Located in the extreme southeast portion of Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park encompasses 161 sq miles (416 sq km) of land and 21 sq miles (54 sq km) of sea, and has a maximum elevation of 2,566 ft. (782 m). Often referred to as the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park resides in the province of Puntarenas and occupies a portion of the Golfito and Osa districts.
Created on October 24, 1975, Corcovado National Park protects several different major habitats, including: a montane forest, which covers more than half the park; a cloud forest, located in the highest region - richly populated by oaks and tree ferns; swamp forests, flooded practically year-round; a holillo forest, predominated by palms; a mangrove swamp, located on the estuaries of the Llorona, Corcovado and Sirena Rivers; and a freshwater herbaceous swamp. The park is home to some 500 species of trees, equivalent to nearly one quarter of all tree species in Costa Rica. Some of the larger trees include the purple heart, poponjoche, nargusta, banak, cow tree, espave and crabwood.
The park contains approximately 124 species of mammals, 58 of which are bats; 375 birds, of which 18 are endemic; 117 reptiles and amphibians; 40 types of freshwater fish; and an estimated 800 species of insects. Large herds of white-lipped peccary; white-faced, howler, spider and squirrel monkeys; and tapirs are common sightings. As well, the park also serves as a sanctuary to the largest population of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica, which are seemingly always present in and around the Sirena Park Station and coastal regions. Other species of birds include the king vulture, white hawk, short-billed pigeon, tovi parakeet and bronze-tailed sicklebill.
Corcovado has four ranger stations: La Leona, Los Patos, San Pedrillo and Sirena. Those wanting to visit Sirena, which resides in the park's center, will need to hike in from either La Leona or Los Patos ranger stations, or take a charter flight from Puerto Jiménez (see below). The hike from either of the two ranger stations will take anywhere from 6-8 hours. You can hike from San Pedrillo to Sirena, a distance of 8.7 miles (14 km), though you will need to know the tides because there are rivers to cross.
Resides southeast of Sirena, and is situated, like San Pedrillo, along the beach. To get there from Puerto Jiménez, you’ll need to first travel 26 miles (43 km) southwest to Carate. From there, the hike to La Leona measures 2.2 miles (3.5 km) and is primarily along the beach, where there is little, if any, cover. There are rivers you'll need to cross, which can only be done during low tide. The distance from La Leona to Sirena is approx. 10 miles (16 km).
Located northeast of Sirena, the Los Patos trail offers a completely different experience. The trail cuts through the heart of Corcovado National Park, a mountainous region where you’ll find lush, verdant primary and secondary rainforest. Mostly shaded, there are just a few streams to cross, and no sand! As well, there tends to be much more wildlife along this trail, though not many scarlet macaws. To enter Corcovado at Los Patos, you’ll first need to reach Palma, which resides well north of Puerto Jiménez along the main road. From Palma, you can hire transportation to take you to the park entrance, or walk - it's one hell of a long walk with very little, if any, cover. As well, you will have to cross over the Río Rincón a few dozen times, which crisscrosses back and forth along the trail/route.
Situated just south of Drake Bay, along the Pago River, the San Pedrillo Ranger Station is the park’s northernmost station and most frequently visited by tourists - anybody staying in and around Drake Bay will likely enter Corcovado National Park here, as most of the nearby hotels offer 1/2 day tours to San Pedrillo. Near to the ranger station, and just a short distance offshore, is Picaros Island, which serves as a refuge for the Brown Boobie, Blue Heron and Brown Pelican.
The trail at San Pedrillo begins from behind the ranger station, alongside the river. The initial portion of the trail is a rather steep climb through secondary rainforest, and just before reaching the plateau, on your left side, there is a lookout area offering beautiful views of the ranger station and Pacific Ocean. Continuing forward, you’ll soon enter into primary rainforest, where the trail weaves through relatively flat terrain. The above mentioned hike takes approximately 1 - 1.5 hours, and will bring you to the national park boundary just north of the ranger station. Beyond this point, the rainforest is no longer considered part of the national park, but rather a reserve that serves as a buffer zone to the park.
After reaching the park border, you can either continue forward towards Playa San Josesito or retrace back towards the ranger station. If you choose the latter, continue walking until you reach an intersection in the trail, and veer left - if you stay right, you’ll return to the ranger station along the same trail you’ve already hiked. This second trail will lead you to the San Pedrillo River, where you’ll find several thundering waterfalls. The hike to the river takes approximately 45 minutes, with the latter portion of the trail being rather steep - a walking stick would be helpful here. Upon reaching the river, and just off to the right, you’ll see the first, and largest, of several waterfalls. You’re actually standing on the ledge of the waterfall here, so the view is spectacular. You’ll then need to cross the river in order to pick up the same trail on the other side, which descends rather quickly alongside the same waterfall.
The remaining portion of the trail is relatively flat. Initially, you’ll find yourself on the left side of the river, but at some point you’ll need to cross it before reaching the ranger station. The water level varies depending on the time of year, but you should expect to get wet - perhaps knee deep, or higher. If you are really adventurous, you can even follow the river all the way to the ranger station, walking chest high in some areas.
