What comes to mind when you think of Central America and Costa Rica? Perpetually hot weather, steaming jungles full of lush vegetation, beaches, etc.? Did high mountains, glacier carved peaks, alpine valleys, glacier carved pinnacles made of solid granite, excellent opportunities for rock climbing, and year round freezing weather happen to come to mind? That's just what Cordillera Talamanca and the mountains around Chirripó Grande have to offer
The lower slopes of the mountains are rich in wildlife and are covered with rainforest. The highest slopes are covered with what is known as the Paramo and are similar in vegetation and appearance to the Paramo in the Andes.
Chirripó Grande is by far the most popular climb in the Cordillera Talamanca, because it is the highest peak in Costa Rica. It is one of the most popular summits in the country.
The Cordillera Talamanca is very unusual for Central America because it consist of folded, rather than volcanic mountains. These mountains are made of various metamorphic and granite rocks.
The first destination will be the large town of San Isidro de el General located to the west of the peak and national park. To reach San Isidro from San Jose, take one of the hourly (seven days a week) buses to San Isidro from the bus terminal at Calle Central and Avenida 22. It's a three hour ride.
From San Isidro, you must take another bus to San Gerardo de Rivas. The bus takes two hours and leaves at 5 AM and 1 PM each day. Get off the bus at the Parque National Chirripó ranger station.
The buses from San Jose to San Isidro del General depart from the Empresa Tracopa terminal. It could be useful to purchase the tickets in advance, especially if you are traveling on a weekend. Unlike many other buses, the Empresa Tracopa bus has reserved seating and does not accept additional passengers when it is full.
In addition to the bus, you can also travel from San Isidro to San Gerardo and back via taxi for about 14000 colones. (High-clearance 4WD taxis are available and probably preferable.) This is more expensive than the bus, but might be a useful option if you arrive in San Isidro after the last bus, or want to return to San Isidro at a non-standard hour. The taxi is considerably faster than the bus.
The bus stops at the ranger station. The Parque Nacional Chirripó ranger station is immediately before the junction with the road to Herradura. The junction, in turn, is immediately before the bridge over the Río Blanco. From the ranger station it is a short walk to the town center of San Gerardo, and about 2 km to the Hotel Urán and the main trailhead.
Tigerlily suggest staying at the following hotel:
I can strongly recommend staying at a hostel called Casa Mariposa, located just 20 feet from the start of the trail head. The owners are INCREDIBLE, you will get a solid night of sleep and be treated to meeting people from all around the world.
There are other places to stay as well.
Although a nice trail system exist, cross country travel on the lower slopes without a trail is difficult or impossible. The thick rainforest makes off-trail exploration impractical in most of the mountain range. It is better to stick to the trails.
There are quite a few ways to reach this area, including the trail/route over Cerro Uran, but by far most people begin in San Gerardo de Rivas. This is the only route I am familiar with, so if you are familiar with other routes, please post them.
Please see the detailed Route Page. It has much for detail than the breif overview below.
The first day is a long one. It is recommended that you arrange permits the day before in order to get an early start the next morning. At the very latest, a 6 AM (earlier is better) start is recommended. It's about 2 kms from the ranger station to the trailhead.
The first day to the Base Crestones (hut) is 14.5 kms with 2200 meters elevation gain and on a well marked trail.
After spending the night in the hut, follow the trail posted for Cerro Chirripo which is well marked at junctions. There are other peaks in the area to climb as well so it is recommended that you spend another night at the Base Crestones in order to climb some of the other peaks on day two. See some of the other mountain pages for more details:
On the same hike you can also head to other seldom visited peaks such as Cerro Uran, Loma Larga, or Cerro Laguna or even hike across Cerro Uran to Rio Blanco and easily spend five days doing so.
See the Route Page for the Fila Uran route. The information is brief, but you must take a guide anyway so detailed route information is not needed.
You must get a permit from the ranger station to reserve the hut at the Base Crestones and also to enter the park. Although the hut is seldom booked to capacity, it is on occasion (usually around Easter), so you can make advanced reservations.
New website for Cerro Chirripó National Park:
Cerro Chirripó National Park
This contact information is current as of March 2015 and was provided by SP member davidparker):
Park entry permits and Base Camp Crestones lodging arrangements will be obtainable ONLY as follows:
1. OBTAIN PARK PERMIT RESERVATION BY PHONE
PARK ENTRANCE PERMITS ARE REQUIRED AND ARE MADE ONLY BY PHONE, MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY, 8AM-4PM
In-country calls require only the last 8 digits.
Callers may reserve tickets for up to 4 hikers.
Name and I.D. number for each hiker is required.
Permits are non-transferable. (conditions apply for refunds).
Availability is limited to 52 bed spaces per day.
Hikers will be issued:
BANK PAYMENT AMOUNT
PARK BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER.
*see fees and reservation schedule below
2. ARRANGE LODGING PERMIT
The Base Camp Crestones on Chirripo is now managed by a private group. Your Park permits will come with a code number. Call Chirripo Services to confirm your lodging, meal plan and cost.
CHIRRIPO SERVICES (506) 2742-5097
3. PAY THE PARK & LODGING PERMIT AT BANCO NATIONAL WITHIN 3 BUSINESS DAYS OF RECEIVING THE RESERVATION CODE
BEST DONE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE IN SAN GERARDO. PARK FEES MUST BE PAID AT ANY BANCO NATIONAL IN PERSON OR BY BANK TRANSFER FROM A COSTA RICAN BANK.
