Tapanti National Park
Off the regular tourist track, yet accessible, Tapanti National Park is always worth a visit. The combination of pleasant climate and maintained road through this Costa Rican National Park makes Tapanti an easy, family friendly day trip. Tapanti is a very wet place; the park protects an important watershed, the Orosi river rushes through its mossy dripping cloud forests, a hydroelectric dam is found here and the park is one of the rainiest places in Costa Rica with up to 7 meters falling annually! This abundance of water is the source of Tapanti’s beauty; hidden waterfalls, exquisite orchids peeking out of trees drenched in lush greenery and swimming holes in the river.
Location and how to get there
Tapanti National Park is found near Cartago in the upper Orosi valley. From San Jose, after reaching Cartago, follow signs to Paraiso and Orosi, dropping steeply down into the quaint Orosi valley. From Orosi, continue on to the National Park, making sure to follow the signs. It takes around 2 hours to drive from San Jose. Public transportation takes 3 hours and involves 2 buses and a taxi.
Tapanti National Park protects a huge amount of forest (over 300,000 hectares) in the Talamancan mountain range. Shared between Costa Rica and Panama, the Talamancas harbor the largest area of primary rain forest in Costa Rica and have a high degree of endemism; 30% of Costa Rica’s plant species are only found in the mountains that Tapanti partly protects. A favorite among birders, around 300 bird species have been found in Tapanti National Park including spectacular and rare species such as Highland Tinamou, Black Guan, Resplendent Quetzal and barbet species.
Cloud forest trails and swimming holes
The cloud forests of Tapanti National Park are the main attractions here. Taking their name from the high degree of moisture that comes directly from cloud cover, these forests are characterized by profuse vegetation growing everywhere and on everything. Plants seem to be growing on other plants that are growing on yet other plants in so many types and forms that even the most die-hard non-botanist is amazed. Driving or walking along Tapanti’s main road provides a casual look at the surrounding cloud forest while the Oropendola, Arboles Caidos and Pavas trails offer a more intimate look into the forest.
The Oropendola trail is the easiest loop trail with picnic tables near the river. There is also a swimming hole in the river at this spot; one that should probably be avoided during high water (the Orosi has claimed more than one life)! The other trails are more challenging; the reward at the end of the 4 hour walk up the Pavas being an idyllic swimming hole at the base of a waterfall.
Hotels near Tapanti National Park
Kiri Lodge is the closest hotel to the park. Found 2 kilometers from the entrance, it is inexpensive, has a basic restaurant, trout ponds and trails. Eight kilometers away in Orosi are a few more options and several more in Cartago (45 minutes from the park).