Advice for Hiking and Visiting Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Beach Views, Corcovado National Park

Beach Views, Corcovado National Park

THE BASICS

Corcovado National Park is located on the Osa Peninsula in south-west Costa Rica. National Geographic once called this peninsula the most biologically diverse region on earth. It is certainly a phenomenal place for viewing wildlife, thanks to that fact that the ranges of many Central and South American species overlap here. The peninsula is harder to get to and requires more preparation than most other parts of Costa Rica, but for this you are rewarded with fewer other tourists. You can stay in lodges on the Peninsula or go hiking in the National Park and stay in the park’s ranger stations at night.

When I solo-hiked for three days through Corcovado National Park I found that there was a lot of incorrect or outdated information out there about this hike. If you plan to hike this alone or without a guide, you will be feed a lot of misinformation. This post is designed to help provide more up to date information on the hiking and visiting Corcovado National Park.

corcovado-map

Hiking map of Corcovado National Park

PLANNING YOUR ROUTE

  • If you are doing a multi-day hike in the park you must stay at one of the Ranger Stations. The only Ranger Station you can currently stay at is Sirena (which as you will see in the map, is in the southern section of the park).
  • At one point in time you could stay at the Los Platos ranger station, this is no longer the case.
  • At one point in time you could hike north from Sirena Ranger Station to San Pedrillo Ranger Station along the beach, this is also no longer the case.
  • It is approximately a 6 hours walk from La Leona to Sirena Ranger Station (though it can be done in less if you are not looking at wildlife).
  • 3 Days is a good amount of time to allocate to Corcovado National Park, as it allows one day to hike into the park, one day spent exploring within the park, and one day hiking out of the park. You will also need to allow time getting to and from the border of the park (that can also take a day either side of your hike).
  • For travellers used to living in urban areas, Corcovado National Park should be considered a remote location and as such necessary planning (of food, water, accommodation and navigation) needs to be considered.

**UPDATE** As of late 2014 you cannot enter Corcovado National Park without a guide. This means no more solo hiking Corcovado.

COSTS

  • Costs inside Corcovado National Park can include Admission $10 (¢1600) per day, Camping $4 per day, Dorms $8 per day, Breakfast $20 (¢5000) per meal, Lunch $25 (¢6000) per meal and Dinner $25 (¢6000) per meal. You must pay the admission fee but the other prices are optional, depending on what you wish to do inside the park.
  • If you want to save money, you don’t need to travel with a guide. The downside being you will miss out on their vast source of knowledge and will be required to work out everything for yourself.
  • There is a somewhat complicated system for getting into the National Park. If you go with a guide or tour company, they will likely do most of it for you. If you are doing it without those, contact the rangers (pncorcovado@gmail.com).
IMG_5787

Wildlife of Corcovado

  • There is Wifi at Sirena Station (it is slow) that can be used and the Rangers allow visitors to charge their mobile phones (cell phones).
  • Despite what it says elsewhere the roads to Puerto Jimenez and Carate are actually pretty good. The road to Puerto Jimenez has recently been upgraded. The road to Carate can flood in places, in the lead up or during the rainy season.
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Wildlife of Corcovado

  • It is possible to get stuck at Sirena Station if it rains very hard the day/night before (during or in the lead up to the rainy season, the river near the station floods). I cannot tell you how often this happens but it did happen to me whilst I was there, well sort of. The river near the Ranger Station flooded and most people organised for a local pilot to fly them in or out (for approximately $75 per person). Alternatively if you are a little bit lucky and a little bit adventurous it is possible to cross the flooding rivers. Other issues may delay your stay within Corcovado National Park. Given this, would advise allowing a day or two after your trip to the park.
Tapir

Tapir near Rio Claro

FOOD AND WATER

  • Sirena Ranger Station provides meals (if you organise before arriving at the park). When I stayed I organised to have dinner at the Station, to ensure I was getting at least one good meal per day. Meal are served during these times Breakfast 6:30-7am, Lunch 11:30-12noon, Dinner 5:30-6:30pm.
  • Water is likely to be the single heaviest item you carry inside the park. Despite what it says elsewhere, you can refill your water bottles at Serena Station (with or without tablets). The rangers at Serena Station tell you it is okay to do this, and it is what everyone does. So don’t worry about carrying too much water on your hike into the park (but do take enough for a full days hike).

