San Isidro Costa Rica is a large town nestled at the foot of the Talamanca Mountains and serves and home base for travelers who want to see Chirripo National Park or stop on the way to the beaches of Dominical.
Although Chirripo and Dominical are definitely the main course when it comes to things to do in San Isidro Costa Rica, the intrepid explorer can find plenty of other activities to include as an appetizer, side dish, or memorable dessert. Often it’s as easy as asking at the front desk of your hotel.
Mount Chirripo, the tallest peak in the Talamanca range, is home to the beautiful quetzl, Costa Rica’s most famous bird. Buses leave for Mount Chirripo National Park every morning at 5 AM on the west side of the San Isidro Costa Rica central square. The bus to the park entrance costs less than $1USD and takes about an hour and a half.
Since the roads can be difficult, the bus ride to Chirippo is worth every penny.
Taking the earliest bus from downtown San Isidro Costa Rica to Chirripo National Park is highly recommended, since hiking to the summit takes at least two days, and three is even better. Hiking to the top is not particularly tricky technologically, but it is very arduous. If you aren’t in the best physical shape, you might wan to stick to one to two hour guided day hikes.
Guided short excursions can be easily arranged at any hotel in San Isidro.
Hikers bent on reaching the summit will want to get the early bus out of San Isidro Costa Rica in order to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun. Even better, you can arrange to spend the night in one of the cabinas at the foot of Mount Chirripo, and then start up the mountain at the crack of dawn. Ask your travel agent to make your reservations so you can be certain of getting one.
Guides will carry your packs to the Summit Lodge at the top of Mount Chirripo
outside San Isidro Costa Rica for a nominal feel of $20 or $25. The packs will be waiting for you when you arrive at the mountaintop. The Summit Lodge only holds 60 people at $10 per head, and the bunk bed accommodations are very basic, so come prepared.
Bring your own food and blankets, and make your reservations far in advance. The showers are freezing and the nights are very cold, so keep this in mind when packing for your summit stay. Dress in layers and bring a change of clothing and several changes of socks. Again, you’ll want to rise and shine early to avoid hiking down the mountain in the heat of the afternoon.
The national park fee at Chirripo National Park is $15 for the first two days, then $10 for each additional day.
Las Quebradas Biological Center, located only four and a half miles from San Isidro Costa Rica, offers almost two miles of trails through primary rainforest, camping, and a rustic lodge where visitors can stay for only $25 USD per person, including three meals daily.
Las Quebradas is a community run private reserve, and is a good choice for visitors with small children or people who are not up to the challenging walk up Mount Chirippo. At Las Quebradas, visitors still get the wilderness of the rainforest with the comfort of upgraded accommodations and meals, and economical rates.