The 133 sheet series of topographic maps from the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) covers all of Costa Rica at a scale of 1:50,000 (1 cm = 0.5 km or 1 inch = 0.79 miles) and includes elevation contours at 10 meter, 20 meter or 30 meter intervals depending on the sheet.
That scale and contour interval is right at the upper limit to be useful for foot or bicycle travel and there are some huge climbs and drops that are invisible at this resolution. A 100 foot cliff might be invisible so asking locally about routing is a good idea even if you have the maps.
The topo maps are based on a survey of Costa Rica completed in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The mountains, valleys and rivers haven’t moved too much although a couple of the volcanoes have gotten a bit taller or shorter due to eruptions and new reservoirs have been created by dams. Surprisingly outside the central valley the roads haven’t changed nearly as much as you might expect in 40 years of development.
Even within the central valley and cities the main roads are pretty much the same. Most of the blank spots that used to be coffee fields have been filled in with cul de sacs, housing developments and shopping centers.
Use the table below to determine which maps you’ll need for your day hike, trek or 4WD expedition. The maps are both named and coded (according to an arcane and obsolete method involving where they meet at the corners and a Roman numeral). Click for enlarged image and mouse over for the IGN map series code.
Buy the maps at the Instituto Geográfico Nacional in San José
After using the table of images above to determine the locations you are interested in you can purchase the maps at the Costa Rica National Institute of Geography located in the headquarters of the National Registry on the third floor of wing 4. Tico address – Curridabat, opposite PriceSmart. Phone (506) 2202-0601, other contacts, GPS location 9.919358, -84.048886
Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) sede central del Registro Nacional en Curridabat, frente a PriceSmart, en el tercer piso del Módulo 4. telefónico directo: (506) 2202-0601, other contacts