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A Spider Monkey Swinging Acrobatically Through The Trees At Corcovado National Park On The Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Puntarenas Province – Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park lies in the remote Osa Peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and offers fascinating hiking trails and an amazing array of wildlife

Corcovado National Park is a spectacular preserve in the Osa Peninsula. Indeed it covers about a third of the peninsula, its 41,788 hectares (103260 acres) protecting shallow lagoons, marsh, mangrove swamps, rivers, wet forest and low-altitude cloud forest, as well as 46 kilometres of sandy beach.

Corcovado is one of Central America’s most unique ecosystems. Within its extensive territory, visitors can observe some 6,000 insects, 500 trees, 367 birds, 140 mammals, 117 amphibians and reptiles, and 40 freshwater fish species.

Unlike most of Costa Rica’s parks, Corcovado has six entrance points, located at a great distance (several hours in a car, due to circuitous driving routes) from each other. They are: San Pedrillo, Sirena, La Leona, El Tigre, Los Planes, and Los Patos. The four most visited ranger stations are Sirena, San Pedrillo, La Leona and Los Patos.

There are various options for visiting the Corcovado, depending on how much time you have, your level of fitness and whether you would enjoy living rustically in a rainforest setting. The tours range from one-day, two-day/one-night or three-day/two nights.

All tours require you, irrespective of how long your visit, to travel into the Corcovado with a registered guide.

One-day tours are usually taken as a boat ride from Puerto Jiménez or Drake Bay to the Sirena Station. Hikes are taken around the Sirena station and then you jump on a boat back from whence you came. You can also do what we did, stay in one of the resorts in Carate and do a day trip into the Corcovado from there.

The 2-day/1-night tours usually start from Drake Bay or Puerto Jiménez. This is likely to include a boat trip from either of the above to Sirena Station, an overnight stay there with hikes into the rainforest from the station. Another option is to drive to Carate and hike in and out to Sirena Station.

The 3-day/2-night tours usually start and end in Puerto Jiménez. From there you drive to either Carate or the Los Patos entrance to Corcovado and hike to Sirena Station and come out at Los Patos or Carate, depending on where you started, and then return to Puerto Jiménez.

As you may imagine, the cost of visiting Corcovado National Park will all depend on what type of tour you opt for. Prices can range from less than $100 for a day trip to over $400+ for a multi-day trip.

THE RANGER STATIONS

Carate is 26 miles (43 km) southwest of Puerto Jiménez along a rocky muddy road that is very rough, with large potholes. This road can be a challenge during the wet season. At Carate you can enter the Corcovado National Park via Leona Ranger Station which has potable water, showers and campsites. From here you can travel a further 9 miles west, following the coastline, to reach the Sirena Ranger Station.

Sirena Ranger station is set back a few hundred yards from the coast. Between the field and the coast, there’s a grass landing strip used by small aeroplanes. Seven hiking trails radiate out from the ranger station, twisting through dramatic primary rainforest between the Río Claro, to the south, and the Río Sirena, to the north. There is no camping here so visitors have to make reservations for the bunkhouse. No Outside food is allowed. Meals must be purchased at the cafeteria ($20 breakfast, $25 lunch, $25 dinner). The station is made up of several wooden buildings connected by covered walkways, which are handy when it rains; a common occurrence in these parts!

From Sirena, you can hike back to Carate, or continue 14 miles further along the coast to San Pedrillo Ranger station and then a further 11 miles to Drake Bay. See our full blog post on Drake Bay. 

An alternative to hiking to San Pedrillo is to head inland, deep into the rainforest, past Laguna Corcovado and climb towards the cloud forest and Los Patos Ranger station (10 miles, 16 km). From Los Patos you can arrange to have a ride to Puerto Jiménez. 

A popular way to arrive and leave the Sirena Ranger station is by boat from Drake Bay or Carate.

HIKING IN THE RAINFOREST

There are well-established trails that lead through the Corcovado National Park, which are for the most part in good condition. This is a rainforest and it can get very, very wet indeed, especially during the green season. You are bound to hit some sections of muddy going, even in the dry season. It can get very slippery, so you’ll need to watch your step. Tree roots can be particularly of the time of year you go.

Some trails will involve river crossings, which during the dry season might be ankle-deep, trickles but could be thigh or waist-deep in the green season and fast running so be aware!

Hiking in the Corcovado National Park, rainforest
Large tropical trees fill the forests of Corcovado National Park
Burial sites of miners who work the area

THE BEACHES

The Osa Peninsula has some wonderful beaches and the great thing is that you’ll likely have them to yourself. Beach hiking in Corcovado is exposed and hot. The tropical sun will put you in the hospital if you don’t respect it.

Riptides are common, so check with Rangers or locals before swimming in unknown waters. If you are caught and being towed out to sea, swim parallel to the beach until you are free of the current, then head to shore.

THE WILDLIFE

An impressive 124 mammal species inhabit Corcovado NP-including bats, pumas, jaguar Baird’s tapirs, anteaters, white-lipped peccaries, and all four monkey species (spider, white-faced, howler, and squirrel).

White-lipped peccaries, extinct in much of Costa Rica, are abundant in Corcovado. These hog-like animals, which form groups of up to 300 individuals, stampede through the rainforest. The peccaries can be quite nasty if they feel threatened so you need to stay away from them! Their sharp teeth are normally used to tear through rocky soil and roots while foraging and will cut through flesh and bone effortlessly. They are not particularly interested in attacking humans, but their eyesight is weak, and they can be very aggressive when startled or if they think you are challenging them. Back off and if you have to climb a tree and wait for them to leave.

