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Cerro Chirripó, also known as Costa Rica’s rooftop and renowned for its biological wealth, is the highest point found in this beautiful country and the fifth most elevated peak in Central America.
The ascent is a strenuous but rewarding climb that passes through thick cloud forests, alpine tundra, and rocky terrain. Before hiking Cerro Chirripó, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica in the near future, this article will be highly useful as it covers everything you need to know about reaching the top of this colossal hill.
General information of interest
In case you don’t know much about hiking Cerro Chirripó, here there are interesting facts about it.
- Cerro Chirripó is 3,820 meters above sea level (12,536 feet), and it is situated in Chirripó National Park, one of Costa Rica’s wildest and most isolated national parks.
- The total distance traveled to reach the summit of Chirripó is 42 km (26 miles). The starting point of the hike is at 1,500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level in the town of San Gerardo de Rivas in the surrounding Talamanca mountains, located in the southern part of Costa Rica.
- The name “Chirripó”, means “land of eternal waters”. Due to the numerous lakes and streams that can be found all around the mountain, the indigenous people of Costa Rica gave it that name.
- The average hiking time it takes on the way up ranges from 7 to 12 hours, and on the way down, it can take from 7 to 10 hours, however, it depends on each person and their physical condition. The trip is usually divided into 2 days. On the first day, hikers tend to spend a little more than half an overnight at Crestones Base Camp (the only mountain hostel inside the national park), leaving as early as possible the next day to be able to see the sunrise from its top.
- The best time of the year to climb Cerro Chirripó is between the months of December and March, basically during the dry season. You might get lucky in April, but since it is quite close to the beginning of the rainy season, why take the risk?
Tickets to hike Cerro Chirripó
The number one step towards breathing pure air at the summit of Cerro Chirripó is to make an online reservation and buy your ticket on their website. There you need to create an account, and once you do, you click on the buy button. In the space pertaining to the wildlife area, you select Parque Nacional Chirripó from the dropdown menu, and in Sector/Schedule, you need to select Sector San Gerardo, you finally have to select the dates you plan to hike Chirripó.
Crestones Base Camp is the only place where you are allowed to stay once you enter the national park, given that camping is prohibited on the main trail. The space at the Crestones Base Camp is limited (52 beds), which is why it is recommended to make a reservation at least 6 months in advance.
After making your online reservation you need to wait for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org to arrive in your inbox with the payment information for lodging and food (you have 5 calendar days to make the payment after receiving that confirmation email). If you do not receive it within a range of 3 days after booking, you can send an email to email@example.com.
In addition to the entrance fee, hikers must obtain a permit to hike Mount Chirripó. Permits are limited to 60 people per day. Since, during peak season, permits can sell out months in advance, booking as early as possible is recommended. You can get a permit online through the park’s website.
Find below a summary of the basic expenses you’ll need to cover for your hike.
- Entrance to the park per day is $21 for foreigners.
- Lodging per night per person is around $40. Feel free to review the lodging rates before booking your trip.
- Basic food per reserved night (Lunch and dinner on the first day and breakfast on the second) costs $37. You can review all possible combinations and options here.
- Transfer of luggage from the starting point to Crestones Base camp is $5 per kg. You can review the complete detail of services and costs on the website.
If you have been to most tourist places in Costa Rica, especially around beaches in the Pacific or the Caribbean side, you may now be used to warm temperatures. Well, Cerro Chirripó is nothing like that. The range of daytime temperatures close to Chirripó’s top is 4 to 18 °C(40 to 65 °F). Temperatures at night can fall below 0 °C (32 °F).
San Gerardo de Rivas is about 4.5 hours from San Jose by car. Be ready for a lengthy and bumpy trip because the road to this town is a meandering mountain road. If you don’t have a car, buses from San Jose go to San Isidro de El General, where you may take a shuttle or a taxi to get to San Gerardo de Rivas.
One day before beginning your journey, you must check in at the San Gerardo Park Office by 4 p.m. San Gerardo de Rivas’ main entrance is where you can find the park office.
The day before your hike, by 5 p.m., you must check in at the San Gerardo de Rivas office of Crestones Base Camp, which is located at the neighborhood soccer field.
Since you must arrive in San Gerardo de Rivas a day before your hiking, you will need to book a place to spend the night there. There are several hostels and hotels in the area starting at $30 per person per night, which is also best if you can book in advance.
The trailhead has a small parking area with limited room. It is advised to arrive early in the morning to obtain a space. There are other parking spots in the area if that one is full, although they can be farther away from the trailhead.
What to Bring
Hiking Mount Chirripó requires proper gear and some essential items you need to bring with you, here there is our recommended list.
- Hiking boots with strong ankle support are a must because of the rocky, steep terrain.
- A warm outfit. At higher heights, temperatures can drop substantially, so pack warm clothing, including a cap and gloves.
- Bring a waterproof jacket and pants because Mount Chirripó’s weather can be erratic.
- A sleeping bag suitable for low temperatures.
- A robust backpack with a minimum capacity of 40 liters.
- A flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries.
- Bottles of water with a minimum capacity of 3 liters.
- Energizing treats and trail mix.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen.
- First-aid kit including bandages, blister treatment, and any required medications.
What you will see while hiking Cerro Chirripó
You can expect your way to the summit to be a genuine natural spectacle as you will travel through cloud forests and wastelands (typical high-altitude ecosystems of the Neotropics). More biological zones can be found along the miles of trails here than in the majority of countries. A 360-degree panorama of refined valleys and sparkling lakes can be seen from Chirripó’s Peak, and if you are lucky and the sky is clear when you reach the top, you will be able to see both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.
Hiking Cerro Chirripó won’t be a walk in the park (as ironic as it may sound) unless you are an experienced and skilled hiker, but you can be sure that the hours of effort that you put into hiking this Costa Rican giant will be worth every step of the way. Book a vacation rental with Special Places of Costa Rica for some relaxation after your hike!