Hiking tours with a professional guide can be arranged through nature lodges or local tour operators. Most reserves and national parks maintain marked trails. The hardy and adventurous might try a strenuous hike to the peak of Chirripó, Costa Rica’s tallest mountain. Hiking in the more remote parks may require a high degree of self-sufficiency, and, says one writer, “a guide so comfortable with a machete he can pick your teeth with it.”
If you plan on hiking in the Talamancas or other high mountain areas, you’re advised to obtain topographical maps from the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (National Geographic Institute, Avenida 20, Calles 9/11, tel. 506/2523-2000 or 2523-2630, www.mopt.go.cr/ign , 7 A.M.–noon and 12:45–3:30 P.M. Mon.–Fri.). Raingear and a warm sweater or jacket are essential for hiking at higher elevations.
Coast to Coast Adventures (tel. 506/2280-8054, www.ctocadventures.com ) specializes in hiking trips.
In North America, Backroads (tel. 510/527-1555 or 800/462-2848, www.backroads.com ); Mountain Travel-Sobek (tel. 510/594-6000 or 888/831-7526, www.mtsobek.com ); and Wildland Adventures (tel. 206/365-0686 or 800/345-4453, www.wildland.com ) all offer hiking programs in Costa Rica.
For the truly hardy, Outward Bound (tel. 506/2278-6062 or 800/676-2018, www.crrobs.org ) offers courses, not “trips,” that include a hike up Chirripó and have been described by participants as having “fistfuls of experience mashed in your face.”