Corcovado National Park

Named one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, Corcovado National Park is one of the most important natural preserves in the Americas. Scarlet-Macaw-and-hibiscus

Note from the author: The is a lot of very wrong information on the web about Corcovado National Park. We have researched our data very carefully and spoken to MINAET officials and local guides to help us in our quest for the most accurate and up-to-date info. Please contact us if you have any questions or doubts about what you read here. 

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Where is It?

On the Pacific coast of the Osa Peninsula,  335 km. (208 mi.) south of San Jose via Route 1, the Inter-American Hwy 

How Big is It?

44,484 terrestrial acres,Corcovado-Beach-San-Pedrillo.jpg  accounting for 1/3 of the Osa Peninsula

How High Is It?

from sea level to 2,444 feet 

When was it Created?

October 1975

Did you Know?

  • There are 13 distinct vegetation types and more than 25 distinct ecosystems in Corcovado supporting endangered plant and animal species, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

  • Corcovado is most famous for its large population of scarlet macaws, for its pristine primary rain forests and unusually high level of biodiversity.  Also, endangered animals like the tapir, jaguar and other wild cats, great curassow, white-lipped peccary and the titi monkey are all found in the park. Tapir

  • Corcovado is one of the last remaining size-able low land tropical forests on earth and it contains the largest acreage of primary forest left in the Americas south of Mexico. As one of the most important natural preserves in the Americas, Corcovado offers a multiplicity of plant and wildlife found in no other Costa Rican National Park. 

  • In general, the terrain is hilly.  Narrow ridges and steep ravines characterize the rugged uplands, which ascend from isolated beaches, where creeks and rivers flow into the ocean.  There is an undulating plateau in the northwest (north of Punta Llorona) which gradually increases in altitude as you go southeast.  In the southeast part of the park the most rugged terrain and highest points (Rincon and Mueller) are found.Scarlet-Macaw  

  • You are almost guaranteed to see scarlet macaws

  • It is one of the most “biologically intense places on earth” (National Geographic). It has more than 124 species of mammal which accounts for 10% of total mammal species in all of the Americas, even though it only encompasses 0.000101777 percent of the landmass of the Americas.

  • One third (700 or so) of the all the tree species in Costa Rica can be found in the Corcovado area, including one-half of the endangered trees and more than 2,400 species of plants. 

  • It can be logistically challenging to plan a multi-day excursion into the park.  Let us help you plan an adventure.

How's the Weather?

Hot and Humid! 

Average annual temperature: Ranges from 45 °F – 70 °F

Average annual rainfall: 140-240 inches, Rain most days or afternoons (sometimes torrential) from April to December (September to November being the most intense)

Llorona-waterfall

Facilities & Trails:

There are four main ranger stations in the park:

  1. San Pedrillo - the northern most station about 45 minutes by boat from Drake Bay
  2. Sirena - park headquarters located about one hour from Drake bay by boat
  3. La Leona - the southern entrance to the park near Carate, about 2+ hours from Puerto Jimenez by land
  4. Los Patos - the eastern inland entrance
  5. El Tigre - used by park rangers, it is not a tourist check point. 

Admission: $10 per person, per day; camping is $4 per person, per day; a bed in a cabina in Sirena is $8; and meals in Sirena cost per person: $15 breakfast, $20 for lunch or dinner. 

All four of the stations permit camping with reservations.  They all also have latrines, showers and potable water. Sirena is the only station that offers meals, but with reservations made at least two weeks in advance. 

Alert! All visitors must be with a certified guide while hiking or visiting the park. You risk being turned away when you arrive if you do not have a certified guide with you! (per the Management Plan developed in 2009)

All visitors who want to visit, camp or spend multiple nights in the park have to have advance reservations!  This is a new law effective November 2009. So no matter if you are just visiting for the day or want to camp and spend multiple nights in the park, you need advance reservations!   San-Pedrillo-Corcovado 

For those visitors who arrive without documentation, park rangers reserve the right to deny admittance to the park.  Because of the long hike and considerable effort required to reach these stations in the first place, it is highly recommended that all visitors make arrangements in advance to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises upon arrival.

San Pedrillo Ranger Station:

This is the northern most station and is popular with visitors coming from Drake Bay and Sierpe for day trips.  It is a 4-6 hour hike from Drake Bay to the San Pedrillo ranger station, mostly along the beach (forest from Drake to Punto Marenco, then beach to the station).  The Rio Claro must be crossed at low tide, and sometimes there are boats available to take you across.

