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Costa Rica Travel >>natural areas>>La Amistad

La Amistad
International Peace Park

Amistad National Park Costa Rica
Attractions | The Region | Getting There | Books

La Amistad is the largest most remote National Park in Costa Rica. It is nearly surrounded by other parks and reserves for the indigenous Chirripó, Tayni, Telire, Talamanca, Ujarras, Salitre and Abagra peoples. It protects widely diverse habitats, from tropical lowland rainforest, to cloud forests and the northernmost occurrence of the tundra-like páramo ecosystem in the world. Much of the park has never been explored, and it would be ill advised to venture very far beyond its boundaries without an experienced guide.

Blue-crowned motmot (photo M. Hollinger NOAA)
Blue-crowned motmot (photo M. Hollinger NOAA)

La Amistad extends past the international frontier into Panama, it is the largest protected region in Costa Rica, has more virgin forest than all of the other parks, and it has been estimated that about two-thirds of the total species found in Costa Rica live here. Hikers and backpackers will be rewarded with glimpses of Baird's tapirs, giant anteaters, all six species of neotropical cats - jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, oncilla and jaguarundi as well as monkeys, coatis, over 600 bird species, 115 species of fish, and almost 300 reptile and amphibian species. If you are interested in insects or plants there is no point in even trying to provide a number to represent their diversity because new species are being discovered at such an amazing rate.

In the region
Attractions | The Region
Getting There | Books




In the region:
Caribbean side:
Cahuita National Park

The Caribbean coast was settled Africans brought in by way of Jamaica in the late 1800's to build the coffee railroad from San José, or to work the banana plantations. The Caribbean has an unmatched rhythm and Cahuita National Park is as much about culture as wildlife and botany.

Hitoy-Cerere biological reserve

Pacific side:
Chirripó National Park
Besides the challenge of climbing Costa Rica's highest peak (Cerro Chirripó) there are miles of trails that wind through more ecological zones than you will find in most entire countries, and a beautiful hot spring to relax in when you're done.

The Wilson botanical gardens near San Vito has one of the worlds largest collections of palms, and acres of other tropical wonders. (San Vito is where you will find the best Italian food in Costa Rica as well).

Books and other resources
Attractions | The Region
Getting There | Books




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A Guide to the Birds of Costa RicaA Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica
by F. Gary Stiles, Alexander F. Skutch (Contributor), Dana Gardner (Illustrator), Paperback, Publisher: Cornell Univ. Pr, (1990), ISBN: 0801496004

Birders the world over agree it's a classic in its field ;-) An excellent guide to one of the most diverse bird populations anywhere with 52 beautiful color plates, detailed species accounts, descriptions of birding localities. If you're already hooked on birding you know from your friends that this is the book you need for the avifauna of Costa Rica, and if you're a novice, this is a perfect place to start.
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$US 27.97 from Amazon -or-
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A Guide to the Birds of Panama: With Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and HondurasA Guide to the Birds of Panama: With Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras
by Robert S. Ridgely, John A. Gwynne (Contributor), $US 33.25, Paperback, 412 pages, Publisher: Princeton Univ. Pr; 2nd edition, (1992), ISBN: 0691025126

Some tout this volume as superior to A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Stiles, Skutch & Gardener. Over 1,000 species, more than 800 illustrated on 48 color plates. While the neotropical birds you are likely to spot in Costa Rica will be in this book, the site specific information is weighted towards Panama. Follows the sequence and taxonomy of the 1983 check-list of the American Ornithologists Union.
rated four and a half out of five toucans by
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Travel & Site Guide to Birds of Costa Rica With Side Trips to PanamaTravel & Site Guide to Birds of Costa Rica With Side Trips to Panama
by Aaron D. Sekerak, Aaron D. Sekerak, Eussa Ginger, Elissa Conger (Illustrator), Paperback, 256 pages, Publisher: Lone Pine Publishing, (1996), ISBN: 1551050846

