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How to Climb Cerro Chirripo?

Photo by: Jostin Lopez

Chirripó National Park

It's the hiking capital of Costa Rica, and it's located right in our backyard! Chirripó National Park covers over 50,900 hectares (197 square miles) in the Talamanca Mountains, and it's known for its namesake mountain which is the tallest between Guatemala and Colombia. Chirripo is one of the most rugged and remote national parks in Costa Rica.

The mountain was named "Chirripo", meaning "land of eternal waters", by indigenous Costa Ricans because of the many surrounding lakes and streams. Many of the current trails follow ancient indigenous paths that once facilitated communication and commerce between the tribes around the Caribbean and Pacific slopes.

The high peaks in Chirripó National Park host important areas of Talamancan montane forest and Costa Rican Páramo with high endemism and extremely high biodiversity. At the park’s lower elevations cool cloud forests dominate the landscape, providing habitat for amazing animals such as quetzals, tapirs, jaguars, and more! Around 11,155 feet (3,400 meters) the cloud forest turns into páramo, a unique ecosystem found only at high elevations in Central and South America.

Climbing Mount Chirripó is possible for those brave enough to take on the challenge, by obtaining a permit from the National Park office in San Gerardo de Rivas. From the trailhead, the summit can be reached via a 19.5-kilometer (12.1 mile) hike.

Getting Started...

There are two ways of hiking Cerro Chirripo. The first is "the Saiyan" way, as my friends and I call it, which is attempting to climb up and down Chirripo in less than a day. The second, "the explorer's" way, divides the hike into two parts. The first part includes hiking to the Crestones Base Camp by staying overnight and waking up the following morning to summit the peak. The hike up to Crestones Base Camp is is 14 km (8.7 miles) from the entrance of the Chirripo trail. From Base Camp to Cerro Chirripo is 5.5 km (3.4 miles). Making the trip up to Cerro Chirripo a total of 19.5 km (12 miles).

No matter which way you choose to climb, all hikers need to check in at that San Gerardo Park office by 4pm, one day prior to starting the hike. The park office is located at the entrance to San Gerardo de Rivas, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance. You can reserve up to 6 people per group.

If you choose the "explorer's way" and decide to stay overnight, which is highly recommended for first-time climbers, note that separate reservations are required for Crestones Base Camp. Crestones Base Camp requires all overnight guests to check in at their San Gerardo de Rivas office, located at the village soccer field, by 5pm, one day prior to hiking.

The best time to visit is during the dry season, January through April. February and March are the months with the best weather, but it can rain at any time of year. Note that the park closes the last two weeks of May for trail maintenance and the last weekend in February for the annual Chirripó footrace. Same-day Chirripó permits are not available.

What to expect...

The trailhead to Chirripó is located 2 km (0.6 miles) from the center of San Gerardo de Rivas. Crestones Base Camp is located 14.5 km (9 miles) from the trailhead. The average hiking time to the summit is 8–10 hours, and the average descent is 5–7 hours. Ascending hikers are required to start their hike before 10am, and descending hikers are required to depart before noon.

The trail starts off steep and rugged, providing a good taste of what’s to come. Wooden signs postmark each kilometer. At kilometer 4 you’ll reach the official park boundary. At kilometer 7.5 you’ll reach Llano Bonito Refuge, which offers water and bathrooms. Once past the refuge, you’ll encounter three of the trail’s most challenging sections: Cuesta de Agua (“Water Slope”), Monte Sin Fe (“Faithless Mountain”), and Cuesta de Los Arrepentidos (“The Slope of Regret”).

Chirripó Permits

All visitors to Chirripó National Park must purchase entrance permits in advance. Cost: $18 per person, per day. Chirripó permits are available through the park’s website:

Permits. Make sure to plan your trip and get your permits in advance, especially if you're looking to hike on a weekend or a holiday because those dates often sell out months in advance. Easter Week (Semana Santa) is especially popular for hiking Chirripó. If your schedule is flexible, try planning your hike mid-week, when permits are generally easier to reserve.

If you need a detailed description of the permit reservation process, and how to fill in the information on the website visit James Kaiser's blog at and go to the Online Permit Reservation Process section on the blog.

What to pack?

Traveling light is one of the best ways to endure the hike up to Cerro Chirripo. Here are some of our recommendations on what to bring on the hike:

  • Small backpack. Keep it as light as possible.

  • Water bottle. There are spots during the hike to refill, but make sure you have plenty of water for the hike.

  • Small snacks. Pack light snacks that give you fuel and energy like almonds, peanuts and other seeds, cacao, dried fruits... etc

  • Change of clothes. Depending on the time of year it might rain on the mountain and wet clothes add weight and get cooler. The temperatures are cool near the top of the mountain. It's known for it to snow at the top at certain times of the year. Bring warm clothes.

  • Extra pair of shoes. The beginning of the hike is more rugged and muddy bring shoes that can get wet and protect you from the terrain. Once the terrain is dry it might be efficient to wear more comfortable shoes.

  • Plastic bags. Keep wet clothes and wet muddy shoes separate from the dry items in the backpack.

Places to Stay

There's a handful of hotels near the Chirripó trail entrance who cater to hikers. Room rates average from $40 to $60 per night. Visit our latest blog post "10 stays under $100 in the Chirripo Valley"


If you don’t feel like hauling up your heavy gear, you can hire porters at the Oficina de Guías (“Guide’s Office”) in San Gerardo de Rivas. During the dry season, horses haul gear up the mountain; during the rainy season, the porters haul it up themselves. The cost is roughly $4 per kilogram. The office is open from 11am to 6pm (Tel: 506-2742-5225), and gear rental and basic food supplies are also available. They can also arrange private hiking guides.

Crestones Basecamp

Your permit to hike Chirripo corresponds to a bed at Crestones Basecamp. Crestones (Aguas Eternas) will send you a long email containing information for you to pay for your lodging online. This must be completed within a few days. If you don't receive the email or the payment link doesn't work, send your entry permit number to the email below.

The contact number for Crestones Base Camp is (506) 2742-5097 or (506) 2742-5200, and email


It takes about 2-3 hours to reach the top of Cerro Chirripo from the Crestones Basecamp. The last bit of the Chirripo hike is a steep section, get ready to use your hands to help you up the mountain. When you reach the summit, be prepared because it could be windy! However, the view from the top is a sight to see! It's a 360 view of some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. From the peak, on a clear day, you'll be able to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea!

It's highly recommended to start the hike from Crestones Basecamp to Cerro Chirripo around 2am to make it to the top for the sunrise.

If you're looking for places to eat in the Chirripo Valley visit our blog post for our recommendations!

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1 comentário

Membro desconhecido
16 de fev. de 2023

Great info thanks! A group of us from the Osa might do this later in the year!

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