This publish was written by Megan Macgregor, BMTM’s nationwide parks skilled.
Browsing, monkeys, volcanos — what extra are you able to ask for in a rustic? Costa Rica has all that and extra. Each time I’ve visited, I’ve skilled one thing completely different.
I had been to Costa Rica twice. On my third go to, I made a decision I needed to go to the Pacific coast, as there was one place that was calling my title. I’d already began my journey of touring to America’s nationwide parks, however I spotted that I’d by no means explored the nationwide parks in international international locations.
To at the present time, Corcovado Nationwide Park in Costa Rica is by far one of many coolest locations I’ve ever visited, and should you get the possibility to go to Costa Rica, I extremely recommend you make this a part of your journey. The biodiversity of this park — and the nation — ensures that each go to goes to unfold in a different way than the final. Should you’re like me, you’ll in all probability already be planning your return journey earlier than the primary one ends!
A Biodiverse Wonderland
Nationwide Geographic proclaimed Corcovado Nationwide Park one of the vital biologically numerous locations on earth. It’s residence to over 50% of all of the species in Costa Rica and holds 2.5% of Earth’s biodiversity. Satisfied but? I’ll proceed.
The park, on the Osa Peninsula on the southwestern tip of Costa Rica, was established in 1975 to cease unlawful gold mining and logging operations from destroying the habitat. The nation’s tenth nationwide park spans over 100,000 acres on land, and over 8,000 acres within the adjoining ocean.
Corcovado encompasses the final remaining old-growth moist forest (the place bushes are over 250 years outdated) on Central America’s Pacific coast. It’s residence to 13 ecosystems, together with rain forests, cloud forests, palm forests, and mangrove swamps.
Whereas I made my go to a part of a ten-day highway journey alongside Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, it’s frequent for guests to spend their complete journey to Costa Rica on the Osa Peninsula exploring every thing Corcovado has to supply.
Park Charges & Hours
Not like most of Costa Rica’s nationwide parks, Corcovado has a number of ranger stations, however two main cities that provide entry to the park: Drake Bay and Puerto Jiménez. Though it’s doable to camp contained in the park or keep in a single day at a ranger station, most guests keep in certainly one of these two cities. Each are solely a brief distance from the doorway and provide facilities not discovered contained in the park.
It prices $15 USD per day to enter the park, and as of 2014, it’s now unimaginable to enter and not using a licensed information. This transformation was created to scale back the variety of accidents within the park, as the gap between ranger stations may be daunting for inexperienced guests. Ranger stations are open every day from 7am to 4pm, though the park itself is open from 7:30am to 5pm.
Methods to Get There
That is the difficult half. Reaching Corcovado Nationwide Park isn’t any stroll within the park — actually. Not like Costa Rica’s different parks, the place you possibly can park and stroll in, attending to Corcovado is half the enjoyable.
(Should you resolve to make this a highway journey, take a look at this listing for equally superb locations to go to in Costa Rica.)
There are a selection of the way to achieve Corcovado — which route you select will rely solely on what you need to see and the way lengthy you propose to remain. As a result of I knew I needed to go to different areas in Costa Rica, I opted for a highway journey and rented a automobile.
No matter which methodology you employ, you’ll want to achieve both Drake Bay or Puerto Jiménez to get into Corcovado Nationwide Park.
By way of Drake Bay
Drake Bay, a quaint village on the northwestern tip of the Osa Peninsula, provides direct entry to 2 of the park’s six ranger stations: San Pedrillo and Sirena. The city, situated on the sting of Corcovado Nationwide Park, is distant and genuine. Of all of the locations I visited throughout my highway journey, I loved Drake Bay probably the most. Dust roads weave right down to tropical seashores, eating places line the slender alleys, and the vacationer firms are small in comparison with different elements of the nation.
