Tapanti National Park

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Tapanti National Park

Birds are in abundance at Tapanti National Park and you may even spot the Resplendent Quetzal.
Birds are in abundance at Tapanti National Park and you may even spot the Resplendent Quetzal.

The Tapanti National Park protects forested areas in the northern Talamanca Mountain Range, north of Chirripo National Park, and is located about 20 kms southeast of the city of Cartago. Tapanti sits on almost 5,000 hectares and has the distinction of having the greatest amount of rain and cloud cover in the country. The Rio Grande de Orosi traverses the park, with numerous other rivers and streams joining the main river. Subsequently; this vast network of waterways is used to generate hydroelectric energy. Receiving up to 280 inches of rain annually, the upper Orosi River Valley watershed is one of the rainiest regions in Costa Rica. It ultimately runs into Lake Cachi, the location of the Cachi Dam and Angostura hydroelectric project.

In 2000 the park was expanded and now includes the infamous Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death). The 'Mountain of Death' marks the highest point on the Interamericana as well as the northernmost extent of the paramo, a highland shrub and tussock grass habitat that's commonly found thoughout the Andes and is home to a variety of rare bird species.

Although this steep and rainy environment is conducive to frequent landslides and tremors, the damp climate provides shelter for numerous butterflies as well as vertebrates, such as the Resplendent Quetzals, toucans, hummingbirds, river otters, Tapantí National Park is not an easy place to see mammals, even though many species inhabit the area, such as collared peccaries, anteaters, sloths and jaguarundis to name a few. Observation of birds, butterflies, and plant life will surely prove more rewarding pursuits.

Birds at this elevation are in abundance and often forage in flocks containing a variety of species, the most common ones being the Three-striped Warbler and the Common Bush-Tanager, but the sharp-eyed observer will also be able to pick out other species such as Spotted Barbtail, Spotted Woodcreeper, Redheaded Barbet, and Spangle-cheeked Tanager. Numerous hummingbird species are also often quite active around clumps of flowering epiphytes.

The rich diversity of epiphytes (plants growing on the trunks and branches of trees) found in this humid environment will provide the plant enthusiast with endless surprises. Orchids in particular are very diverse and abundant at Tapantí and careful inspection will certainly result in finding several species in bloom at any time of year.

Most mornings in Tapanti are sunny and very pleasant with mild temperatures. However, it typically clouds over by midday, or early afternoon at the latest, and rain falls almost daily in this area. Therefore, it is recommended that you get an early start when visiting Tapantí and bring your rain gear. A sweater or jacket will also be welcome when the temperatures start to drop once the sun goes behind clouds.


The La Esperanza de El Guarco Biological Station is located in Tapanti National Wildlife Refuge and has lodging for up to 15 people, with water, restrooms, showers and electricity.

The Pittier Ranger Station is open from 5am to 5pm with hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and picnic areas.

Getting to Tapanti National Wildlife Refuge

• take the road southeast out of Cartago towards Paraiso

• follow the signs to Orosi

• continue through town and stay on the main road all the way to the park

Getting to the La Esperanza de El Guarco Biological Station

• continue through Cartago on the Interamerican highway

• right after you pass the turnoff to Copey de Dota, the road to the station will be on your left