San Pedrillo Trails: Capuchin-Monkey-Drake-Bay

There are several short trails that fan out from the station, all good for wildlife observation and some have waterfalls and river pools suitable for swimming. 

  • San Pedrillo to Sirena Trail: This cross park trail is sometimes closed. When open, it is a 24km (15 miles, 11 hours approx.) difficult hike (crosses three rivers and is mostly along the beach with little to no shade).
  • Catarata Trail (2km):  A short hike through primary forest to a beautiful waterfall with a safe swimming pools.  The trail is windy and minimally hilly, with several small creek crossings.  It is slightly more technical than the Rio Pargo trail due to roots, small creek crossings and switchbacks.
  • Rio Pargo Trail (3km): A flat forest trail slightly inland from the beach that winds through mostly secondary forest and loops back around through the primary forest, or you can return to the station by walking on the beach.  When you reach the Pargo River, there is a swimming hole.  If you continue south, the trail becomes the Las Marias trail and goes to Llorona Point, then it dissipates as an official trail and merges into the beach. 
  • Las Marias Trail (10km): From the Rio Pargo, the trail changes names to the las Marias Trail and goes to the Llorona waterfall via a longer hike into the forest. Good for bird watching and wildlife observation.
  • Palo  Hueco:  passes through primary forest passes by a huge dead tree with a hole filled with bats. This trail loops to the La Catarata trail (hike up this one and return via La Catarata)
  • San Josecito Trail: This trail branches off of the Palo Hueco trail and goes to Rivermouth-Sirena-Corcovado.jpgPlaya San Josecito and Drake Bay.   

Sirena Ranger Station:

The park’s headquarters are located in Sirena where you will find an airstrip and research station.  Sirena, known as the place to visit if you want the best Corcovado experience, is nestled in the middle of the park along the coast, but it is the most expensive to get to. 

Sirena is located a little more than halfway down the parks' western boundary, south from the San Pedrillo station near the beach.   The Sirena River empties into the ocean where bull sharks and strong rip currents define the river mouth. Crocodiles, bull sharks and sting rays can also be found upstream in the brackish river.  Swimming is not a good idea in the ocean nor Sirena River.  The nearby Claro River (slightly south of the station) is safer for swimming.  Canoes may be rented from the station for river exploration. 

The Sirena Ranger Station is only reachable by boat, plane or by foot trails. There are no roads into Sirena.  The station offers basic accommodations like dormitories, showers and potable water. You need to be prepared and bring all your own personal items such as sheets, towels, soap and other personal items and snacks. The park rangers are not available to cater to guests. Meals can be ordered with two weeks advance notice.

The Sirena research station hosts a wide range of researchers studying everything from the Central American Squirrel monkey to endemic plants. Trail-Sign-Corcovado

Sirena Ranger Station Trails:

  • Sirena Ranger Station to La Leona Ranger Station Trail (16km, 10 miles, 7 hours approx.): This is a hot beach hike requiring careful timing in regards to river crossings and tides.  There are a few rocky outcroppings you can either cross over at low tide or look for a trail that goes inland around the rocks. The trail goes inland and parallels the beach under the shade of the forest canopy as you approach the La Leona Station.  Always keep an eye out for crocodiles when crossing the rivers. It is approximately a seven hour walk.  
    • As you leave Sirena you will first cross the Rio Claro and continue walking on the beach for a little while until the trail picks up again under the shelter of the forest to Salsipuedes. After Salsipuedes, you will walk on the beach for 40 min – 1hr. to La Chancha Point.  When its high tide, look for the short trail that crosses inland, but when its  low tide you can walk on the beach.  Cross the La Chancha river (it's very small), and after the river, walk on the beach again for 30 minutes or so.  When its high tide, there are lots of rocks—try to cross here a at low tide too.  The trail picks up again in the forest and it's another 6km to La Leona.  You can walk on the beach from the Madrigal River to La Leona at low tide if you want.  Trail ends at the station.  Sirena
  • Sirena Ranger Station to Los Patos Ranger Station (20km, 12.5 miles, 9hours approx.): This is an inland trail traversing steep ravines and primary forest.  It is mostly flat for the first 15 km, with the last 5km after the Sirena  River traversing  several ridges with steep climbs and descents.  River crossings include the Sirena and Pavo Rivers.   Guides recommend walking this trail from Los Patos to Sirena so that the hardest part of the hike is at the beginning of the hike, not the end.  Approximately, it is a 8-10 hour hike.   
  • Rio Sirena Trail (1km): This is a flat, short trail passing through a 30+ year old second- growth forest from the Station to the Sirena River mouth.
  • Guanacaste Trail (2km):  A hour-long loop hike that goes to the Sirena River and connects this trail to the Los Patos and Espaveles trail back to the Ranger Station.
  • Espaveles Trail (2km):  A self guided trail with interpretative signs along the way identifying several species of tree.  
  • Other Trails: The Las Ollas, Rio Claro, Rio Pavo Trail (3km), Los Naranjos and the Corcovado trail. 