Should you decide to hire a automobile (or a driver), you’ll take the Pan-American Freeway east out of San José. After 30 miles, you’ll move Cartago and the highway will flip into Freeway 2. (However don’t be confused! That is nonetheless the Pan-American Freeway.) Proceed till you hit San Isidro el Basic and when the highway forks, keep proper, and proceed straight till you hit the coast. If you attain Dominical, flip left and proceed south till you attain the La Chacarita gasoline station, the place you’ll flip proper. It will lead you to Agujitas in Drake Bay, making your journey about seven hours. The highway is a tough one, nonetheless, requiring a 4×4 to entry it. Even through the dry season, the highway has a couple of river crossings — which aren’t lined by your automobile’s rental settlement.
Once I visited Drake Bay in February 2020, the highway was flooded — a typical incidence — that means our subsequent possibility was to park and depart our automobile within the city of Sierpe after which hop a ferry to achieve the peninsula. Personally, I like to recommend this selection over driving to Drake Bay.
Sierpe is situated on the sting of Central America’s largest mangrove forest, on the finish of Route 223. You’ll be able to pay $6 USD per night time to park your automobile at a restaurant referred to as La Perla del Sur, which is what I opted to do. It’s very nicely organized, and I by no means felt just like the automobile can be in peril if I left it behind. The restaurant has fairly good meals and is on the river, proper the place the boat taxi will decide you up.
Ferries from Sierpe to Drake Bay depart at 11:30am ($15 USD) and 4pm ($20 USD) and take about an hour. They’ll take you thru the Terrabe-Sierpe mangrove forest, which provides you an additional alternative to see wildlife. Whale and dolphin sightings are frequent when you attain the ocean, at which level the boat will take you alongside the shoreline of the Osa Peninsula. But additionally be looking out for crocodiles — we noticed one within the river across the mangrove forest. Undoubtedly hold your arms within the boat for that a part of the journey!
Taking a bus from San José is an alternative choice, with departures a number of instances a day. The bus will cease in Palmar Norte earlier than dropping you off in Sierpe, the place you’ll have to take the ferry to Drake Bay (see above). Ensure you verify the bus schedule to make sure you’ll nonetheless be capable of make the ferry if you attain Sierpe. The bus journey is six hours and prices $8 USD.
That is the costliest — but quickest — solution to attain Drake Bay. From the San José airport, you possibly can take a brief, 45-minute flight to Drake Bay on Sansa or Nature Air. Flights depart a couple of instances a day and value round $300 USD spherical journey. That is supreme for these with the next price range, or preferring a neater route, or who plan to spend everything of their time in Costa Rica visiting Corcovado Nationwide Park. The airport is a bit of manner from Drake Bay, nonetheless, so be sure to have different transportation lined up so you possibly can attain your resort with out strolling at midnight. (There aren’t any road lights in most of Drake Bay — nice for stargazing, however not enjoyable if it’s important to stroll with baggage!)
By way of Puerto Jiménez
Puerto Jiménez is the second entrance to Corcovado Nationwide Park, on the northeast facet of the peninsula, on the other facet of the coast from Drake Bay. Until you propose on staying on the peninsula for an prolonged interval, it’s possible you’ll have to select both Puerto Jiménez or Drake Bay, as visiting each will likely be troublesome. The previous provides direct entry to Siren and La Leona ranger stations.
Puerto Jiménez is without doubt one of the largest cities on the Osa Peninsula and sits on the japanese facet of the gulf. The city is extra developed than Drake Bay, and also you’ll discover extra eating places, grocery shops, and tour firms than on the northern facet of the peninsula.
The drive from San José to Puerto Jiménez is 6-8 hours whole, presumably extra, relying on the time of yr. From San José, you’ll take the identical route as you do to achieve Drake Bay, besides you’ll keep on Freeway 2 till you attain the turnoff for 245 and go proper. It’s really helpful to have a 4×4 to drive there, particularly should you’re visiting through the wet season. Both manner, this highway is extra accessible than the one to Drake Bay, and should you guide upfront with a guided tour, they’ll possible present transportation.
