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San Gerardo de Dota

San Gerardo de Dota

    San Gerardo de Dota Snapshot

  • Summary: Birding hotspot located in the cool highlands; famous for quetzals, trout fishing and nature tours.
  • Landscape: Cloud Forest, Mountains, River
  • Attractions: Los Quetzales National Park, Waterfalls
  • Activities: Bird & Wildlife Watching, Freshwater Fishing, Hiking
  • Caters to: Families, Independent Travelers, Wildlife Enthusiasts
  • Quick Facts: 40 miles north of San Isidro del General ; 7,200 feet above sea level ; Moderate days, cool in the evenings ; 62-76 F

Located in the cool highlands of the Talamanca Mountains, the emerald valley of San Gerardo de Dota is one of Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets. Daytime temperatures hover around 70°F and anglers can cast a line for plump rainbow trout in the frothy waters along the high-elevation Savegre River. The quiet town is also a birdwatching paradise, boasting over 200 avian species, including the elusive resplendent quetzal and a dazzling array of hummingbirds.

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San Gerardo de Dota was founded in 1952 as a small agricultural settlement. In addition to crops of cubano beans, the founding Chacon family planted cool-weather fruits like apples and peaches, and stocked streams and ponds with trout. As the region developed, birders and anglers began visiting the peaceful valley, and an eco-tourism destination was born.

In addition to fishing and birdwatching, visitors enjoy a wide range of nature activities. Explore scenic trails on foot or horseback and glimpse the pristine 100-foot Savegre Waterfall. The waterfall trail is part of Los Quetzales National Park, Costa Rica’s newest park that covers 12,000 acres of cloud forest in the heart of the Talamanca Mountains.

Roughly 150 people inhabit this river vale and nearly all are family or friends. San Gerardo has few facilities and only a handful of cabins and lodges. The neighboring town of San Marcos de Tarrazu has an ATM, but most major amenities are found 40 miles south in San Isidro del General. Many area hotels will accept credit cards.



San Gerardo de Dota is home to more than 200 bird species, some of which are endangered or uncommon throughout the rest of Costa Rica. Trogons, hummingbirds, warblers, woodpeckers, owls, thrushes and falcons are among those most often sighted, and the resplendent quetzal, a beautiful and elusive trogon species, is a perennial favorite. The quetzal is most often seen during its mating season between April and May, but is a year-round resident of San Gerardo.


San Gerardo’s picturesque terrain is ideal for nature hikes. Well-groomed trails fan out from most lodges, offering leisurely hikes through meadows of wildflowers. Head out to the Savegre Waterfall, an hour’s hike from most lodges and a truly impressive site – the white ribbon of water cuts through rock face and tumbles into a frothing pool below. Guided hikes also set out for Los Quetzales National Park, a birding and wildlife watching hotspot.

Trout Fishing

Fish for delicious rainbow trout in the area’s stocked ponds, or cast a line in the crystal waters of the Savegre River. May and June are the best months for fly-fishing, while December through March are prime for lure fishing. Most area hotels will cook up your day’s catch.

Getting There:

From San Jose, take the Interamerican Highway south. Drive through the Cerro de la Muerte, the highest altitude pass along the highway, following signs for San Gerardo de Dota. At kilometer marker 80, turn right and descend 5.5 miles into the valley.

San Gerardo de Dota in Pictures

Experiences in San Gerardo de Dota