La Amistad Costa Rica Panama International Park

Location: Southern Costa Rica, entrances between Paso Real and San Vito.
Size. 479,199 acres (193,929 ha).
Hours: Tres Colinas sector daily 6 a. m. to 6 p. m.; Altamira sector daily 5 a. m. to 5 p.m.
Information: Telephone hotline 192 , Buenos Aires office (506) 730-0846, in San Jose telephone (506) 7713297, fax (506) 771-3155.

Amistad means "friendship," and this international park was created in connection with a sister park established across the border in Panama to protect a vast corridor of forested land in these two countries. A gigantic national park, La Amistad is big enough to sustain a healthy population of animals that require large areas for hunting and reproduction, such as tapir, jaguar, puma, and harpy eagle.

Probably the largest population of quetzals in the country resides in this refuge of rain forest, cloud forest, and paramo, along with at least 400 other bird species. Epiphytes abound in cloud forests, where you see oak, elm, magnolia, and sweet cedar. More than 130 varieties of orchids have been found in the southwest corner of the park alone. There are 263 species of amphibians and reptiles. Spread across the rugged Talamanca Mountain range, Costa Rica's highest, the park protects not only endangered plants and animals but also important watersheds. Within the Amistad Biosphere Reserve, it's administered through the Amistad Pacific Conservation Area.

Though much of this fantasy land of geology and wildlife has yet to be explored, trails for hardy visitors do exist, principally at two entrances well off paved road; camping allowed. In the Tres Colinas sector, hikers can tackle Cerro Kamuk in a three- to four-day trip, elevation 11,660 feet (3,554 m). In the Altamira sector, one long trail requires up to three days (leading into the Valle del Silencio), while another trail can be hiked as a day trip from camping facilities (showers, baths, covered cooking area). Cooking must be done on a gas stove-no wood fires allowed. Get more information and arrange for local guides through the Buenos Aires number above.

Temperatures vary according to elevation, with upper altitudes rainy and sometimes cold. Come prepared.

Getting There

By car: Four-wheel-drive vehicle necessary in rainy season for the unpaved roads to either entrance. For Tres Colinas sector, turn east shortly after taking the Paso Real turnoff from the Inter-American, proceed toward Potrero Grande, and continue 14 miles (23 km) to the park station. For Altamira sector, turn east toward Colorado about 16 miles (26 km) from Paso Real; continue 14 miles (23 km) to the campsite.

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