This book is exactly what it says, a guide to birding sites. It is not a field guide with color illustrations etc. That said, it's a useful tool for planning a trip or getting more information about regions you are seeing on an organized tour. Includes some interesting back doors, and info on who to talk to in specific areas about seeing birds. If someone said "I would give $1000 to see a Calliphlox bryantae" you would have to look the common name up in a bird book first, then use the Travel and Site guide to locate a likely locale.
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$US 11.87 from Amazon -or-
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Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa RicaField Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica
by Carrol L. Henderson (Author), Steve Adams (Illustrator), Paperback, 559 pages, Publisher: Univ. of Texas Press; 1st edition, (2002), ISBN: 029273459X

Color photos, species accounts, and distribution maps, for almost three hundred species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, moths, and other invertebrates are complimented by general introductions to each group, the ecology of Costa Rica, and how to travel to see wildlife.
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Map showing the location of natural area in Costa Rica
Location: S Central Costa Rica

Getting There:

Driving Directions
Take the Pan American Highway East out of San José, the road curves South and changes designation from Highway 1 to Highway 2, although it's still the Pan American Highway. About 30 miles (50 km) past Cartago you climb over Cerro de la Muerte, which isn't called the mountain of the dead because of all the head on bus collisions there, but it could be (the name actually originated from all of the people who died walking over the pass before the road was much more than a trail). It's not advisable to drive in Costa Rica at night, but especially not here. You will reach San Isidro el General after a total of 92 miles (153 km, approx. 3 1/2 hours). From here on La Amistad is on your left hand side 15 miles (25 km) away until you reach the Panamanian border. There are several entrance stations.
There are no paved roads into the park. Access is generally by horse or foot from one of the four Puestos (outposts/entrance stations) on the Pacific side of the Talamanca Cordillera (4WD required to reach each of them). Estación Altimira is the park headquarters, and is located 12 miles (20 km) north of Guácimo. Other entrances are from Estación Tres Colinas at Helechales, and in the Las Tablas region, Estación Pittier at Progresso, and Estación La Escuadra northeast of Santa Elena.
Detailed roadmaps are available in acrobat pdf format or printed on waterproof tear proof plastic.
There are no buses into the park, but you can get close and take a 4WD taxi or tour from San Vito.
608 San Vito From San José - Departures every day, Terminal Alfaro At 5:45, 8:15, 11:30, 14:45; Returns 4:30, 7:30, 8:30, 10:00, 15:00. Alfaro Bus Company. Telephone (506) 222-2666

Entrance fees:

$US 7


The trails in La Amistad are unmarked. Camping is allowed at Estación Altimira which has restroom and shower facilities, and Estación Las Tablas which has no facilities and is about a six mile (10 km) hike from Estación Pittier.


There is no lodging in La Amistad Park.

Quick Facts

The park is so immense that weather varies widely and it's difficult to make generalizations. The lower elevations of the Caribbean side are extremely wet, hot and humid. However access is typically from the Pacific side where the elevations are higher, and the weather is usually cool and damp near the entrance stations, and cools considerably as you climb. Average temperatures of around 79 °F (26 °C) are common on the lower east slopes but below freezing nights occur on the peaks and ridges. The driest months are February and March.


479,000 acres (194,000 hectares, 750 square miles, 570 times the size of central park NYC, almost twice the size of Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado) in Costa Rica and an additional 510,00 acres (207,000 hectares) in Panama


From 475 feet (145 meters) on the Caribbean side to 11,644 feet (3,549 meters) atop Cerro Kamuk.


Tropical lowland wet forest (rain forest), tropical highland forest (cloud forest), subalpine/alpine rainy páramo (tundra)

Common animals:

Almost two-thirds of the species found in Costa Rica are found within the boundaries of La Amistad. More than 260 species of reptiles and amphibians, 400 species of birds, 100 species of fish, and the largest populations of jaguars in Central America.

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