Los Quetzales National Park

Los Quetzales National Park was declared a national park in Costa Rica in July 2005, making it the most recent addition to the country’s already large national park system. Los Quetzales National Park stretches across 5,000 hectares of land and includes what was formerly known as Los Santos Forest Reserve. The park is also set along the Talamancan mountain range and the Rio Savegre, providing an astounding view for visitors and encompassing some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful landscape.

Los Quetzales National Park is composed of three different types of rain forest and fourteen ecosystems, making it home to a diverse flora and fauna. The most popular animal that visitors come to see is the quetzal bird, for which the park is named. The green and the red quetzal are two of the primary types of quetzal bird found in the park, and both are part of a rare tropical species of bird in this region. Other popular birds in this region are the colibri, known for making cone-shaped nests, and the hummingbird.

Quetzal Bird, Los Santos Forest Reserve, Costa Rica Photo by DeepstoatThe elevation level of the park changes dramatically depending on the different sections; near the Talamancan mountain range, elevation can reach as high as 3,000 meters. A good portion of the park is composed of cloud forests, lakes, and rivers, although there are oak, cypress, and aguacatillo trees in abundance as well. Since there are so many different ecosystems and types of rain forest found in Los Quetzales National Park, there is a lot of variation when it comes to scenery, flora and fauna, and activities available. Many people enjoy coming to the park to hike, explore the terrain of the region, birdwatch, take photographs, fish, raft, or go for a horseback ride with friends or family.

Los Quetzales National Park is located 47 miles southeast of San Jose and is fairly easy to reach from Manuel Antonio. It can also be reached from Jacó, about a two-hour journey. Although the park is relatively new, several businesses have sprung up around the area to offer lodging, dining, and other activities to help you in your visit to Los Quetzales National Park.

South Central

South of San Jose and the Central Highlands one will find the South Central Region of Costa Rica. When visitors think of Costa Rica, the country has long had a reputation among travelers as a paradise. Its natural beauty includes tropical beaches fronting on two oceans, rainforests, volcanoes, and even alpine plateau. Adventurers will find a broad range of satisfying activities and treks, sun worshipers will encounter a climate second to none in the hemisphere, and naturalists will have the opportunity to investigate thousands of unique species of flora and fauna.

La Amistad International Park , Costa RicaResearch is invaluable, especially in targeting the best season for enjoying the right activity, and also with an eye to value. Costa Rica is not as inexpensive as its neighbors, especially in the “dry” season from November to April, and clever planning is recommended in order to avoid overpaying for accommodations. Both transportation and health are issues deserving serious attention. Certain regions are prone to flooding, for instance, and roads may not be as reliable as expected for some itineraries. Vaccinations for tropical travel are also an issue that foreigners will need to confront early on.

Most travelers will fly into San Jose, and since all roads in the country radiate out from the capital it is likely that a short stay there is inevitable. A package may eliminate the need for further inquiry, but if you are going it alone this will be a useful period to collect guidance for all your final destination goals.

Our focus is on the South Central Region, dominated by La Amistad International Park and the Talamanca Range, capped to the west by the Chirippo Massif at the apex of the Continental Divide. Both can be reached by some of the best roads in the country, and most destinations are within a few hours’ drive or bus trip south from the capital. Both, if relatively close to centers of population, are more noted for ecotourism than for traditional luxury.

The first concern for travel here is altitude; most are surprised by how cold it can get, especially along the Cordillera, with many peaks well over 3000 meters. Warm clothing and protection against extremes of moisture and wind are definitely necessary. And though only a few volcanoes are active, it pays to keep abreast of current conditions.

Amistad hosts a number of stunning ecosystems, including the famous alpine Cloud Forests. The name is also literal, as these old growth oaks to the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the ridge are frequently shrouded in heavy mists. Hiking is recommended for the hardy, whether with a group or solo. Be aware that ranger stations are only found to the Pacific side. Other sights include geothermal vents, geysers, and pools, volcanoes in eruption, coffee plantations at slightly lower altitude, and some of the best tropical and subalpine bird watching in the world.

Direct encounters are the theme, and the ultimate among them is the tallest peak in the country. Cerro Chirippo stands at 3820 m (12,533 feet!), and an adventurous few among Costa Rica’s 1.5 million visitors do attempt a summit.

This and more awaits in South Central Costa Rica.

San Isidro de El General

Three hours away from San Jose which is the capital of Costa Rica, and a few minutes from the Pan-American highway, sits the agricultural town of San Isidro de El General. The largest city in its region and considered to be the gateway to South Central Costa Rica, San Isidro is a great place to stop for those who are traveling to Dominical, Cherripo National Park, Panama or any of the other nearby tourist attractions. In addition to being popular for its magnificent scenery and climate, San Isidro de El General offers many things to see and do.

For the outdoor enthusiast, San Isidro is a paradise. When driving into San Isidro from San Jose, the infamous Cerro de la Muerte–mountain of death–must be passed, which presents spectacular views. Those who enjoy rafting and canoeing will find the nearby Chirripo and General Rivers to be ideal, although treacherous during the rainy season. South Central Costa Rica has the largest concentration of virgin forests which offers San Isidro visitors beautiful sight seeing opportunities. Nearby Las Quebradas Biological Center, a wildlife reserve, has hiking trails and picnic areas. Two other favorite places for those who enjoy nature are Los Cusingos Neotropical Bird Santuary and Nauyaca Waterfalls which are the most impressive falls in the country.

Perez Cathedral San Isidro de El General Costa RicaSan Isidro has a population of approximately 100,000 and is considered by some to be the fastest growing city in Central America. Shopping is excellent in San Isidro with farmer’s markets offering a choice selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, and retail shops located in the center of the city, plus a newly constructed mall. There are many restaurants and bars with both local and international cuisine. Don’t forgot to stop at the local museum which exhibits objects of San Isidro’s past history and present culture.

If you are traveling to Costa Rica toward the end of January the Fiestas Civicas is known for its mariachis and exciting bullfights. The other most significant event in San Isidro occurs in May and is called the Dia de Boyero, when a parade of handpainted oxcarts, which are typical to that region, travel through the village.

Whether you are a nature lover who enjoys magnificent scenery or you just want to explore the culture, local food and shopping opportunities, San Isidro de El General is an experience you won’t soon forget!