Los Quetzales - Costa Rica

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Close-up of a flying hummingbird in Los Quetzales National Park.

Rainforest as far as the eye can see, endangered bird species and endemic flora and fauna. Sounds a bit exotic at first, but as soon as you see the first colorful hummingbirds flying, you are enchanted by these little birds and the surrounding nature. Three different types of rainforest and 14 different ecological zones make this place very special. We are talking about Los Quetzales National Park, about two hours by car from the capital San José. But let's start from the beginning.

After two exhausting days of rafting on the Pacuare River, we picked up our vehicle at the international airport in San Josè. After long comparisons, we had booked a rental car on Check24 with the provider Sunny Cars. Here the price-performance ratio was right and also the amount of the one-way fee, because we wanted to return our car not in San José but in Uvita. The pickup was totally uncomplicated, only the driver's license and a valid credit card is needed. The deposit will be blocked on the credit card, so make sure that you have a sufficient credit line. Details about the car rental can be found in our blog car rental Costa Rica. After all the formalities, we took our little car out onto the streets of San José and then into the hinterland of the city. The narrow roads, which were almost always limited to 25 km/h due to the local schools, led us deeper and deeper into the green lungs of Costa Rica.

Woman walks through dense green jungle.

After two hours and about 80 kilometers we reached the entrance of Los Quetzales National Park. The park is characterized by the highest cloud forests in all of Costa Rica. The highest point is at 3190 meters above sea level. So dress warmly, because the temperatures are partly in the single digits and the fog makes it feel even colder. The real star of the national park is its namesake, the quetzal or bird of the gods. This bird is identified by its green-red plumage and its long tail feathers and can be seen only extremely rarely. And we too went in search of the infamous quetzal.

We had booked a room in advance at the Hotel Paraíso Quetzal Lodge in the national park. In the afternoon we started a relaxed hike. Directly from our accommodation, various paths led through the rainforest, all of which were well signposted. There is something for everyone here. From a small loop through the area, to longer hikes through the surrounding forests. However, if you are just passing through, you can also eat very well in the adjacent restaurant and enjoy the rainforest through the panoramic windows.

We decided to take a tour of about 2 hours through the nearby jungle. The first meters led us back on the access road of the accommodation. Then we followed a narrow beaten path on the left into the dense sea of leaves. With every step we took, we dived deeper and deeper into the wilderness, and only the occasional sign confirmed that we had not yet completely escaped civilization. Our eyes followed the melodic sounds of the birds, which we could not always make out in the dense greenery. So we were full of hope to see also the eponym of the park. But besides the feathered inhabitants of this region, we were also on the trail of a larger creature. The tapir. Already during the car ride, signs warned of crossing tapirs. Since we knew these indications in this country only from the domestic game, we were amazed at the first moment not bad. And also on our hike through the national park we could assign some traces to the up to two meters long animal. But even though we visited the designated hotspots for both the Quetzal and the Tapir, both were denied to us. What we did not really regret with the tapir. We did not want to face the 250 kilo colossus in the middle of the jungle. The way back led us past waterfalls and 1,000 year old trees to our accommodation. Regardless of the fact that we did not get to see the real star of the jungle, we were compensated by the countless hummingbirds, which demonstrated their magnificent flying skills at every opportunity.

Exhausted and chilled out, we ended the evening in the aforementioned restaurant. Here I ate the best ribs of my life, until now. Upon arrival, we still wondered about the many blankets and the heater in our little cabin, we knew to appreciate them after dinner. Wrapped in the thick feather bed, we enjoyed the sunset over the enchanted cloud forest through the panoramic window of our room. And only the birds flying by in the cold briefly distracted from the breathtaking spectacle in the distance.

Although we couldn't marvel at the Quetzal in the flesh, but only at the pictures in the restaurant, the species-rich highlands of Los Quetzales National Park captivated us. The mystical atmosphere created by the hovering hummingbirds and the fog that seemed to hang tightly in the tall trees showed us the wild beauty of the land in its purest form. After the adventures we had already mastered in the Costa Rican jungle, it was time for us to advance to the coast. The roads led us downhill over mountain ranges and finally spit us out in tropical Uvita. The warm climate we had also bitterly needed.

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