La Amistad International Park
The Talamancan Mountains are the highest and most rugged mountains in Costa Rica. There are few trails and many areas have yet to be explored. Resplendent Quetzals are common in the dense, montane rain forests dominated by immense old oaks covered in moss, bromeliads and orchids. This heavily forested, huge wilderness area is located in south-central Costa Rica and westernmost Panama, much of the area occupying the largest national park in Costa Rica; La Amistad. La Amistad is actually so big, some of it is found in Panama making it Costa Ricas only international park.
Location and how to get there
La Amistad covers much of the Talamancan Mountain Range above 2,000 meters from Chirripo National Park to the Panamanian border. Despite the large size of the park (nearly 500,000 hectares in Costa Rica), access is a challenge due to the extremely rugged nature of the park. There are 4 main access points, all on the Pacific slope past San Isidro de El General. Each require 4WD and are found on rough roads off of the Pan-American Highway between Paso Real and San Vito. To get to the Tres Colinas Sector, take the turn off to Potrero Grande at Paso Real and continue 23 kilometers to the station. For the Pittier and Altamira Sectors (where the headquarters are located), the turn off is at Las Tablas; 15 kilometers past Paso Real. To get to the Santa Maria Sector and the start of the trail to Cerro Cabecar, from San Isidro, turn off the highway at kilometer 184 in Santa Marta de Brunka.
La Amistad International Park is one of the most important parks not just for Costa Rican biodiversity but Central American biodiversity as well. It is estimated that 80% of Costa Rican animal species occur here with good populations of 3 monkey species, 6 cat species, Baird’s Tapir, dozens of reptiles and amphibians ( a few of which were discovered in 2007 and 2009), and more. The numbers of plant species are nothing short of amazing; 1,000 ferns, 1,500 epiphytes and 100s of trees. The park is without doubt the largest stronghold of the Resplendent Quetzal, Black Guan and a few dozen other bird species endemic to the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama.
Back Country Hiking in Costa Rica
Most of the trails in la Amistad National Park are only for the fit and adventurous. Although hiking here can be demanding, you will be visiting some of the wildest and remotest terrain in Costa Rica with virtually guaranteed sightings of many animals in incredible forest. Visiting much of La Amistad is a true wilderness experience in densely forested, wet and wild terrain and is only allowed with a local guide. Some of the possible treks are the 6 day Cerro Kamuk from Tres Colinas, the 2 day Valle del Silencio (especially good for birds and other animals) from the Altamira Sector and the 2 day hike into high mountains near the Maria Sector. Sectors Pittier and Altamira also have shorter trails.
The park itself has camping and rustic cabins in most sectors. Finca Palo Alto is the closest hotel to Valle del Silencio. Several hotels are also found in San Isidro, a few in Buenos Aires and some in San Vito.