Extreme Hiking in Costa Rica: Santa Teresa Edition

forest in foreground with blue volcano in the background

Costa Rica is an ecotourist’s heaven. There are so many jungles, beaches, volcanoes, and waterfalls to discover that a single list couldn’t cover them all. For people who love a physical challenge as well as a nature trek, extreme hiking in Costa Rica is the way to go.

Think you’re up to the challenge? Try out our top 5 most extreme hikes in Costa Rica.

1. Cerro Chirripó Peak, San José Province, Pérez Zeledón

Cerro Chirripó is the highest mountain in Costa Rica, towering at 12,533 ft (3,820 m) tall. So, naturally, it makes for the most extreme hiking in Costa Rica.

The hike up to the summit is classed as advanced by nearly all standards, and some consider it to be one of the most extreme hikes in the world. It’s 12.4 miles long and contains over 7,200 feet of vertical gain, an impressive feat for even professional climbers. It takes two full days, so plan well in advance.

You’ll experience the rare cloud forest biome at the beginning of the hike, a misty forest with dense biodiversity. When the trail opens up towards the top, you’ll start to see glorious panoramic views between the clouds.

Because of strict regulations to protect the delicate ecosystems, you’ll need to make a reservation or apply for a hiking permit for Cerro Chirripó several months in advance. You can also book your adventure with a tour company with less advance notice.

2. Barva Volcano, Braulio Carrillo National Park, Heredia

Barva Volcano is one of the least touristy volcanoes in Costa Rica, but it’s by no means unremarkable. It hosts some of the finest extreme hiking in Costa Rica, and it’s slightly less difficult than some of the other hikes on this list.

Barva Volcano has been dormant for the past three thousand or so years, and the fertile land beneath has given way to some beautiful growth. The loop trail features a stunning lake and lasts for several hours, depending on how much you want to linger around and enjoy the scenery. Allow a whole day when you’re planning this hike.

3. Corcovado National Park Trails

The trails in this park are considered extreme hikes not necessarily for the vertical gain, terrain, or length, but for how rugged and remote the land is. Visitors to this park are only permitted with registered guides, who can also double as your hiking guides, ensuring you won’t get lost. Also note that the temperature in this region can get very hot, so plan adequately.

The beauty of the remote landscape in Corcovado National Park can make for some of the best hiking in Costa Rica. The ecological variety is unparalleled for even Central America, and it’s one of the few remaining lowland tropical forests in the world. Watch out for humpback whales and manatees in the surrounding waters!

If you want a thrilling adventure but aren’t up to an extreme hike, you can also visit the Danta Lodge in nearby Guadalupe to hire a rental horse to take you through the park.

4. Arenal Dry River, San Ramon, Alajuela

Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most famous national parks in all of Costa Rica, so if you’re planning on doing an extreme hike here, plan to spend as long as you can exploring the natural beauty of this park as well. Its popularity also means tourists—plan tours and accommodation well in advance, and hike early to avoid crowds.

The Arenal Dry River hike is rated difficult on AllTrails for its tough terrain. To make this easier, you can get a guided hike. There is also a small 3 kilometer out and back hike near San Ramón that is rated easy for beginners.

5. Lake Cerro Chato Trail

Cerro Chato is another dormant volcano, located quite close to the famous Arenal Volcano. If you can’t beat the crowds, Cerro Chato is an excellent diversion.

Lake Cerro Chato Trail is known as one of the most extreme hikes in Costa Rica. With plenty of obstacles, overgrown paths, steep cliffs to climb, and tons of mud, you’re truly in for a challenge.

The lake is actually a crater on the top of the dormant volcano, filled over the years with rainwater that sparkles turquoise. It’s a magical, remote place to hike to, and you’re rewarded at the end with a plunge into warm, clear waters.

In 2017, the government closed this trail temporarily due to dangerous rocks—make sure it’s open before you try it.

Come Home to Casa Teresa

If you’re planning on trying extreme hiking in Costa Rica, you should make Casa Teresa luxury villa your home base when it comes time to rest and recover. Located 75 meters from the water on the pristine Santa Teresa beach, you’ll have 4 private master suites, concierge provisions, and your own backyard pool. If you’re ready to book a stay, get in touch to make a reservation.

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