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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 official park entrance at Altamira (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 (also known as Las Tablas), near two small roadside restaurants. Then drive about 20 km (13 miles) uphill on a rough road, very muddy in rainy season. The last couple of kilometers are on foot. Hire a local guide for $40 a day from ASOPROLA (2743–1184 www.actuarcostarica.com), a local guide association that also organizes strenuous three-day guided trips ($170 per person). ASOPROLA operates a rustic lodge near 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. You can also arrange a home stay with a local family. The alternative is rustic campsites for $6 per person. Reserve space about a week in advance. Call or write for exact directions, since very few maps show these roads or Altamira de Biolley. Altamira de Biolley, 31 km (20 miles) west of San Vito, then 20 km (13 miles) uphill, San Vito. 2200–5355 National Park. $10 per day. Daily, sunrise–sunset.

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