WHAT TO TAKE

  • Gear you should consider taking with you to Corcovado National Park: Hiking Backpack, Trash Bags (to keep items dry and tack your rubbish out), Mosquito Netting, Towel, Sleeping Sheets, Hiking Boots, Sandals/Flip Flops for around the Ranger Station, Medicine, Water Bottle (and water), Food and Snacks (especially if you are not eating the meals organised by the Ranger Station), Sunglasses, Flashlight / Headlamp, Rain Jacket, Bug Spray/ Repellent, Sunscreen/ Sun block and Camera with good zoom lens.
  • In addition, there is not a great deal to do at night (take a book or something else to do that requires little light).
  • If you are travelling without a guide, make sure you have a map with you. The path from La Leona to Serena Ranger Station is reasonably easy to follow. Any inland paths are a notably harder to follow.
  • You probably don’t actually need tent for Serena (unless worries about mosquitoes). There are large undercover areas that you can sleep under.
  • If you want to take good photos of the wildlife, in most cases you will need a camera with a nice zoom lens.
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Corcovado, a diverse place for wildlife.

 

GETTING TO THE PARK

Getting to Carate/La Leona: Carate is the closest little ‘town’ to Corcovado National Park. It is much less a town and more a small collection of expensive hotels. You could spend a night here before or after your trip to Corcovado, but again the places here are expensive. From Carate it is a 3.5km walk along the beach to La Leona, the entrance to the park. From Pto  to La Leona: Collective to Carate (leaves 6am and 1:30pm) and returns 8am and 4pm

Getting to Corcovado National Park (From La Leona/Carate): The collectivo will let you out at a small convenience store. Follow the road down to the beach (next to the airstrip) and turn right along the beach (continuing in the same direction the collectivo was travelling). The Ranger Station is a few kilometres (about an hours walk) down the beach (on the dunes behind the beach, it is signposted). If there are other people hiking with a guide, you can follow them.

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Beware your fellow hikers

OTHER LINKS

  • If you are interested in making a reservation to enter the park, contact the people at pncorcovado@gmail.com (the parks department).
  • WikiTravel – Pretty good Wiki about Corcovado and what you can expect, slightly outdated.
  • Costa Rica Travel Tips – Some tips from us on getting around Costa Rica, and making the most of your travels.
  • Top Things To Do In Costa Rica – And another from us on some of the things you mght like to do whilst in Costa Rica.
  • Corcovadoguide.com – A mass of information about Corcovado National Park.
  • Expert Vagabond – For another travellers take on solo-hiking the park.

Have something to add about hiking Corcovado? Share it in the comments.

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3 Responses

  1. Virginia says:

    Hello Will , your post was really useful and very complete in details. I was just checking about trekkin solo Corcovado as Im travelling on a budget and a guide will add to much expense to my trip. I read in different places that the park doesnt allow any visitors to go unacompanied , since Feb 2014, but then i read this post of yours dating 12 Feb 2015 and you said that there is no need of a guide, now im confused ¡ Can you confirm any info about trekkin without guide? I know sometimes there are a lot of rules and when you get to the place , it doesnt matter or is not a big hassle¡ Thanks for your time¡

    • William Abbott says:

      Hi.
      I hiked Corcovado in late 2013 and wrote this post at that stage but didn’t get around to posting it until much later. Although I tried to include the latest information it is possible that some of the rules changed in between.
      Your best bet is probably to use the e-mail address listed in the article above and make contact with the national park service and ask them any questions.
      There seems to be a general trend at the National Park to slowly reduce the range of options available to visitors, so what you are saying would fit that trend.
      I would say there is a slight difference between what rules are stated online and what rules are actually applied on the ground. It is possible if you turned up as a solo hiker at the park they wouldn’t turn you around.
      However I wouldn’t want you to rely on that advice as it would be extremely inconvenient to be refused entry at the park border, given it is not that easy to get to.

  2. Ryan says:

    Hey just thought I’d post an update so people don’t get confused. Since late 2014 you can’t enter the park without a guide. Guides cost about $150 a day. $75 a day each person for two people and a bit less if you have more people. We hired a guide on the street for $80 a day between two people. We thought this was a really good deal but once you add in the entrance fee for the park (now $15 a day) and camping (now $8 a night) it ends up being about $75 a day per person. (The first quoted prices include entry and camping). We also had to buy and prepare food for the guide ( and carry the majority of it). Having to need a guide was disappointing because we were hoping to go in by ourselves. It was also a bit annoying being his mule and cook. But on the plus side he was very friendly,knowledgable and good at spotting animals

    Overall the trek was worth it. It was beautiful and the array of animals is quite amazing.

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