La Leona Ranger Station:

This is the southern most station and is popular with visitors coming from Puerto Jimenez and Carate.  It is a 3.5km walk along the beach from Carate to the La Leona Station.  Camping is permitted, but you must bring your own tent and camping gear, as well as your own food and cooking equipment. Playa-Carate-Corcovado-Costa-Rica.JPG

La Leona Trails:

  • There is one main trail at La Leona and it is the same trail that eventually goes to Sirena. Visitors may hike along the trail, which is mostly in the forest, for several miles and then turn around. It is mostly flat, parallels the beach and passes by an old miners graveyard and settlement. 

Los Patos Ranger Station:

The Los Patos Station is the eastern entrance to the park accessed from La Palma, the closest town on that end of the park.  It is a wet three-hour walk from La Palma to the ranger station, as you cross the Rincon River many times.  Taxis are available for this journey during the dry season. You can also rent horses to take you to the park boundary. The actual ranger station is about 45 minutes inside the park from the boundary.

The area is heavily forested with primary, old growth trees and is the highest in elevation with pre-montane and cloud forests.

Los Patos Trails:

There are a few trails at Los Patos. One goes to Sirena, one connects to the nearby Guaymi Indian Reservation and another extends from the park boundary near La Palma. Titi-Moneky-with-baby.jpg

Wildlife & Plants:

We just can't say enough about the biodiversity here. To the casual observer, it might look like just a bunch of trees and plants, but if you could actually count how many different species of plants were in an area of 100 square feet... you'd be amazed. Not to mention the diversity found growing on one individual tree!

One third of all the Costa Rica's tree species are found here  Some of the larger trees include the purple heart, poponjoche, nargusta, banak, cow tree, espave and crabwood. Up to 100 species can be found growing on just 8/10th of an hectare (2 acres) of land.

A montane forest covers a large portion of the park. The highest regions of the park are cloud forest, where oaks and tree ferns grow abundantly. At lower elevations there are swamp forests, flooded year round, jolillo palm forest, mangrove swamps located on the estuaries of the Llorona, Corcovado and Sirena Rivers, and a freshwater herbaceous swamp.

Anteaters, Baird’s tapirs and wildcats like the ocelot, puma, jaguar and margay are found in higher numbers here, than in any other location in Costa Rica.  All four species of Costa Rica’s monkey are also encountered here (white faced, howler, titi (squirrel) and spider monkey). 

Birding in Corcovado is an especially rich experience.  Birds like the turquoise cotinga, white-crested coquette, red-throated caracara, scarlet macaw, slaty-tailed trogon and the harpy eagle all call Corcovado their home.  Also, the king vulture, white hawk, short-billed pigeon, red-capped-manakintovi parakeet and bronze-tailed sicklebill may be found here.

If You're Lucky, You'll See:

  • Baird's tapirs
  • Jaguar or other wild cat (5 species in all)
  • Titi Monkey (or one of three other species)
  • White tailed deer
  • large herds of white-lipped peccaries
  • as many as 375 species of bird
  • 140 species of mammal
  • 117 species of amphibian or reptile
  • 40 types of freshwater fish
  • more than 10,000 insect species

Did you Know?

The trees in the forest typically grow long, above ground roots, rather than deep, fat tap roots. This is because tropical soils are typically very poor in nutrients so the roots have to grow on the surface to maximize uptake of available nutrients. 

Corcovado-tree-buttresses.JPG

Beaches:

The beaches in the park are beautiful, but not for swimming! 

There are almost 20km of un-interrupted beaches in Corcovado National Park.  There are long stretches of unspoiled sandy beaches where the strong surf pounds the coast line. 