Similar to with Drake Bay, Sansa or Nature Air flights will take you from San José to Puerto Jiménez and value upwards of $400 USD for a round-trip flight.
An alternate route
There are two direct bus routes from San José to Puerto Jiménez, leaving at 8am and midday every day. The journey takes about 8-10 hours and prices $15 USD. There’s an choice to cease in Golfito, the place you possibly can take a 30-minute ferry journey to Puerto Jiménez for $11 USD.
Flora and Fauna
Corcovado Nationwide Park, one of many largest major rainforests on the Pacific shoreline, is residence to all kinds of wildlife, together with a handful of endangered animals, amongst them the Baird’s tapir, jaguar, scarlet macaw, and harpy eagle.
As a result of it’s required to enter the park with a licensed information, you’re just about assured to see wildlife. Guides do that on daily basis, and so they know the place to look — plus, they’ll carry a recognizing scope, which provides the next magnification than binoculars and helps find animals from a distance.
Corcovado has 4 species of monkeys — capuchin, howler, squirrel, and spider monkeys — and can also be residence to two-toed and three-toed sloths. Tapirs and anteaters are fashionable sightings, whereas pumas and ocelots are harder to seek out. On the marine facet, you’ll discover caimans, crocodiles, and all 4 species of sea turtles: leatherback, olive ridley, loggerhead, and Pacific inexperienced.
Scarlet macaws are as frequent because the parakeets, and when you have eye, you might spot a king vulture as nicely.
Beware: predators lurk within the park. Though jaguars are uncommon to see — our information admitted he’d solely seen them on path cams — Corcovado can also be residence to peccaries, an endangered, hog-like mammal that may grow to be aggressive when in teams. Additionally be careful for toxic snakes and Africanized bees. Sounds scary, however along with your information by your facet, you’ll be simply superb.
Bioluminescence, a biochemical emission of sunshine attributable to marine fungi, micro organism, and microorganisms, can also be frequent within the waters across the peninsula. Basically, disturbing the water or the microorganisms causes the emanation of a shiny bluish-green glow.
I stayed in Drake Bay, a extra distant and fewer touristy city than Puerto Jiménez, that means fewer lights. Not solely is that this nice for stargazing, however the darker it’s, the extra possible you’ll be capable of see bioluminescence.
I grew up in Florida and have seen this phenomenon twice in my life, normally after I’m already swimming. Drake Bay is the one place I’ve ever seen bioluminescence sparkle whereas standing on shore. Crashing waves glowed like fireflies within the night time.
Greatest Excursions in Corcovado Nationwide Park
Exploring Costa Rica is finest achieved by reserving a tour. For Corcovado Nationwide Park, I like to recommend reserving upfront — and ideally instantly with the tour firm. My hostel in Drake Bay forgot to guide my tour, and though I managed to get one on the final minute, it brought on some pointless stress. Granted, a resort could also be extra organized than a hostel. (The primary resort I may discover booked my tour for me, despite the fact that I wasn’t staying there.)
Day excursions provide the possibility to hike to one of many ranger stations, the place you possibly can spot wildlife and discover the park. Each ranger station contains water, restrooms, public telephones, and an data desk. There aren’t any services between stations.
Undoubtedly additionally take a look at the seashores across the Osa Peninsula, that are among the finest (and least crowded) in Costa Rica.
Relying on what you’re trying to expertise, you possibly can keep in Drake Bay or Puerto Jiménez and take day excursions into Corcovado Nationwide Park. Most excursions embody an authorized information, transportation into the park, the doorway price, and lunch! Tipping your information isn’t included or necessary, nevertheless it’s positively appreciated.
Day excursions common $90–120 USD and provide the alternative to go deep into the park and go to the ranger stations. Sirena and San Pedrillo can solely be accessed from Drake Bay, with Sirena being the extra fashionable — and costly — of the 2. The latter has much less wildlife, so I selected Sirena and positively don’t remorse it. It’s thought-about the park’s headquarters and attracts extra mammals than anyplace else.