Corcovado National Park is home to five of Central America’s six feline species. Jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margays and jaguarundis are all found in the park. Although jaguars are rarely spotted, they are the undisputed kings of Corcovado

Other mammals include tamanduas, an anteater with a 16-inch tongue, and coatis, a raccoon-like animal that scavenges everything from crabs to bird eggs. Both two-toed and three-toed sloths dangle from the trees.

A spider monkey swinging acrobatically through the trees
A white-faced capuchin monkey
A squirrel monkey
A tamandua, a type of anteater, scavenging for bugs and grubs
A family of coati on the beach

The Corcovado is home to a very healthy population of scarlet macaws. In addition to scarlet macaws, there are crimson-fronted parakeets, red-lored Amazon parrots, Baird’s trogons and fiery-billed aracaris. All told, there are 10 woodpecker species, 15 tanager species and 20 hummingbird species. Harpy eagles, the largest and most powerful raptors in the Americas, have also been spotted in Corcovado. The park is also home to several endemic bird species, including the yellow-billed cotinga and Black-cheeked ant-tanager.

A black hawk scavenging the beach near Carate
A white ibis on the beach
An owl lurking in the trees
A great curassow disappearing into the undergrowth

There are plenty of reptiles to find. Numerous snakes call Corcovado home, including venomous and constricting varieties. It’s unlikely you’ll be fortunate enough to see them unless you are looking hard, but be careful reaching where you can’t see.

Planning your visit to Corcovado National Park

HOW TO GET THERE

There are a number of access points for Corcovado, but Puerto Jiménez is generally considered the gateway to the area. If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle transportation to the park boundary is available by private or collectivo taxi from there. If you’ve got a reservation with a lodge they’ll be happy to help you with travel arrangements and suggested routes.

FLYING

SANSA flies out of Juan Santamaría (where the International Carriers arrive) several times a day to Puerto Jiménez,  Golfito, and Drake Bay for around $254 return.

DRIVING

Take the Pan American Highway East out of San José, the road curves South and changes designation from Highway 1 to Highway 2, although it’s still the Pan American Highway. About 30 miles (50 km) past Cartago you climb over Cerro de la Muerte, and you will reach San Isidro el General after a total of 92 miles (153 km) (approx. 3 1/2 hours). Continue south on the Pan American Highway to Chacarita/Piedras Blancas to where you turn right (southwest) on 245 towards Puerto Jiménez.

If your destination is Drake Bay at Palmar Norte where there is a large service station on the Pan American Highway turn towards Palmar Sur on Highway 2. After you cross the bridge over the Térrabe River turn immediately right onto 223 toward Sierpe. At Sierpe, you can securely park your car and take the river taxi to Drake Bay (by far the best way to get there).i

Website:https://www.sinac.go.cr/EN-US/ac/acosa/pnc/Pages/default.aspx
Telephone:T: +506 2735 5036
Hours: 

Every day from 7 a. m. to 4 p. admission

Admission Fees

– Non-resident adult (over 12 years old) $15 + VAT
– Non-resident child (2 to 12 years old) $5 + VAT

Children under 2 years old are free

The Sirena Station offers lodging, food, a store and lockers.

  • Lodging: $ 30
  • Breakfast: $ 20
  • Lunch: $ 25
  • Dinner: $ 25
  • Rent of lockers: $ 4

 What to pack?

  • bathing suit
  • towel
  • shorts
  • tee shirts
  • water shoes
  • rain gear
  • sun block and
  • insect repellent
Mosquitoes and horseflies are constant pests, and spiders rebuild their webs across the trails at an absolutely astonishing rate. No-see-ums are a problem. They come out on beaches and in marshy areas around dusk. DEET-based bug products work well against mosquitoes, but not so much against no-see-ums. Here is a link to a website with some ideas to deter these pesky microscopic critters.

Best time to visit Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park has two basic climate zones: the coast and the highlands, which climb to about 2,565 feet (782m) above sea level. The coast sees about 138 inches (3,500mm) of rain a year, while the highlands are significantly wetter, with 217 inches (5,500mm) of rain yearly.

The dry (or less rainy–it is a rainforest!) season spans mid-December through mid-April. The wet season lasts mid-April through mid-December. Visitors choose Corcovado National Park year-round, although it’s important to note that the Sirena station is closed in October, and San Pedrillo is closed May 1 through December 1. While the rainy season is, of course, wetter, this is also prime whale-watching season (July-November; also December-March).

Where to stay around Corcovado National Park

Puerto Jiménez is a small town but it is an ideal gateway for tours into the Corcovado. Cabinas Jiménez is a great option as a base for your exploration of the National Park. The staff are super friendly and it is also a safe place to leave your rental car if you are doing a multi-day tour.

We decided to spend a few days in Carate, about 23 miles southwest of Puerto Jiménez along very bumpy roads. You might want to think about leaving your rental car in Puerto Jiménez if it is not a 4×4 and catch a taxi. We loved our time at Finca Exotica Eco Lodge. There are other highly rated lodges in the area including Luna Lodge and La Leona Eco Lodge. From Carate you can get a local guide to take you to the Corcovado National Park on foot and reach La Leona and La Sirena Ranger stations.

Another great option is to stay on the opposites side of the peninsula from Puerto Jiménez in the small community of Drake Bay, which is best reached by boat from Sierpe. You can hike from Drake Bay to the San Pedrillo Ranger station or take a boat to Sirena Ranger station for a day or multi-day trip. We stayed at the rustic and affordable Bella Vista Corcovado. Other good options include Copa De Arbol Beach & Rainforest Resort and Cabaña Ara Macao Lodge

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