While the park is one of the more remote in the national park system, Corcovado provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
The park was established on October 24, 1974.
Flora and fauna
National Geographic called Corcovado National Park the "most biologically intense place on Earth" and this is no exaggeration. All four of the monkeys species found within Costa Rica (Mantled Howler, Squirrel Monkey, Spider Monkey and White-faced Capuchin) exist in large numbers throughout the park. Two crocodilians (the occasionally large and saline tolerant American Crocodile and the small Spectacled Caiman) persist within all of the park's major waterways, as do Bull sharks. The Jaguar population within the park is the healthiest in all of Central America, however it is still extremely unlikely for a visitor to spot one (most locals have never seen them either.) Many other elusive cats call the park home as well, including the Puma (which is slightly smaller and more arboreal in Central American than in the United States, probably due to competition with the Jaguar,) Ocelot, Jaguarundi and Margay. The park is one of the last strongholds of the Baird's Tapir and there are hundreds within decent proximity from Sirena Station, usually found lounging in the shade or in shallow pools of stagnant water. There are dozens of snake species present, many of them venomous, including the Fer-de-lance (also known as terciopelo or "Costa Rican landmine",) the Bushmaster, the Eyelash Pit Viper, and the Coral Snake. The largest snake within the park is the non-venomous Boa Constrictor. Numerous other small mammals and reptiles are common within the park including, but by no means limited to, the White-nosed Coati, Sloth, Tamandua, Giant Anteater, Basilisk, and Ctenosaur. Birds include the highly endangered Scarlet Macaw, the Tiger Heron, Black Vulture and the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, among hundreds of others including the critically endangered Harpy Eagle.
Dry season. Running from mid-December until mid-April with occasional rain showers.
Wet season. Running mid-April until mid-December.
Travel to and through the park is perilous and is best accomplished during the dry season.
Drake Bay lies on the north side of the park and provides entrance and easy access to its trails. Drake Bay, although sometimes difficult to get to, is an excellent alternative to traveling through Puerto Jimenez.
Puerto Jimenez. This is the nearest sizeable town to the park and most people entering the park will probably need to pass through this town.
From the north. Travel along the beach through San Pedrillo.
From the south. Travel along the beach through Carate.
From the east. Through Los Patos. It is a 13km hike from La Palma to Los Patos.
Regular bus service is available to Puerto Jimenez. Passenger truck service from Puerto Jimenez to the southern entrance at Carate occurs on a biweekly or greater basis. The journey generally takes between 3-5 hours by road depending on weather, traffic conditions. In May 2007 passenger trucks were on a twice a day schedule (morning, and late afternoon).
All roads on the Osa Peninsula exhibit the disrepair characteristic of Costa Rica outside of the main tourist destinations. The road from Puerto Jimenez to Carate require a 4WD vehicle as it is a gravel road with several required river fordings. It recommended that this drive should only be attempted during the dry season. Note that Carate is next to the beach. Take care not to pass Carate as it is poorly marked. Parking is available by paying the store/bus stop which is Carate.
4WD Taxis are available for the passage from Puerto Jiminez to Carate. They are easy to find on the main strip of Puerto Jiminez.
From Carate, it is a 4 km walk on the beach to the park entrance at the ranger station Las Leonas. Park permits and camping are available at the ranger station.
Park passes are required a month in advance of going into the park and can be purchased on line.
Small planes fly from the city of Golfito on the mainland directly to the small airstrip at the central ranger station.
Permits must be reserved in advance. You must have a permit to stay overnight at Sirena. The park no longer allows overnight or day hikers to enter the park without a reservation permit. Sirena is the only ranger station that offers dormitory lodging and hot meals in addition to camping. La Leona and San Pedrillo offer only camping with no food service. It is possible to secure park permits directly from the Ranger Station in Puerto Jiménez, but they do not accept credit cards, so it requires visiting Banco Nacional in Puerto Jimenez to make the payment. Many travel agents and guides can assist in securing your park reservations if you need assistance. Note that the Park Service (MINAE) does not issue park permits more than one month in advance of anticipated arrival. You can contact the park office directly by email: email@example.com
Fees as of 2012 for non-Costa Rican's (not including guide services or transportation to and from the park) are:
Entrance: $10 per day per person
Dorm Bed: $8 per night per person
Camping: $4 per night per person
Breakfast: $20 per person
Lunch: $25 per person
Dinner: $25 per person
Carate to La Leona. 3.5km hike along the beach.
La Leona to La Sirena. The 16km long hike to La Leona is on a trail which is on and off the beach. It is imperative that visitors time the hike so as to arrive at the river fording 2 km shy of La Sirena at the lowest possible tide. There is potable water at a stream "Quebrada la Chancha" (Chancha Stream) just east of "Ponta La Chancha" (Chancha Point).
Los Patos to La Sirena. This 20km hike is approximately eight hours through secondary rainforest. The trail slopes slightly down toward La Sirena.
