Tapanti-Macizo Cerro de la Muerte National Park
Twenty-six miles from San Jose, this park is located in the Talamanca Mountains of Cartargo Province. It was established in 1982 as a wildlife refuge, became a national park in 1994 and was enlarged a few years later to its current size of 144,000 acres. The park, along with Chirripo National Park, Rio Macho Forest Reserve, Los Santos Forest Reserve, Paramo Wildlife Reserve and Cerro Las Vueltas Biological Reserve comprise the UNESCO La Amistad Biosphere. Tapanti-Macizo Cerro de la Muerte National Park offers one of the most sought-after experiences of those who travel to Costa Rica, an opportunity to see the resplendent Quetzal as well as many other of the country’s other endangered species in the park’s bio-diverse forests. Along the park’s hiking trails, visitors can expect to see plenty of birds, butterflies and orchids. Bring rain gear.
Carara National Park
Dry forests meet rainforests in 13,000-acre Carara National Park, just thirty-two miles southwest of San Jose. Carara National Park’s location, the transition between two ecosystems, makes it popular destination with visitors on guided Costa Rica tours and residents alike for its wide diversity of wildlife including monkeys, sloths and crocodiles. This is a rainy place much of the year, but planning a trip to Carara usually depends on visitor interests rather than the weather. Birders come here to walk the park’s two trails hoping to catch of the scarlet macaws that inhabit the park in June and July. The park became a biological reserve in 1979 before being designated a national park.
La Cangreja National Park
First protected in 1987, forested 4,600-acre La Cangreja National Park became a national park in 2002. It is located east of Carara National Park, fifteen miles south of San Jose and twelve miles from the Pacific coast. Driving here from the capital may take up to two hours. The Zapaton Indigenous Reserve, one of the country’s twenty-two such reserves, lies to the east. Rainy and humid, this small patch of land contains a mix of tropical forests and elevations and is known for its biodiversity. Though few who travel to Costa Rica visit the park, those who do will be able to hike through some of the last bit of virgin rainforest that exists in the country.