This is the second-largest terrestrial national park in Costa Rica, at 58,495 hectares, and an astonishing 150 rivers are said to originate here. In fact, half the water consumed in the greater San José area comes from here. There are roughly 350 bird species here, and some 80 mammals, mostly bats and rodents, but also big cats, tapirs, wild pigs and of course monkeys.
For some easy hiking, or to find a good picnic spot, try the 1.2km Oropendola trail or the 1.5km La Pava/Catarata trail. For something more hardcore, take on the 2km Árboles Caídos — which a park ranger told me that mountaineers use to train for climbing Mount Chirripó, Costa Rica’s tallest mountain. Insect repellent is highly recommended on this trail, as you may be swarmed by bugs.
To get here with your own vehicle, take the main highway from San José to Cartago and follow the signs to Paraíso and Orosi.
Pulling out of Orosi, bear left with the main road and you’ll cross a little bridge, then take a quick right and you’ll see signs for Tapantí. You can also take a bus to Orosi and find a taxi from there.
Admission is $10 for foreigners and 800 colones for nationals.
The park is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., though special accommodations can be made for birders who want to arrive at 6 a.m.