Experience Chirripó, a hike to the highest point of Costa Rica
The Chirripó with a height of 3´820 meters about sea level is the highest point in Costa Rica. It’s located at the National Park that got the same name and houses a great diversity. There are three types of forests that you can appreciate while hiking up.
We start with the humid tropical forest, then, as the altitude of the trail increases, we find the cloud forest and its magical diversity of mosses, fungi, and birds; Once at approximately 3´000 meters above sea level, we will discover the beautiful sub-alpine moor.
To enjoy the Chirripó National Park the best possible way, I recommend staying at least two nights at the hostel since the physical effort is very demanding to go up one day and down the next one. In the following, I will describe to you day by day what the Chirripó experience is about. So let’s start:
Day 1: On the way to San Gerardo de Rivas, de Perez Zeledón
Besides the two recommended nights to stay at the hostel, it is also important to stay one night in San Gerardo de Rivas, a community located at the main entrance of the Chirripó National Park.
There are different hotels, and they are quite basic but fulfil their function, as they are the starting point for the adventure. On this day you can arrive around 3 p.m.
Important for this day:
Go to the office of the Chirripó National Park to check-in and that they give you the bracelet.
Go to the office of Consorcui, an organization responsible for the lodging and logistic, to organize everything related to the luggage and food.
Don’t forget to ask for breakfast for day 02 in the hotel where you stay this night.
Day 2: The challenge and adventure starts
The reason why you should stay in the town of San Gerardo de Rivas is to be close to the entrance of the National Park to start the hike early in the morning. The main advice of the experts for anyone who wants to take the adventure and hike up the Chirripó is to go in your tempo according to your physical condition, in order to not demand more than your body can give, to successfully take the task of the day: arrive at the Chirripó hostel! In other words, hike from 1´520 Meters above sea level at the starting point to 3´393 meters above sea level, where the hostel is located. This is a total distance of 14.5 km.
It is a very demanding hike, but you will fall in love with the landscapes! The best thing is when you get to see the Crestone in the distance (an emblematic rock formation of the Chirripó)! A reward to give you strength and continue the walk until you arrive at the hostel.
When you get there, you can eat your well deserved and delicious lunch! After you relaxed a little bit you can go in the afternoon to explore the surroundings. I recommend a perfect viewing point to appreciate and enjoy the sunset, which is located on the way to one of the attractions of the park called Sabana de Los Leones. This viewpoint will leave you speechless when you see how the sun hides behind the clouds at more than 3´000 meters. This is an unforgettable experience!
Important at this day: Hotel at the Chirripó National Park
An association of people of the town of San Gerardo de Rivas has a hostel for those who want to experience the Chirripó. It houses up to 60 people and is located in the National Park. The rooms have two individual chambers, so 4 people per room. They also offer a food service which you have to organize when you register at the office or when you make the reservation. Remember that you can’t cook there, but they offer a chef service.
To warm up a little bit you can buy hot drinks since on the top the temperatures are very low and in the coldest month it can get to 0℃ or below, but you can just pay them in cash.
Day 3: Go to the summit and explore the surroundings
Something essential to do when you visit this National Park is to climb to the summit! It’s about 5 km from the hostel. You can see the sunrise at the summit, even though it’s more relaxed to eat breakfast at the hostel around 5:30 am and climb to the summit around 6:00 am.
This day is to explore the surroundings of the park, for example, the landscapes are incredibly beautiful, on the way to the summit you can see lagoons, rocky mountains, unique vegetation, impressive valleys and all of this together with the hike makes you enjoy every second of the adventure!
When you get closer to the Cerro Chirripó the summit is getting more difficult. To get to the top, you have to climb with your arms and legs. In other words, you need your hands to push yourself to get to the highest point, 3´820 meters above sea level. When you achieve this, enjoy a few minutes there, take photos and appreciate the landscape because you don’t reach the highest point of Costa Rica every day!
This day is to continue enjoying it! Another recommendation is to hike to the famous Crestones. The relief of the path is very steep, but when you reach the top you will say: “It was worth it!”. It is a place that enchants anyone with its beauty.
Once you achieved this goal, you can continue exploring or go back to the hostel to relax and wait that the sun reflects in the Crestones, which you can see from the hotel.
Important at this day:
Ask for breakfast for day 04.
Day 4: Descent! The way back to San Gerardo
The best time to start the hike back is early in the morning. It’s recommended to get to San Gerardo at noon, so you can get prepared for the rest of the way back. When you leave early, you will have the luck to see a beautiful sunrise and hear the birds singing and welcoming the new day.
In the middle of the way, you can make a stop at Llano Bonito, because there is a picnic area for all hikers and a food stand, where you can buy a hot coffee and breakfast.
Many people say that the way down is more difficult than the way up, and my advice is to take hiking shoes in one size bigger than you usually wear because the descent causes a lot of impacts and you might lose some of your nails if you don’t follow this advice!
When you arrive at San Gerardo and just finished a 14,5 km hike, there is nothing better than taking a shower and eating a delicious lunch! The restaurant of the Hotel Urán offers exquisite dishes, exactly what you need after a great physical exercise.
If you like blooms, November is an excellent month to admire this phenomenon.
When you check-in at the association (Consorcio Aguas Eternas), you have to register and give them the luggage you want to be transported with the muleteer service (like this, you carry just the essential), like warm clothes for the hostel, snacks for those days, personal articles, an extra pair of shoes, and other things. The price is charged per kilogram and is a little high (about 5 USD per kg per way), so I recommend you to take just what you need. Contact me to give you some tips about what to bring and how to distribute the weight.
And how the slogan of the Chirripó says: You have to live it! Or how the saying goes: “To hear a story is not the same as living it”. So don’t wait, I invite you to include a hike at the Chirripó, to the highest point of Costa Rica to your vacation. Just