Tropical Escapes: La Amistad International Park, Panama

From jungle streams to mountain heights, this wilderness park has it all


Covering nearly a million acres, the Amistad International Park is Central America’s largest forest reserve. Straddling the border between Panama and Costa Rica, this World Heritage site includes more than a dozen distinct ecosystems ranging from lowland jungle to cloud forests. Towering over it all are the Talamanca Mountains, which rise to altitudes of more than 12,000 feet. Within the park, stands of both second growth and virgin forest are home to a wide range of indigenous species that includes jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, monkeys and hundreds of species of birds.

The land is home to native peoples such as the Naso, but also open to visitors, who come to explore by foot an extensive but largely unmarked network of trails. Due to the scope and nature of the park’s trail system, most hikers tour La Amistad in the company of local guides. Among the favorite walks are routes leading to waterfalls along the Canasta River, into the isolated Valley of Silence and up to panoramic views along the Sabanas Esperanzas trail. The park includes several camping sites, and there are a handful of jungle lodges in the area. A long-time favorite is Los Quetzales Ecolodge, which is located just outside the park.

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