Parque Nacional Tapantí–Macizo de la Muerte (tel. 506/2200-0090 or 506/2206-5615, www.sinaccr.net , 8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, $10), 27 kilometers southeast of Cartago , sits astride the northern slopes of the Cordillera Talamanca, which boasts more rain and cloud cover than any other region in the country. February, March, and April are the driest months. The many fast-flowing rivers and streams are excellent for fishing, permitted April–October.
The 58,328-hectare park, at the headwaters of the Río Reventazón, climbs from 1,200 to 2,560 meters above sea level (it extends all the way up to Cerro de la Muerte). The park possesses several biozones, from lower montane rainforest to montane dwarf forest. Terrain is steep and rugged. It’s a habitat for resplendent quetzals (often seen near the ranger station) and more than 260 other bird species, plus mammals such as river otters, tapirs, jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundis, howler monkeys, and multitudinous snakes, frogs, and toads.
Well-marked trails begin near the park-entrance ranger station, which has a small nature display. Sendero Oropendola leads to a deep pool by the Río Macho. There’s a vista point, from where another short trail, Sendero La Catarata, leads from here to a waterfall viewpoint, about four kilometers along. A trailhead opposite the beginning of the Oropendola Trail leads into the mountains.
The ranger station no longer offers accommodation, and camping is no longer allowed.
Kirí Lodge (tel. 506/2533-2272, www.kirilodge.net , $35 s, $45 d including breakfast and tax), two kilometers west of the park, has six cabins with handsome stone-walled showers. Some rooms have bunk beds. The restaurant (7 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $4–15) specializes in trout culled from its own ponds.
If the lodge is full, the Albergue Montaña Tejos Lodge (tel. 506/2533-2147, www.tejoslodge.net , $20 pp) is two kilometers farther uphill and offers spectacular views. The five basic rooms are cozy and have private bathrooms with hot water. Trout is a specialty at the rustic restaurant, and guided horseback rides are offered ($6 per hour).
Finca Los Maestros (tel. 505/2533-3312, $2 pp), one kilometer before the park entrance, has camping. If driving, you’ll need a 4WD vehicle for the muddy uphill clamber.
Buses depart Cartago  at 6:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. daily and travel via Orosi as far as Purisil, five kilometers from the park entrance (later 4 p.m. buses go only as far as Río Macho, nine kilometers from Tapantí). You can hike or take a Jeep-taxi from Orosi  ($10 each way) or Purisil ($5 each way).