There are plenty of day trips to be made from San Jose when looking for a break to escape the daily grind of the urban jungle and venture out into the tranquility of nature. Only an hour and a half away, 22 miles southeast of San Jose is Tanpati National Park, the perfect setting for resetting and immersing yourself in the simplicity of nature.
Tanpati National Park is located in the south-central area of Costa Rica in the Orosi Valley and Talamancan mountain range, protecting 58, 495 acres. Created in 1982, it was declared as La Amistad Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and in 1983 a World Natural Heritage Site. One of the characteristics of this biologically diverse region is the amount of rainfall it receives located in one of the rainiest places in all of Costa Rica especially during the months of May to October.
The important El Rio de Grande runs through the Tanpati National Park providing drinking water for some areas as well as contributing to the hydroelectric power system. These rains feed and fill the 150 rivers and streams that flow throughout creating the enchanting sounds of nature’s wonderland. That being said the meaning of the park’s name Tanpati is perfectly fitting, torrent from the heavens, as the waters swell along the river banks.
However, what comes along with this is the nourishment the rains provide to the two main types of forests within the park, the lower montane rainforest and premontane rainforest. These life zones are comprised of oak trees, magnolias, Panama trees, bromeliads, and the beautiful poor man’s umbrellas which is perfectly suited for this rainy forest. The rain brings life to the forests cleansing your airways with the rich smells of nature, breathing in the freshness. All shades of green decorate the forests along with mosses, ferns, lichens, and orchids growing rampantly throughout along with 1, 229 species of plants.
There are several different hiking trails to explore the thick forests and the most popular is the Oropendola Trail with all the great spots along the river to stop and relax appreciating the serenity along with a picnic lunch. Tanpati National Park allows you to enter with food, however, not with grills or charcoal, just remember there is no littering or smoking permitted. It is a shorter trail of just over a kilometer so it is great for anyone in the family as it is primarily flat and easy to traverse dependent on the amount of rainfall.
Waterfall and Kettle Trail is one trail that splits into two giving you the option to choose whether to adventure towards the river or out to explore views of a distant waterfall. Either route you decide to take is going to take you into the sanctuary of the park’s flora and fauna. The elusive and beautifully colored quetzal has a nesting site in the park and you may have a chance to spot this majestic looking bird. Parrots, yigüirros, doves, hawks, and falcons safely fly within and the remarkably quick and strikingly stunning hummingbirds zip throughout.
One of the more difficult hiking trails, if you are wanting to challenge yourself, is the Fallen Trees Trail with steep climbs throughout its 3 kilometers. Regardless of the lush rainforest trail you venture out onto, listen in the silence for some of the 45 different species of mammals protected in the park. Rabbits, deers, and coatis can be spotted throughout the trees, white-faced capuchin monkeys playing in the branches as well kinkajous above. Costa Rica’s endangered and unique Baird’s tapir resides within as well as the bigger cats of pumas and jaguars.
Before you leave, take a moment to look out at all the greenery that abundantly flourishes in this remarkable country at the Waterfall Lookout. You will be reminded of what Costa Rica is made of, rich nature and mountains decorated in the untouched forests that are recognized and loved for their importance to this special country. In the distance, you will see the waterfall that peeks out and freely flows from the immense wall of greenery, a true postcard before your eyes.
With the wet weather patterns in this area ensure you bring a raincoat and some warm clothes, especially if you end up getting rained on and need to warm up after. The temperatures are a bit cooler in this region especially as the clouds roll in and move throughout the forests so you may want lightweight pants or at least a long-sleeved shirt. Good footwear is necessary for hiking the terrain as it can become slippery and muddy at times from the rains and alter the ease of the paths.
Park Hours and Cost
You can come and unwind in this park Monday to Sunday all week-long including holidays from 8 am until 4 pm, with 3 pm being the last entrance time. There is a ranger station along with a clear map of the trails. It is important to note that the park does not allow pets to come and explore with you or for you to swim in the streams or rivers.
It is $10 for non-residents 13 and over and only $5 for children ages 2 to 12. Little ones 2 and under are free to enter. Residents 13 and over are 800 colones and if over 65 are free to enter and experience the peace that lies within this densely forested park.
As you enter Tanpati National Park, instantly you breathe in the pure raw nature of the forests as they swallow you up the further you venture in. The music of the streams serenades you as calmness flows through you like the river stream itself. As the rain brews the dream-like clouds float through the trails hauntingly surrounding you while wildlife spies upon you as you eagerly peer through the dense flora in hopes of spotting their lookout spot. Your visit will leave your body and mind with a sense of peace ready to take on whatever life has waiting for you.