Plan the Perfect Hiking Trip on Costa Rica Mountain Peaks

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If you and other family members or friends love hiking, Costa Rica is the perfect destination. Although Costa Rica boasts multiple mountain peaks, there are eight in particular that stand out. Whether living in Costa Rica or just visiting, hiking is one of the most popular ways to spend quality time outdoors, which makes sense considering the vast number of places to go. Not only is hiking fun, it is great exercise and an inexpensive activity. Due to the vast number of mountain peaks, hiking is something that you can enjoy as an amateur or professional.

For serious hikers, the ultimate goal is the Cerro Chirripo Grande. As the highest peak in Costa Rica with an elevation of 12,533 feet, it offers an array of challenging trails and breathtaking views. Even if you’ve only recently started to hike, have not been on any trails for some time, or your skill is not quite at a professional level, you still have many incredible options.

Pico Blanco and La Ventolera

If you have good hiking experience and prefer a challenge, the Escazu mountains are ideal. This mountain has two peaks, Pico Blanco and La Ventolera, both excellent choices with easy access from San Jose. As the fourth highest hill in these mountains, Pico Blanco stands at 7,451 feet tall. To get there, you will head to the San Antonio de Escazu Cemetery and drive up roughly 3.1 miles where you will find parking. From the very start, this hill has a relatively tough ascent. Therefore, be sure to wear appropriate hiking boots, carry the right gear, and bring plenty of bottled water.

During your climb, you will enjoy being surrounded by gorgeous vegetation. After reaching the top with its incredible views, you will find it hard to leave. While going up Pico Blanco, you will come to a lower peak, La Ventolera. Depending on your hiking ability or the time of day, you can stop at this point to take in the views and have an outdoor picnic. Because this is a much shorter hike, you can even bring your dog along.

Cerro Espiritu Santo

If you are at a beginner level, this peak is perfect. Cerro Espiritu Santo is located in Naranjo, Alajuela and is only 4,472 feet high. According to legend, this hill was at one time an active volcano. With its magnificent views and lush vegetation, is it not only a popular hiking trail for beginners, but also one of the best places in Costa Rica for mountain biking.

Bosque del Niño

Bosque del Niño is a popular destination for hikers with beginner skills. However, because it features three unique trails, each with a varying degree of difficulty, it is also frequented by seasoned hikers. Of the three trails, PN Poas Volcano is by far the toughest. Regardless of the trail that you take, you will be thrilled to discover a beautiful waterfall, picnic areas, and even small cabins.

Cerro Dragon

You can reach the Cerro Dragon peak by going through either Acosta or Aserri, with the latter being the shorter of the two. However, if you take this route, you will definitely need a four-wheel drive vehicle. Because of how challenging this peak is and the fact that it takes approximately three hours to hike, it is recommended for experienced hikers only.

Barva Volcano

For beginners as well as advanced hikers, Barva Volcano is great. There you can choose from several trails. Cacho de Venado is 6,200 feet high and takes roughly two hours to hike. On that trail, you can visit the observation point at Vara Blanco or stop by the Lake and Volcano Center. For a more challenging hike, consider Copey Lake, which is just over three miles long.

Cerro Pelado

Cerro Pelado is another incredible hiking trail in Costa Rica. Located in Guanacaste, you will drive along Route 1 heading toward Liberia. After reaching Canas, turn on Jabilla and continue driving for about 30 minutes where parking is available. Although the entire 1.86 miles of this hill is challenging, the first 6/10ths are the most difficult. Often, temperatures at the top are considerably cooler than at the bottom, so you might want to bring a lightweight jacket with you. Even though Cerro Pelado is a tough hike, every step is worth it once you reach the top. As you look around, you will be mesmerized by the natural beauty of the mountain and surrounding area.

Cabeza de Vaca

Located in the Prusia area of Cartago, this mountain peak has an altitude of 9,154 feet above sea level. Of the two available trails, one is the most popular, especially for families looking to spend quality time together outdoors. The second trail tends to be more difficult. While the hike is long, it is also worthwhile as it leads to Cabeza de Vaca, which translates to “Cow’s Head.”

Peak Kamuk

Peak Kamuk is the last of the eight highly recommended hiking peaks in Costa Rica. With an impressive height of 11,643 feet, you will need a full seven days to complete the trip. Located in La Amistad National Park, this peak is for advanced hikers.

Although you can enjoy the various hiking trails in Costa Rica on your own, if preferred, you can always hire a local guide.


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Daveed Hollander is a Costa Rica Realtor living in Dominical on the Southern Pacific coast. Daveed has lived here for ten years, is a legal resident of Costa Rica, a member of the CCBR here in and of NAR, GAR and CIPS.

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