Meat and Potatoes:
- Entrance fee: USD $15
- Hours: 7:30am - 5pm
- Average Temperature Range: 25C-32C
- Driest Months: January - April
About The Park:
The wilderness of Corcovado brings to mind exotic adventure films set in lush and dangerous jungles. There are few places left on the planet that are this wild and rich with life. The miracles of planet Earth are on full display here; Corcovado is a lingering vision of what has been lost.
Corcovado is the last old growth, wet forest on the Pacific coast of Central America, covering approximately 42,400 hectares (about 105,000 acres) a third of the Osa Peninsula. The park was created in 1975 to protect the rich biodiversity of the area from gold mining and the logging which had devastated the rest of the lowland rainforests along the Pacific. Still, some illegal mining and logging operations try to take what they can before being discovered. This huge national park is home to 13 major ecosystems including lowland rain forest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm forest, mangrove swamps, coastal marine, beaches and lagoons. It also boasts 37 km (23 miles) of beaches with scorching hot sands.
Some of the country's rarest wildlife can be found here. The National Geographic referred to Corcovado as being the ‘the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity,’ holding 3% - 5% (depending on where you read) of all the biodiversity on the planet.
Amongst the teeming wildlife are jaguars (one of several wild cats), anteaters, tapirs and the famous scarlet macaws. All four of Costa Rica's
monkey species live here, including the extremely endangered red-backed squirrel monkey. Explorers must also be careful of where they swim as rivers and lagoons can be home to crocodiles and bull sharks. It's beaches are visited by all four of the sea turtle species that nest in Costa Rica. Corcovado supports over 500 species of trees and approximately 140 different species of mammal, 370 types of birds (including 16 different hummingbirds), 117 species of amphibians and reptiles, 100 types of butterflies, and well over 6,000 kinds of insects. In order to protect this ecosystem, the park can only be explored with a certified guide. This is for the best, as they know where the wildlife can be found from day to day.
There are six ranger stations within the park boundaries. Each of these stations has their charms, but if wildlife viewing is a priority we recommend that you seriously consider Sirena station. This is the most remote and least often visited which means animals can be seen wandering around more freely and in higher density. Direct access to the station is usually made by small boat and the ride across the choppy waters is a long one (approximately 90 minutes from Drake Bay). If you get sea sick, consider taking the appropriate medication in advance of the journey. There is a small airstrip at the Station and it is possible to charter a small plane as an alternative.
It is possible to spend the night here, but the dormitory style rooms are very rustic. The open air rooms are not air conditioned and the washrooms have no hot water. Also, note that electricity is available for only a few hours a day. The benefit of staying at the station is that you are present during peak hours of animal activity - dawn and dusk.
Things To Keep In Mind
It's A Jungle Out There
This is true wilderness, which means any visit here will come with a certain level of discomfort. Expect it to be hot and humid, it might rain even when the forecast calls for blue skies. Even if it doesn't rain, you'll be soaked in sweat. And be sure to bring along insect repellent (remember, there are 6,000 species of insects in the park) and sturdy walking shoes. While there are lots of groomed trails they get slippery in the rain and humidity, so a good pair of hiking shoes is highly recommended.
Arranging a Visit
While it's theoretically possible to arrange everything yourself, it is much easier to do through a tour agency or local resort. Traffic to the park is tightly controlled to prevent damaging the ecosystem or acclimatizing animals too much to human presence. Getting an entrance permit isn't a guarantee when the park is busy. If you choose to go directly to a ranger station and get your permit independently, it will require time and patience. Agencies and resorts have to book time slots at the park months in advance, so they're your best bet to getting into the park with as little hassle as possible. We worked in combination with Anywhere.com (flights to Drake Bay) and The Drake Bay Wilderness Resort (park access and tours) to organize our visit.
Best Times To Visit
Corcovados experiences some of Costa Rica's heaviest rainfalls, recording 550 cm (216 inches)) of annual rainfall on the highest peaks. As our charming guide Gabriel explained: "there are two seasonss; the rainy season... and the less rainy season." The driest months are from January to April. Keep in mind, this is a rainforest, so it can rain at any time. During our week long January visit we had excellent luck. While it rained nearly everyday, it didn't rain during our tours.
It is possible to camp in the park with the appropriate permits, making it possible to hike between ranger stations. However, it is critical that you familiarize yourself with tide schedules as some areas may become impassable. Also, crocodiles are known to lounge around mangroves and riverbanks. Take the time to visit the ranger stations and ask for necessary updates and information at any opportunity.
And take note: even experienced, fit hikers find it challenging to hike more than 15 km (approx 9.3 miles) in a day due to the heat and humidity. Hiking in this climate is not to be taken lightly .
When walking in the rainforest, stick to the visible trail which provides a clean line of sight. Avoid walking on the leaf litter on the side of the trail; some biting creatures spend the daylight hours sleeping amongst the leaves. There are several species of venomous, constricting or just plain old sharp-toothed snakes. Fortunately, they prefer to avoid humans so it's uncommon to see them near active trails. There are also biting spiders and stinging scorpions. Try not to stare up at the canopy as you walk, or you might miss something fascinating (and potentially biting) on the ground. It's always good to take a pause in the humidity to scan the trees and surrounding area before moving on. It's also a good idea to avoid placing your feet near large rocks when possible as snakes are known to press up against them for shelter during the day. If you listen to your guide and use common sense, you'll have a safe visit.
Pack lots bug repellant. DEET--based products (Muskol 30% is our go-to) always work. But some people prefer more natural solutions like eucalyptus oil in lotion. If the bugs aren't too plentiful or aggressive we find that eucalyptus works, so we always take some along. But when the going gets really nasty we always go back to high potency Muskol. During our visit we were lucky and encountered very few insects.
Fun "Fact": There is ostensibly another less-chemical alternative that we heard about while hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland. Several people there swore by the effectiveness of Avon’s "skin so soft" lotion (purportedly the go-to of the Royal Marines and SAS). No one know's why this lotion is so effective, but it is.
Things To Bring:
- Hiking shoes and/or hiking sandals
- Water shoes/sandals (for getting in and out of the boat) - Bathing suit (depending on which ranger station you visit
- Insulated water bottle (cold water will taste extra good)
- Hat (mostly for the boat ride)
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof Bag
- Quick-drying pants and shirt
- Insect repellent
- Topical antihistamine
Other Great Reads: https://greenglobaltravel.com/hiking-corcovado-national-park-costa-rica/