South Pacific Coast Feature

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La Amistad National Park

La Amistad National Park. At more than 1,980 square km (765 square miles), La Amistad is by far the largest park in Costa Rica. However, it's a mere portion of the vast La Amistad Biosphere Reserve that stretches into western Panama. Altitudes range from 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) to 3,500 meters (11,480 feet). There are miles of rugged, densely forested trails and plenty of wildlife (two-thirds of the country's vertebrate species live here), but because access is extremely difficult, it's not worth visiting the park unless you plan to spend several days, making this a trip only for experienced hikers. To get to the park entrance (4WD essential), drive 31 km (20 miles) west from San Vito along the road to Paso Real. Turn right at the park sign at Guacimo, near two small roadside restaurants. Then drive about 20 km (13 miles) uphill on a rough road. The last couple of kilometers are on foot.

Unless you're comfortable being lost in the wilderness, hire a local guide for $35 a day from ASOPROLA (2743–1184 www.actuarcostarica.com), a local guide association that also organizes strenuous three-day guided trips ($146 per person). ASOPROLA operates a rustic lodge at the Altamira park entrance, with both private and dormitory rooms with hot-water showers ($12), as well as an organic restaurant run by a local women's cooperative. The alternative is rustic campsites for $6 per person. Reserve space about a week in advance. 2200–5355. $10 per day. Daily, sunrise–sunset.

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