THE PARK OFFICE WILL NOT ACCEPT CASH OR CARD PAYMENT OR INTERNATIONAL BANK TRANSFERS. (PLEASE CONTACT US FOR ASSISTANCE IF YOU ARE NOT IN COSTA RICA).
THE CLOSEST BANK IS IN SAN ISIDRO DE EL GENERAL ( 1.5 hours from San Gerardo by bus).
SINAC (NATIONAL PARKS) account #100-01-000-041220-5
EMAIL YOUR PROOF OF PAYMENT TO
BE AWARE THAT THERE IS A SEPARATE PAYMENT FOR LODGING!
LODGING FEES MUST BE PAID TO THE BANK ACCOUNT OF CHIRRIPO SERVICES AT BANCO NACIONAL UNLESS YOU ARRANGE YOUR PERMITS WITHIN 3 DAYS OF YOUR HIKE WHEREBY THEY WILL ACCEPT CASH UPON CHECK-IN AT THE LODGING OFFICE.
Camara de Desorrolladores de Turismo Rural Comunitario Chirripo
Email your proof of payment to
NOTE: Pay the bank in cash to avoid added bank fees.
4. CHECK-IN ONE DAY PRIOR TO HIKING
EACH HIKER IS REQUIRED TO CHECK IN AT THE SAN GERARDO PARK OFFICE BEFORE 4:00PM ONE DAY PRIOR TO HIKING with proof of payment and ID THEN CHECK IN BEFORE 5PM with Chirripo Lodging Services located at the futbol field in San Gerardo
COSTS AND SERVICES PROVIDED
PRICES DO NOT INCLUDE FOOD. Hikers may bring cold food but they may not cook. Food may also be purchased from the restaurant menu at Base Camp Crestones.
Park Day Pass (paid for each day in the park)
Non-Central American resident USD: 15 per day
Central American Resident USD: $8 per day
Lodging (paid for each night spent in the park)
17, 625 Costa Rican Colones.
Includes pillow, sheet, sleeping bag or blanket.
EXAMPLE: an overnight stay at base camp Crestones will cost 2 day passes and one overnight lodging fee for an approximate cost of $65 non-resident and $50 for Central American residents.
(2 night maximum except for rainy season)
Hiking Dates Call to Reserve Between:
Dec 1- Feb 28 1st Monday of October-Feb 28
March 1-May31 1st Monday of January-May 31
June 1-August 31 1st Monday of April-Aug. 31
Sept. 1 Nov. 30 1st Monday of July-Nov. 30
If you want help making a reservation, this Hostel and Guesthouse will help you.
Hostel and Guesthouse
SP member Dwarrel updates this further:
Since recently there is as well a new booking agency that arranges entrance and lodging permits for a very reasonable booking fee. I got to them through Casa Mariposa, this is their website:
December through March is the driest season, and the best time to climb the peak. February and March are the driest month of all and have the best weather, but December and January are greener since those months are just after the rainy season. The national park is closed to all travel in May.
The lower part of the trail can be very hot. The summit area can be very cold and wet year round. Freezing temperatures are common at the Base Crestones hut. That location holds the record lowest temperature ever recorded in Central America at -9C (16F)!
SP member Lakenyon provided the information below concerning climbing during the wet season:
In the rainy season, the most common pattern in Chirripó is dry (and possibly clear) weather in the morning, clouding up and leading to heavy rain in the afternoon and/or early evening. It is quite feasible to hike Cerro Chirripó in the rainy season, but you should expect torrential rain in the afternoons. Slow and moderate-paced hikers should start early enough to reach Base Crestones before noon or shortly thereafter. Strong hikers who would ordinarily day hike the 40 km round trip might reconsider their plans and stay at Base Crestones so they can enjoy the peak in the early morning, when the weather is likely to be better. Or they should start extremely early. Not only is the summit beautiful at sunrise, but this is probably your best chance to have clear weather.
No camping is allowed along the standard route. Everyone must stay at the Base Crestones hut at 3393 meters. The hut sleeps 60 and is comfortable, but is not heated (no fires are allowed in the park), so it is usually cold in the mornings and evenings. Blankets can be rented for $1 per night, but everyone should take a sleeping bag. As of July 2010, stoves are no longer available to rent in the hut.
Showers are available, but are freezing cold!
SP member Lakenyon provided the updated information below from his July 2010 climb:
If you plan to stay at the hut but do not plan to bring your own sleeping bag to Costa Rica, you can rent one in San Gerardo de Rivas. However, information about which places rent sleeping bags can be unreliable. The Hotel Roca y Dura informed us via email that they rented sleeping bags, but they did not have any when we arrived. Several people said the visitor center (not the same place as the ranger station) rented sleeping bags, but the staff at the visitors center said no. The Hotel Urán does rent sleeping bags, although not particularly good ones. Most people will find them quite adequate, but those susceptible to cold, or those who are still wet from being out in the rain, might find them insufficient.
In addition to sleeping bags, Hotel Urán rents stoves and fuel cannisters, and also has a small food store. There is another small food store across from the soccer field, adjacent to the Hotel Roca y Dura.
The staff at Base Crestones did have a few extra sleeping bags for emergencies, but it would be very unwise to rely on them. They also had some blankets which they loaned free of charge to those who seemed particularly cold or miserable, but in general they were quite reluctant to do so. It is best to bring all the sleeping bags or blankets that you need yourself and not count on obtaining anything at the hut.
Camping is allowed Cerro Uran on the Fila Uran route.
Apparently meals are now served at Base Crestones Hut, but check on this before climbing up there without adequate food!
The official website for the National Park is below:
National Park Website
There are apparently no useful weather links for the mountain itself.