San Pedrillo to La Sirena. This 29km hike is approximately thirteen or fourteen hours and is almost entirely along the beach. After the dry season of 2009 it will be closed.
Drake to San Pedrillo. This trail is outside of the park and leads to its entrance. The hike is approximately six hours along the beach and just inside the forest.
There are several short trails in and around Sirena
Wildlife. The park is home to:
Over 350 species of birds including Scarlet Macaws .
116 types of amphibians and reptiles including poison dart frogs.
139 mammals, including Tapirs, Squirrel Monkeys, and large cats such as Puma and Jaguar.
Natural rock formations.
Rainforest. It grows reaches right up to the oceans.
Visit La Sirena. In fact it is recommended that you spend as much time as possible here since it makes a good central base for exploring the park. It is located 20km from each entrance.
Take pictures. Take as many as possible so as to enjoy the beauty long after you have left.
Kayak. Ask the locals for a kayak ride through the rainforest.
Hire a guide. The guides know the animals' habits and are able to tell you where the tapirs normal routes are. However, be sure to also make sure to take the time to explore on your own.
There is nothing for sale within the park, including food or souvenirs.
Meals are available at the central ranger station with advance reservation. As of 2012 Breakfast is $20 per meal, Lunch is $25 per meal, and dinner is $25 per meal.
People often bring food inside the park with them. However, there are no public cooking facilities, and the rangers no longer will boil water for coffee, tea or instant noodles. If you wish to bring your own food, bring food that is easy to pack, lightweight, non-perishable and does not need heating or cooking.
Be prepared to pack out all of your trash.
There is potable water available at each Ranger Station.
Remember to carry plenty of water during your hikes. If staying for multiple days, many people choose to bring powdered drink mixes.
Beds are available at the Sirena ranger station with advance reservation. You will need to bring your own bedsheets. Costs are $8 for dorm beds, $4 for camping (bring your own tent).
There are many hotels in Puerto Jimenez to choose from. Puerto Jimenez makes an ideal base for entering the park from either Los Patos or La Leona. Most lodges in town will store your extra baggage (for free or for fee) while you are on expedition.
While many people try to base out of La Palma for entrance to Los Patos, there are very few lodges or food options in this town. Also there is no public transportation from La Palma to the Los Patos Ranger Station.
There are many all inclusive lodges in the Carate area, and this can make a good launch / exit point for park entrance at La Leona Ranger Staion.
Drake Bay makes an ideal base for those who wish to boat into and out of Sirena without having to make the 6-8 hour hike from Los Patos or La Leona. There are many lodges in the Drake Bay area to choose from.
Camping is possible only at the ranger stations at the entrances and at the central ranger station. Sirena station is a series adjoining structures connected by covered walkway. A covered platform next to a kitchen area and restroom provides needed shelter for pitching free standing tents and mosquito nets. As the platform is covered, you do not need to bring a fly if you are bringing a tent. Showers are available.
Backcountry camping is not permitted within the park due to the fragile ecosystem.
Drinking water. The water at the ranger stations is supposedly potable, but it is highly advised to bring some sort of portable water purifier or sterilizer as it is unrealistic to cart all of your own water in. Be especially careful while hiking from La Leona to Sirena Station- the park recommends the bare minimum of 1.5 liters but at least 3 liters is safer. Dehydration and heat exhaustion can and do kill very quickly.
Sunscreen. The walk from La Leona to La Sirena is very exposed and it is very ill-advised to not wear proper protection.
Bugspray. Malaria is not a concern in Corcovado, but Dengue fever is a possibility.
Buddy or Guide. Stay safe, walk as a team. The river crossings are often underestimated and can be especially dangerous for solo hikers.
Avoid swimming. The ocean tides in this area are extremely powerful, while crocodiles and bullsharks are present in both the Rio Claro and Rio Sirena. River crossings should be done quickly and carefully. NEVER risk crossing either of these rivers at high-tide or during stormy weather. Caimans may be present in all rivers and streams but are not considered a threat to humans.
Snakes. There are Fer de Lance and various other poisonous snakes here. Fer de Lance or Tercioepelo, as it is known locally, is most active at night commonly along stream beds.
Nature's defenses. Be careful of trees covered by thorns, spines, or ants.
Peccaries Also know as Javelinas. There are two different species of peccaries in Corcovado, the Collared and the White-lipped Peccary. They run in packs and can be very aggressive. If threatened by a group of peccaries, climb a tree until you are six feet or higher off the ground.
Emergencies. Park officials all own short wave radios and there is a pilot on-call. There are landing strips at Drake, La Sirena ranger station, and in Puerto Jiminez. There is also a local doctor in Drake.
Maps Best maps locally are given out by the rangers, and are hand-drawn and not to scale. You may want to bring your own topo. However, topographic maps are neither required (the few trails are clearly visible) nor useful (almost impossible to find out where you are on the topographical maps).
The reason Corcovado is so amazing is because it has been so remote and a conscious decision to keep it beautiful is required.