La Amistad Friendship Park
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The 193,929-hectare La Amistad (“Friendship”) International Park is shared with neighboring Panamá. Together with the adjacent Chirripó National Park, the Hitoy-Cerere Biological Reserve, Tapantí National Park, Las Tablas and Barbilla Protective Zones, Las Cruces Biological Station, and a handful of Indian reservations, it forms the 600,000-hectare Amistad Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site also known as the Amistad-Talamanca Regional Conservation Unit.
The park transcends the Cordillera Talamanca, rising from 150 meters above sea level on the Caribbean side to 3,819 meters atop Cerro Chirripó. The Talamancas are made up of separate mountain chains with only a limited history of volcanic activity; none of the mountains is considered a volcano.
La Amistad’s eight life zones form habitats for flora and fauna representing at least 60 percent of the nation’s various species, including no fewer than 450 bird species (not least the country’s largest population of resplendent quetzals and 49 endemic species), as well as the country’s largest density of tapirs, jaguars, harpy eagles, ocelots, and many other endangered species. Cloud forests extend to 2,800 meters, with alpine páramo vegetation in the upper reaches.
Most of this massive park remains unexplored. It has few facilities, and trails are unmarked and often barely discernible. Don’t even think about hiking into the park without a guide.
The park, which extends the entire length of the South Central region, has five official entry points, one accessed via Buenos Aires, one via Helechales, one via Altamira, and two via San Vito. Admission costs $6.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition