South Central

One of the most rugged and unexplored regions in Costa Rica, the South Central Region contains many natural wonders, including Costa Rica's largest collection of virgin forest and the highest peak south of Guatemala, Cerro Chirripo. Winding ecosystem trails explore the scarcely populated landscape, where peaks in the Talamanca Mountain Range can reach over 9,800 ft (3,000 m). If remoteness and inaccessibility appeal to you, Costa Rica's wild South Central region may be just the right place.

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Pacuare River

The Pacuare River, whose headwaters begin on the Atlantic slope in the Talamanca mountain range, runs about 68 miles (108 km) until reaching the Caribbean Sea on Costa Rica's central coast. This is the quintessential tropical river, with stunning scenery and abounding wildlife.

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Chirripo National Park

Nestled along the heart of the Talamanca Mountain Range in the south central portion of Costa Rica, Chirripo National Park (Parque Nacional Chirripo) consists of 123,923 acres (50,150 ha) and provides one of the best opportunities to test your hiking abilities. Trails throughout the park take you as high as you want to go, ultimately reaching the highest peak in the country and second highest in Central America. The ascent to Cerro Chirripo at 12,532 ft (3,820 m) is definitely a test of endurance and a favorite among avid nature enthusiasts.

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La Amistad International Park

La Amistad International Park (Parque Internacional de La Amistad Costa Rica-Panama) represents one of the first attempts to manage a protected area between two nations. Shared with neighboring Panama to the south, the partially unexplored park accumulates 479,209 acres (193,929 ha.) of Costa Rican territory. The protected diverse environments include cloud forests, tropical lowland rainforests, oak forest, alpine grasslands (paramo) and glacial lakes.

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San Gerardo de Dota

A haven for birdwatchers and hikers awaits visitors around the town of San Gerardo de Dota, huddled up against the roaring Talamanca Mountain Range. Nestled in the Savegre River Valley, tourism hasn't quite hit this quaint settlement which provides quick access to the recently named Los Quetzales National Park.

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San Isidro de El General

After experiencing the passage along the Inter-Americana Highway from San Jose to San Isidro de El General, you will either feel relieved to be in one piece or be wishing to do it again. It is known as Cerro de la Muerte or 'Mountain of Death' and is one of the highest points in the country, rising up over 11,000 ft (3300 m).

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San Gerardo de Rivas

San Gerardo de Rivas is a small town in the Talamanca Mountains in the South Central region of Costa Rica. It’s very close to Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó, and travelers often use this village as a home base when hiking the mountain.

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Santa Maria de Dota

Enjoy a cup of coffee and relax in this small, authentic Costa Rican village. With the Talamancas off in the distance and the Pirris River flowing through town, nature enthusiasts won't find trouble exploring the many facets found here with or without an experienced guide. On top of the array of nature activities, the region surrenders hills shrouded in coffee farms, which yield beans that posses a unique flavor due to the cooler climate.

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Orosi

Orosi is a village in the midst of Costa Rica’s coffee-growing region. Visitors come here to see where this country's rich-tasting coffee plants grow.

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Puerto Caldera

Puerto Caldera sits on the Gulf of Nicoya. This is a popular spot for city-dwelling Costa Ricans in San José and to take a convenient beach vacation – Puerto Caldera is a little less than a three-hour drive from San José. While you stay here you will get to experience an authentically Costa Rican beach town

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San Vito

San Vito, the regional capital of the area, is situated along Highwy 237 about 40 miles (65 km) to the northeast of Golfito. Tucked away deep in the southwestern quadrant of the country, in a narrow valley between the Talamanca Mountain Range and Fila Costena, the small quaint city provides a good starting point for surrounding attractions. Surveying the surrounding landscape, visitors can bare witness to baron patches in the forest, revealing the scar caused by deforestation.

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A little more about South Central

The South Central Region's massive Talamanca Mountain Range is home to a number of indigenous reserves such as Chirripo, Telire, Ujarras, Salitre and Cabagra. Many of these indigenous cultures have lived in the local area for centuries, and tucked deep in its secluded landscape, they rarely receive outside visitors.

The South Central Region is one of the primary places for scientists to study the exceptionally diverse vegetation and wildlife for which Costa Rica is world-renowned. Many endangered and exotic plants can be found in the area's conservation efforts. Central themes of these protected zones and research facilities can be summed up as: conservation, education, and public awareness. Even if you're not a scientist, a stop to one these protected zones will be a great experience to increase your knowledge of the natural world.

Throughout the region, visitors can expect to see a number of diverse habitats, packed with the unbelievable flora and fauna of Central America. Swirling winds bring menacing clouds from the Caribbean- ready to saturate the region with torrential downpours. Most of Mother Nature's fury gets trapped around the gigantic peaks of the Talamancas. Fruit and coffee crops receive the water they crave, while the valley climate below stays pleasantly temperate. Alluvial soil, brought down from the verdant mountain range, produces some of the sweetest and tastiest pineapples in the country!

Many of country's most important rivers are found in the region. Starting high in the Talamancas, they flow to fertile valleys below. As waters thunder through Valle de El General and Valle de Coto Brus, the rivers supply nourishment for the fruit and coffee plantations that thrive in the region's special climate. They also provide some of the best opportunities for class I to V white-water rafting.

The South Central Region is most assuredly a wild frontier. Access to the region is most common via the Pan-American Highway (Interamericana), which slices and dices its way through the lovely Orosi Valley. One of the most charming drives imaginable, it presents breathtaking views from high atop Cerro de La Muerte, an old route used by farmers for transporting crops to the cities. After a quasi-nauseating descent, the road encounters the town of San Isidro de El General. From here it is possible to take various routes to your final destination. A mad dash to the southwest will take you to Dominical and the Pacific coast, or you can simply continue on the Pan-American. From the South Pacific and Osa Peninsula region, you can access the region by heading north on Hwy 237 via San Vito, or take the Pan-American Hwy through Palmar Norte.

Trips to inspire

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Get excited and browse our selection of our favorite hand made tours including South Central. From romantic honeymoons to family-fun; these are completely flexible and arranged to your needs.

10 days | $

Nature Trip with Friends

I hope Costa Rica can stay the course - it is a wonderful destination with many microclimates and great awareness of the environment. Guides were helpful and knowledgeable and conveyed the ideas of sustainability. A very beautiful country with so much diversity - we would definitely recommend to others who love the natural world.

Nature Trip with Friends
Costa Rica
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13 days | $$

South Pacific & Highlands Explorer

We had a wonderful time and have already recommended Costa Rica and Anywhere Costa Rica to many of our friends.

South Pacific & Highlands Explorer
Costa Rica
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