or entertainment for downtime
  • Small daypack for excursions from Crestones Base Camp
  • Earplugs for a good night's sleep in shared accommodations

Remember to pack efficiently to keep your backpack as lightweight as possible, as you'll be hiking through varying terrain and elevations. Additionally, check the weather forecast before your trip and adjust your clothing and gear accordingly. It's also advisable to pack items in waterproof bags to protect against rain and humidity. 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.

Nearby Destinations

San Gerardo de Dota86 km
San Isidro20 km
Dominical48 km
San Jose 154 km
Uvita73 km


Latitude: N 9° 30' 3.6"
Longitude: W 83° 32' 17.16"

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