The Los Patos ranger station can solely be accessed on a multiday journey. It’s residence to monkeys, sloths, and birds, who name the waterfalls, forests, and the Rincón River residence.
Should you’re staying in Puerto Jiménez, you’ll have entry to the La Leona Station, which features a seaside hike and is good for guests eager to cross paths with a sea turtle or two. The El Tigre station lies outdoors of Corcovado and is much less fashionable. It has fewer mammals and is healthier for many who need to see bugs and reptiles.
Nonetheless, don’t underestimate what you’ll see even should you don’t go into the park. There aren’t any fences in spite of everything, and wildlife can go the place they please.
For my second tour, I made a decision to do exactly that and take a tour in a distinct space of the Osa Peninsula simply outdoors Corcovado. And personally, I most well-liked this tour higher than the one to Sirena. (Whereas that day tour had a bigger group and we noticed extra wildlife, it felt extremely touristy.) The Tapir’s Path in El Trillo de la Danta was run by a pleasant gentleman named Gustavo. As a result of there have been solely six of us, we had the chance to ask extra questions, and since we made much less sound, we nonetheless bought to see fairly quite a lot of animals. Gustavo was additionally a fantastic information, and I extremely suggest him. After the hike, we had lunch at a neighborhood household’s residence, which was an expertise all in itself.
Greatest Locations to Keep in Corcovado Nationwide Park
Tenting is allowed at Sirena, San Pedrillo, and La Leona stations, though meals is just not allowed, and there’s a restrict to what you possibly can usher in. Permits are necessary and have to be reserved a month forward of time. Tenting is $4 USD per night time. The Corcovado Journey Tent Camp additionally provides a novel expertise.
In a single day Tour
San Pedrillo is a well-liked spot for in a single day excursions, as is Sirena, probably the most developed station. You’ll both keep in tents on an uncovered platform or in bunk-bed model dorm rooms with shared loos. Though meals is permitted within the park, Sirena station has a small cafeteria for these friends who resolve to remain in a single day within the park. In a single day excursions begin at round $350 USD.
Funds-friendly: Casa Gitana
Beginning at $34 USD an evening
Mid-level: Resort Finca Maresa
Beginning at $80 USD an evening
Excessive-end: Las Cotingas Ocean View
Beginning at $120 USD an evening
Funds-friendly: Corcovado Wild Hostel
Beginning at $22 USD an evening
Mid-level: Agua Dulce Seaside Resort
Beginning at $130 USD an evening
Excessive-end: Kunken Boutique Resort and Spa
Beginning at $300 USD an evening
When to Go to and What to Carry
The wet season in Costa Rica stretches between Might and November and is taken into account the closest factor to winter, with temperatures starting from 70 to 84 levels Fahrenheit. The wettest months, September and October, are additionally when Corcovado Nationwide Park will get the fewest guests, so should you choose a extra intimate expertise and don’t thoughts mountaineering within the rain, that is the perfect time to go to. December to April will nonetheless have rain, nevertheless it’s extra sporadic.
The warmth isn’t any joke. Common temperatures vary between 80 to 100 levels Fahrenheit. Keep in mind additionally that you simply’re nearer to the equator, that means that should you can stand the warmth, the solar will burn your pores and skin rapidly should you’re not cautious. I spent one hour outdoors with out sunscreen and appeared like a lobster. ¶
Sunscreen and a good water bottle will make your hikes extra pleasant, however they gained’t hold the mosquitos away. Deet is a typical repellant, and it’ll assault their evil cousins, noseeums. Avon’s Pores and skin So Gentle is sunscreen and bug guard mixed that can hold noseeums at bay.
Climbing sneakers are nice for the forests; nonetheless, I cherished my waterproof mountaineering sandals for the seaside.
So what do you assume? Would you select the extra distant Drake Bay or the busier Puerto Jiménez? Does a day tour curiosity you, and if that’s the case, would you keep within the forest or hike to the seaside? What wildlife are you dying to see first?