You can also hike from the San Pedrillo station to Drake Bay, and it's a beautiful 9 mile (15 km) hike. You depart San Pedrillo on the trail mentioned above, and then exit the park heading north along the beach. There are tons of scarlet macaws and the beaches as nice as anything you'll see in Costa Rica's southern zone.
Situated in the heart of Corcovado National Park, along the coast and midway between the San Pedrillo and Carate ranger stations.
The four trails surrounding the ranger station wind through primary and secondary rainforest, and offer some of the best opportunities in Costa Rica for wildlife viewing.
Guanacaste Trail - the trail begins .4 miles (600 m) from the ranger station, along the Los Patos trail - the same trail that connects the Sirena and Los Patos ranger stations. Measuring 1.2 miles (2 km) in length, the trail is relatively flat and easy to navigate, Initially, it winds through primary rainforest, which is quite dense and possesses taller, older trees. Later, as it nears the Sirena River, it enters into secondary rainforest, where the canopy is noticeably thinner and low lying. There are several rivers and/or streams to cross, making the trail quite muddy in low lying sections - this is particularly true during the rainy season. The hike along the Guanacaste trail takes approximately 1 hour to complete.
Espuvellas Trail - measuring 1.6 miles (2.5 km) in length, the Espuvellas trail is relatively flat and easy to navigate. The trail forms a loop, which begins from behind the ranger station and exits along the Los Patos trail - you can start at either end. The canopy overhead is extremely thick, with little direct sunlight reaching the trail floor. The hike along the Espuvellas trail takes approximately 2 hour to complete.
Rio Claro Trail - just .6 miles (1 km) in length, the Rio Claro trail connects the ranger station with the beach. To reach the trail’s entrance, you’ll need to walk down the grass airfield, where you’ll see signs pointing to the trail entrance. The first half of the trail is lined with beautiful heliconia plants and colorful berry plants/trees, some of which hang from overhead. As well, the canopy is very thin, leaving the ground dry and firm. Near the midway point, the rainforest becomes denser and begins to resemble the other two trails mentioned above. You will, for a short time, need to straddle a river than runs adjacent to the trail, which can get muddy and wet during the rainy season. Your hike comes to an end as the trail reaches the beach, after approximately 30 minutes of hiking.
Hiking boots only, sneakers or sandals won’t suffice, though sandals would be helpful when crossing streams. The interior trails are comprised of a hard, reddish clay that can be extremely slippery when wet. As well, there are lots of rocks and trees lining the trails. If you’re walking along the beach from Carate, even more so. I’ve seen people with blisters so big they looked like they had six toes.
Water, you can’t bring enough of it. None of the water in the park is potable,so bring whatever you can carry.
Mosquitos and ticks are abundant, so bring repellant. They’re everywhere!
The trail conditions, though well marked and maintained, vary throughout the year depending on weather conditions. Don’t venture off them, you get lost in there nobody will ever find you!
Sun screen and hat are an absolute must, especially if you’re hiking from Carate or San Pedrillo.
You MUST make a reservation in order to enter into Corcovado National Park, and to do you you'll need to do the following:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with:
Upon receiving this information, the reservation office will send you a pre-paid voucher, which will indicate the total amount due and the account number where you can send payment. After payment is completed, you must send a copy of receipt by email or fax to the reservation office. The reservation office will then send you a confirmed ticket, which you need to print and present wherever you enter the park. The payment must be canceled within 24 hours after you receive the pre-paid voucher, otherwise your reservation will be nullified and the space made available to others. Once payment is made, there are no refunds except under legitimate, emergency situations. You are permitted to make changes to your reservation providing they can accommodate your requests.
For additional information, contact their office at (506) 2735-5036 or by email email@example.com. Their office is located at the Puerto Jiménez airport, and is open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily
Several options exist for those wanting to visit Corcovado National Park, though Puerto Jiménez is the most popular starting point unless you’re staying in Drake Bay, in which case you’ll probably enter at the San Pedrillo Ranger Station.
From San José
Interamericana de Transporte Blanco Lobo offers daily service from San José to Puerto Jiménez. The bus station is located near the San Carlos bus stop, in the Coca Cola Bus Terminal. The trip takes approx. 8-9 hours. (If you plan to enter Corcovado at the Los Patos Ranger Station, we recommend you get off the bus at La Palma, which is located north of Puerto Jiménez. This small town provides a very convenient location from which access the park. From La Palma, there is a 7.2 mile (12 km) road that leads to the park entrance, and you can either hike it or take a taxi.)
Tracopa offers daily bus service to Golfito, with the trip lasting between 8-9 hours. Once in Golfito, you’ll you need to take a water taxi/ferry to Puerto Jiménez. There are several companies offering the service, though we can only find one with a web site, Transportes Aquatics Tijerino Cortez
If you coming from San José, it makes much more sense to take the bus to Puerto Jiménez, it's quicker and you won’t have to concern yourself with the water taxi/ferry.
Sansa and Nature Air offer daily service to Golfito, Puerto Jiménez and Drake Bay (Sierpe). As well, you can hire a private, air charter company ( Alfa Romeo Air Charters ) in Puerto Jiménez to fly you directly into the Sirena Ranger Station.