Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death) comes by its name honestly as a place where lives can be lost in any number of ways. Costa Rica’s highest point rises to 11,500 feet from within the Talamanca Mountain Range along the Interamerican Highway in the San Isidro del General area of San José province. Consisting of steep, narrow curves and countless potholes, the mountain roads would be somewhat less hazardous if not fully submersed in fog. Due to its altitude, Cerro de la Muerte temperatures rise and fall to both day and night extremes.
Before Costa Rica had a lot of roads, people braved the treacherous mountains trails barefoot on treks lasting three or four days to secure supplies for their homes and livestock. For many, Cerro de la Muerte was the worst part of a journey they would never survive. With temperatures often below freezing, many travelers died of hypothermia along the trail or got sick and died of pneumonia later on—assuming they survived the frequent landslides and didn’t fall off a cliff. Sunburn danger here is higher than normal, owing to the thin clear air.
Originally a volcanic island, Cerro de la Muerte raised and separated from other mountain ranges. As a result, the plant and animal species found here are not only unique and endemic, but they have evolved into distinct species found only in this area, making for a truly unique and unforgettable landscape experience.