In June of 2019 Costa Rica announced the intention to create 5 new national parks including one in the region of San Gerardo de Dota in the upper Savegre River valley.
The Savegre river is one of the most pristine in Costa Rica and one day we plan to trek from its source high on the Macizo de la Muerte to the beach at Playa Savegre where it empties into the Pacific. We’ve seen the top third (this photo essay) and the bottom third (see lower Savegre and Rafiki) but the middle is the wildest.
Waterfall hikes and bird watching are the main attractions but there’s also a zip-line in cloud forest and fly fishing for trout.
For 25 years we recommend San Gerardo de Dota as an alternative to Monteverde for viewing the famous resplendent quetzal but recently revised this. San Gerardo is exceptional for many things and still highly recommended in general but the local lodges and bird guides have fallen into a trap of the path of least resistance when it comes to quetzals.
Large open pastures surrounded by gallery forests are easily visible from the main road and a typical quetzal tour now consists of driving along the road to join a mob of others watching as a few of the birds cross the open space predictably early each morning.
We recommend skipping the official quetzal tour and just spending a couple of days enjoying everything else the valley has to offer. You’ll almost certainly see San Gerardo’s most famous resident while hiking to the waterfalls, discovering the paramo, on a zip-wire above the river or while sipping your morning coffee on the terrace of your lodge.