The Best Hiking Trails Near San José, Costa Rica

Hiking in Costa Ricas rainforest
Hiking in Costa Rica's rainforest | © Martijn Smeets / Shutterstock
Jenn Parker

One of the best ways to explore Costa Rica is on foot. With 27 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 protected wetlands and mangroves forests, 11 forest reserves, and 8 biological reserves, there is a ton of wildlife, plant life, and diverse landscapes and ecosystems to explore and observe. San José is an easy departure destination for several amazing hikes that will take you through a cloud forest, to a waterfall, and up a volcano just to name a few inspiring attractions.

Catarata del Toro Hike

Costa Rica‘s most beautiful waterfall

This extraordinary waterfall hiking trail is easily accessible from Sarchi, San José, Zarcero, Rio Cuarto, Venecia, and El Silencio Lodge and Spa. The first 15-minutes or so of the hike is on relatively level terrain. After this short walk, the jaw-dropping Catarata (waterfall) del Toro will appear. From the top, it is close to 400 steps down to the base of the waterfall. The waterfall is nearly 122 meters (400 feet) tall and surrounded by a vibrant mossy green canyon. This is a hike you don’t want to miss!

Poás Volcano National Park Hike

Caldera with crater lake, Poas Volcano, National Park Poas Volcano, Costa Rica

The Poás Volcano National Park is an easy day trip from San José. The Poás volcano has one of the deepest craters of all the world’s volcanoes, and there is a trail that leads right up to it. There is a spectacular blue-green lake in the middle of one of the extinct craters that is an additional hike from the summit trail, but definitely worth the extra steps. The weather up here can be quite chilly and on the clearest of days you can actually see both the Pacific and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Tres Cruces Trail

Tres Cruces offers three popular hikes just outside of San José overlooking Escazu and the Central Valley. There are three separate crosses to choose from that all scale along a ridge line that reaches an elevation of 448 meters (1470 feet). From the highest trail, the view is exquisite. This is a moderately easy 5 kilometer (3 mile) hiking trail. You are sure to see an abundance of flowers and the occasional cow, along with sweeping views. The dry season months offer the best conditions to enjoy this short and sweet scenic hike.

Braulio Carrillo National Park Hike

Sun rays in the dense jungle of the Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica, Central America

The Braulio Carrillo National Park is just to the northwest of San José and has two main entrances. From the Quebrada González ranger station entrance there are three fantastic hiking trails: El Ceibo trail (1 kilometer, or less than a mile), the Botarrama trail (2.5 kilometers, or 1.5 miles), and Las Palmas trail (1.6 kilometers, or 1 mile). The Braulio Carrillo National Park is on the Caribbean slope, so it receives a lot of rainfall throughout the year and for this reason all three trails are incredibly lush and verdant. You will experience every shade of green and spectacular plant life while hiking here.

Carara Biological Reserve Hike

The Carara Biological Reserve is located a bit west of San José. This ecologically diverse park is home to scarlet macaws, sloths, crocodiles, monkeys, and an innumerable amount of other native fauna and flora. There is a four-hour guided hike that you can take through the reserve, which is the best way to experience this breathtakingly beautiful and diverse place. While the hiking tour is several hours long, the trail and terrain is relatively flat and easy to trek through. This hike is great for the entire family.

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