Corcovado National Park Guide
The main natural attraction of the Osa Peninsula is Corcovado National Park. Corcovado National Park is one of the richest and most diverse tropical areas on the planet. It covers nearly half of the entire peninsula and has the largest lowland rainforest in Central America. Corcovado has one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica, second only to Carara National Park. All four species of monkeys and both sloth species live in the park. The park also houses five species of wild cat including Ocelots, Jaguarondi, Margays, Pumas, and Jaguars. Beginning in 2014, all visitors must have a guide in the park. Nearly all of the lodges in the region offer day tours to the park.
Corcovado National Park was established on October 24th, 1975 by presidential decree during the Daniel Oduber Quirós administration. At this time Corcovado was settled by gold miners and farmers who were eventually relocated by the government in order to protect the flora and fauna of the park.
Today Corcovado protects the largest tract of Pacific Lowland Rainforest in all of Central America and is home to the country’s most endangered animals. Hiking through Corcovado’s impressive forests and experiencing the park’s rich biodiversity is truly memorable and highly recommended.
Visitors travelling to Corcovado National Park may access the park by visiting any of the four currently established ranger stations: San Pedrillo, Sirena, Los Patos and La Leona. Reservations are required for day trips as well as overnight stays. One day and overnight trips can be done from Drake Bay and tours of 2 to 3 days can also be done from Puerto Jimenez.
Corcovado Reservations, Certified Guides & Food Regulations
Certified Guides Required for all Visitors
“Through the administrative decision number; R-SINAC-ACOSA-D-011-2013 it is official that as of February 1st of 2014, all visitors to Corcovado National Park will be required to be accompanied by a local tour guide”
The only legal way to enter Corcovado is on a group or private tour purchased from a certified operator and accompanied by local guide who has registered in advance with the park service. Freelance guides are not permitted (even if they have ICT certification).
Purchase tours in advance through a travel service, the lodge where you have reservations or in person from a local tour office.
Big changes arrived at Sirena station in the first half of 2017. Services previously provided by SINAC (the parks service) have been taken over by the Asociación de Desarollo Integral (ADI) of Carate, a nonprofit consortium of local hotel owners tour operators.
No Camping is allowed. Overnight visitors must reserve a bunk and mosquito net in the bunkhouse (arranged by your chosen tour company)
No Outside food is allowed (no not even a Powerbar). Meals must be purchased at the cafeteria (your tour company arranges this).
Other places in the park still allow visitors to bring food but please – PACK IT IN PACK IT OUT!
Which station should I go to?
From Drake Bay there are two options for day trips to Corcovado: the Sirena Station and the San Pedrillo Station. Most tour agencies go to Sirena, however, both stations have their own charm depending on what you are looking for. The average cost to visit either station is $90.
San Pedrillo Station
The Sirena Station is much more popular than the San Pedrillo Station, therefore, you should expect many more tourists there than at San Pedrillo. The entry limit of each station is 100 tourists per day, and the Sirena Station tends to fill those spaces days to weeks in advance. The reason for its popularity is because it is believed to guarantee more animal sightings. The rain forest at Sirena is secondary growth, which means it has been cut down before and later revived. The Sirena Station has dorm beds and a cafeteria for those participating in overnight tours. Visitors can also buy snacks and souvenirs at this station.
A tour to the Sirena Station from Drake Bay starts with a 40 minute boat ride to the Station. Once there, you will make a 4 to 5 hour guided walk along the trails. Visitors can see a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, birds, peccaries, coatis, sloths and hopefully the tapir. Lunch is given out where the guide thinks is appropriate. Then you walk back to the boat and go to Drake Bay at 12:30 to 13:00.
Multiple day hiking tours from Puerto Jimenez generally go from Los Patos to Sirena, 20 km, and then to Carate, another 20km. This tour is for serious hikers only and most be done with a certified tour company.
The most trusted company for hardcore hikes from Jimenez is Surcos Tours.
A tour to San Pedrillo is a bit less of a touristic affair and more of a raw experience. The station generally does not reach its permit limits and there are much fewer daily visitors. The San Pedrillo Station is primary rain forest so you can expect to see massive old growth trees and undisturbed landscapes. The station also boasts an impressive waterfall and stunning beaches. Statistically, the San Pedrillo Station gets more puma sightings and the Sirena Station gets more tapir sightings. The only animal that can be spotted at Sirena and not San Pedrillo is the Squirrel Monkey.
A tour to San Pedrillo generally starts with a 20 minute boat ride from Drake Bay to the Station. Your guide will start by leading you through the flat trail to Rio Pargo where visitors can spot three species of monkeys, coatis, agoutis, great currasows, peccaries, and hopefully the tapir or the puma. This trail includes a beach section. Later, the guide will lead you through the waterfall trails where crocodiles can be spotted. Visitors can swim in the lower waterfall. After lunch at the station, groups get back on the boats to Drake Bay.
Overnight tours at San Pedrillo are camping trips. Your tour agency will provide you with tents, packed food, and a knowledgeable guide. Very few tour agencies carry out this tour because it is heavily involved. The most trusted company specializing in San Pedrillo is Jungla del Jaguar.
What to expect
The Corcovado National Park is a very special environment, undisturbed by human activity. Corcovado is the most strongly protected park in Costa Rica with the strictest rules and limitations on how many people can enter which is partly why the tours do not come cheap. All visitors must be accompanied by a certified guide. Those guides make sure that visitors do not feed the wildlife and treat the park with the utmost respect. That being said, the park is not a zoo and the animals are completely wild. It is impossible to guarantee what animals visitors will see on a Corcovado Tour. Visitors should go to Corcovado to appreciate the wild and undisturbed rain forest, not because they have a list of specific animals that they must see to have a successful tour.
Trogon, Corcovado by @ticaxelmundo
Bairds Tapir, Corcovado by @ticaxelmundo
Titi Monkey, Corcovado by @ticaxelmundo