Some of the named beaches include Playa Corcovado, Playa Madrigal and Playa Serena.  The surf is often very rough making arriving by boat challenging at times.  There are marine caves at Punta Salsipuedes, north of the La Leona Station.  

How do I Get There?

map of corcovado national park - Google Maps_1283993690137 copy.jpg

From Sierpe: We offer day trips to Corcovado from Sierpe. You can drive to Sierpe from Jaco, Quepos or Dominical, park your car in a safe place and depart on a full day tour. The boats leave from the dock in Sierpe and pass thru the scenic Sierpe - Terraba Mangroves and then out into the ocean and onward to the Park.We can drop you off in Drake Bay on the return if you'd like.

From Dominical: You can either take a shuttle or drive yourself to Sierpe or arrange a tour with us to pick you up in Ballena, Uvita, Ojochal or any other town along the way.

From Manuel Antonio: Since the new road is now complete between Quepos and Dominical, its now just an hour and 30 minute drive to Sierpe. We can arrange transportation and tours for groups of 4 or more for day hikes in Corcovado.

From Drake Bay: Let us book a day tour to either San Pedrillo or Sirena. For those interested in multi-day trips or onward trips to Puerto Jimenez, please contact us

From Puerto Jimenez: You can take the public shuttle to Carate (2 hours) and then hike about 1 hour on the beach to the La Leona entrance. The last shuttle from Carate to Puerto Jimenez is at 3pm. One might consider staying in Carate for a few nights so that you have time to hike and enjoy the park rather than be in a hurry to catch the bus. 

You can also charter a plane and arrive in Sirena in less than 30 minutes from Puerto Jimenez. 

There are also day and multi-day trips into the forest near Los Patos available. There are a few cabinas outside of the park boundary available to rent with kitchens for those who want an extended stay or who just want a little more comfort than camping. 

To Sirena: One must arrive by boat, plane or by walking.  Charter flights leave from Puerto Jimenez and from San Jose.  Boats are available from Drake and usually depart daily. Boats from Sierpe depart by reservation only. 

To San Pedrillo: Either walk the beach-side jungle trail, an 18km hike from Drake or take a boat from Drake Bay or Sierpe.

To La Leona: Walk from the nearby town of Carate (3.5km away) along the beach or walk the long beach hike from the Sirena Station. 

Carate may be reached from Puerto Jimenez by 4wd (45km or 2.5 hours) by traveling the bumpy road that crosses several rivers along the way.  There is a daily public taxi/bus leaving Puerto Jimenez at 6:00am and 1:30pm to Carate, returning from Carate at 8:00am and 4pm.  Private taxis may also be hired from Puerto Jimenez to Carate (for approx $70)
Charter flights depart from Puerto Jimenez and San Jose landing on the tiny beach side landing strip in Carate. They literally have to call ahead to make sure all children, chickens and dogs are cleared from the runway.   It's an 8 minute flight from Puerto Jimenez to Carate and less than an hour from San Jose. 

To Los Patos: From Puerto Jimenez, take a bus to the small town of La Palma where you can take a taxi to Guadalupe.  From Guadalupe to Los Patos its 2.5 hour walk, but in the dry season you can take a taxi to the last river before Los Patos.  Then you have to walk for about an hour to reach the park station.

Recommendations:

  1. The best time to see wildlife is early in the morning.
  2. Sirena RiverBring a bandanna and plenty of water, its hot! Some trails are out on the beach in the blazing hot sun.
  3. Even if it weren't required to have a guide, you would still want one. There is so much to see that without the trained hawk eyes of a naturalist guide, you would miss too much. 
  4. January - April is the best time to visit if you want to stay dry. Be prepared for rain year round by bringing several changes of socks, quick dry clothing, comfortable and durable walking shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and/or sunglasses.
  5. ALL visits to the park are required to have reservations and be pre-paid (effective November 2009). Make reservations with plenty of advance notice.

Places to Stay:

It is most convenient to visit the San Pedrillo and Sirena stations from either Drake Bay or Sierpe.  Visit the La Leona station by staying at an eco-lodge in Carate. Contact us and we'll help you find what you're looking for.

Contact:

Contact us for specific questions and help making reservations.

Nearby Parks & Attractions:

  • Caño Island Biological Reserve: diving, snorkleing and archaeological site
  • Sierpe -Terraba National Wetlands: mangrove tours, kayaking and night crocodile tours
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