Hiking in Costa Rica

One sunny and crisp December morning, my dad and I wanted to take a friend hiking. We decided to go to Tapanti, a national reserve that’s included in the Amistad International Park (area in both Costa Rica and Panama). When we got to the beautiful rainforest, I asked the park ranger about a nice one hour hiking trail. He suggested one and told us that the other possibility was much too strenuous. Off we went, and soon we were expecting the real trail to materialize before us, since we were on a path that seemed to go around the park ranger’s station. Pretty soon, we saw picnic huts lined along the path, that were separated from each other by fifteen feet or so. Then, we started hearing loud splashing sounds, but they didn’t seem to be coming from wild animals bathing in a tropical river. Upon approaching the river, we saw empty bottles of “guaro” as well as some remains of food and then we finally saw what was making the noise- they weren’t animals, but they certainly were party animals.We immediately turned back since the path did indeed go around in a circle around the ranger’s station. We hoped that the other path (that wasn’t recommended by the ranger) would be a real hiking trail, and not a pathway into a surreal, never-ending picnic area. Once we got into the path, we weren’t disappointed; it turned out to be exactly what we had in mind. We saw gorgeous birds and we walked in a peaceful and exotic trail.This anecdote illustrates the underdevelopment of hiking in Costa Rica. There are beautiful trails in all of the national parks, as well as in almost any natural area; however, local information is sometimes very limited. Therefore, it’s best to go hiking in a tour that’s been arranged either locally or through a foreign agency. There are tour companies that include everything from a one hour hike to a hiking and camping trip that takes up to a week or ten days. Some local and foreign agencies that specialize in hiking trips are: Jungle Trails in Costa Rica tel.(506)255-34-86, and Wildland Adventures in Seattle (206)365-0686.Some essential objects to take on any hiking or camping trip, in C.R. or elsewhere, are: canteens, good hiking boots, a hat, insect repellent and sunscreen. Due to the weather conditions in Costa Rica, a hiker must consider the rain factor and take: plenty of socks, raingear and a jacket. There are stores in San Jose that specialize in camping and hiking equipment, but they are more expensive than in the U.S. or other countries.

The main threats to hiker’s safety in Costa Rica are: dehydration; sunstroke; weather conditions (cold and the rain); snakes. All of the points, except the last one are common in hiking situations everywhere. Of 135 snakes that are present in this country, only seventeen are poisonous, but people must still take some precautions. For example, hikers should never hold on to branches or logs without looking first. They should also wear appropriate boots that cover part of the leg.

Even though hiking isn’t as developed as other sports like bicycling, birdwatching, deep-sea fishing or surfing, it’s starting to evolve rapidly through local and foreign tour agencies. Many hotels that are located in rural and natural areas have taken the initiative of hiring a guide for hiking trips. Many hotels located around volcanoes like the Arenal, Poas or Turrialba, offer walks around the volcano or even up to the crater.

Whether you’re hiking in a rainforest, near a volcano or along the coast, you will encounter stunning natural sites in Costa Rica. Hiking is a good option for getting to know the country at a closer level than from the window of an air-conditioned bus. Just remember to take all the necessary objects to assure you a safe and comfortable trip.

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