Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park was established in 1975 after scientists realized what incredible biodiversity was contained on the Osa Peninsula and decided to fight for its protection – the land was formerly property of a lumber company. The park encompasses 41,788 hectares (108,022 acres) and is host to a dizzying array of flora and fauna.

The chance to see wildlife in some of the last remaining Pacific coast primary rain forest is a huge draw for tourists willing to venture out to Corcovado. Most visitors come on day long boat or hiking tours, but to truly experience the park you need to allow for three days – one hiking in, one day in the park, and another day hiking out. There are numerous tour operators in Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez that offer guided trips through the park.

Why do you need three days? Because of all there is to see in the park. To list all the plants and animals living in Corcovado’s eight distinct habitats and thirteen ecosystems would completely blow your mind and give me carpal-tunnel, so here’s a highlight reel:

  • 400 Species of birds (20 of which are endemic) and the largest concentration of scarlet macaws in Central America at about 1200 strong, not to mention it’s one of the last habitats of the majestic Harpy eagle
  • 116 Species of amphibians and reptiles including vibrant poison-arrow frogs and the feared fer-de-lance pit viper
  • 139 Mammals, which is representative of a staggering 10% of all mammals in the Americas – all on an exponentially small landmass – including the large, elusive and endangered Baird’s Tapir, as well as numerous peccaries (razor-back hogs the size of large dogs)
  • 4 Species of sea turtle nest on the beaches of Corcovado National Park including the olive ridley, hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles
  • 16 Species of freshwater fish live in the rivers and lakes
  • All four of Costa Rica’s primate species live in Corcovado National Park including the Central American Squirrel Monkey, White Faced Capuchin, Mantled Howler, and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey
  • A healthy population of big cats including the Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, Puma and one of the last strongholds of the mighty Jaguar

Visiting Corcovado National Park

For tourists the entrance fee is $10 per person, per day. In terms of entering the Corcovado National Park, there are a couple of options. Most people chose either Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez as a base camp, with the later being more popular for its proximity to the renown Sirena Ranger Station which is where lots of wildlife action goes down. Both spots have lodging options and tour companies that can set you up with guides, along with markets where you can buy supplies for your expedition. Note: rivers, river mouths, and beaches in Corcovado are frequented by crocodiles and bull sharks (yes, they can live in fresh water), Rio Claro is the only safe swimming spot in the park.

If you start your trek in Drake Bay, you’ll most likely enter at the San Pedrillo ranger station from which point you can easily follow the trails to La Sirena or the most distant Los Planes ranger station. From Drake to San Pedrillo it’s a strenuous but beautiful 18km/11mi hike. You can also take a boat to San Pedrillo, which makes the trip in 20min, or take a boat all the way to La Sirena in 45min to 1hour – these options are available just in the dry season though, from December to April. It’s inadvisable to hike to San Pedrillo during the rainy season and it can only be accomplished at low tide.

If you start your trek in Puerto Jimenez, you’ll probably enter the park through either La Leona (to the south via the village of Carate) or Los Patos ranger station (to the north via the village of La Palma). From La Leona to Sirena it’s 15km, mostly along the beach. Make sure you’re hiking at low tide – consult a tide table, don’t rely on locals or park rangers. From Los Patos to La Sirena, it’s a steep 6km before the trail levels off for the rest of the 14km trail. Be careful during the rainy season when the rivers are high and it’s easy to lose the narrow trail.

If money is less important than time, you can chose a third option and fly directly to the air strip at La Sirena ranger station, or into the air strip in Carate by the La Leona entrance. One way tickets run close to $100 on Alfa Romeo Aero Taxi (506/2735-5353) and can be purchased in person at the Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez airport.

Corcovado National Park Lodging

The two options for sleeping in Corcovado National Park are in the bunkhouse at La Sirena or camping at one of the ranger stations. If you’re interested in staying over night you’ll have to make reservations ahead of time by filling out a request by email or in person at the park office in Puerto Jimenez, up to a month in advance during high season. You’re allowed to spend 4 nights in the park and 5 days. The bunks at the La Sirena ranger station are limited to 20 people a day for $8 per night – if you prearrange it, you can get breakfast cooked for you for $4 and lunch/dinner for $7, but you’ll need to bring your own food. You’ll need to bring your own linens, pillow, and a mosquito net, too.

If you want to camp ($4/night) at La Sirena, La Leona, or San Pedrillo you’ll need to bring all your own supplies including tent, gear, and meals, though occasionally La Leona has meals available.