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October 14, 2023

The Best Things to Do in Corcovado National Park

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Welcome to a realm of unparalleled natural beauty and captivating adventures – Corcovado National Park's exuberant biodiversity will make your experience the wildest adventure in the country. With over 42,000 hectares of pristine rainforest, Corcovado is a testament to Costa Rica's commitment to preserving its unique biodiversity. 

Osa Wild connects humans with nature. We offer travel solutions that protect a place like no other in the world while inspiring local people to responsibly conserve and develop their land. This travel guide is your gateway to discovering the best things this Costa Rican gem offers. Delve into lush rainforests teeming with rare wildlife, embark on thrilling tours, and immerse yourself in the unspoiled wonders of this pristine park. Whether you're a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or simply craving an escape, Corcovado has something extraordinary for everyone. 

Ocelot

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

The 5 Most Popular Activities in Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is a nature lover's paradise, offering many activities that allow you to immerse yourself in its stunning biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes. From hiking through lush trails to embarking on boat tours that reveal the wonders of the park's rivers and islets, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Here are the top five activities that you shouldn't miss during your visit:

Tapir
  1. Day Tour from Drake or Puerto Jimenez to Sirena Corcovado

Embark on a wild and choppy boat trip to the heart of Corcovado. Here you will have the highest possibility to admire wildlife and especially tapirs. Sirena has a small network of short trails that move you between Rio Claro and Rio Sirena, so the place is excellent for wildlife observation. This tour provides a different perspective of the park's landscape: marine life observation, beaches and islets, secondary forest, primary forest, riverine areas, and amazing landscapes.

Depart at 5:30 a.m. while enjoying the sunrise and return before 3 p.m. for a cold drink and local food. You'll likely see monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, and other animals such as coatis, agoutis, curassows, toucans, and other colorful birds. 

  • Boat tours are an excellent option for families or anyone who wants to see wildlife without hiking too much. Please always be careful when arriving in Sirena; it is a wet landing with no dock and could be dangerous with big waves. 
  • Sirena has been quite crowded lately, and it is not the best example of sustainable or responsible tourism. We are doing our best to contribute equally with all the park's other entrances since this overcrowding endangers our wildlife.
  • If you are short on time and low on budget, but you don't want to miss Corcovado, this is your option, although we strongly recommend doing at least a 1-night 2-day overnight tour. 
Sirena Station

Photo by Alvaro Sauma

2. Day tour to La Leona 

Venture into the southern tip of Corcovado by hiking the La Leona trail. This trail guides you through dense secondary forests, where you'll encounter a magical wild setting. The captivating melodies of exotic birds and the frequent sighting of monkeys swinging through the trees will make this hike an unforgettable experience.

  • This endless beach and forest panorama of 12 kilometers takes you through some of the most popular spots of Corcovado National Park. You'll have the chance to see various wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and anteaters. Plus, this is the place where most puma sightings have been reported.
  • Hiking the trail is best from December to August.
  • You can do a shorter version for kids and hike until the Madrigal River. Perfect spot to swim in the middle of green settings and scarlet macaws, surrounded by the blue ocean.
  • We love it because it is not crowded, and you can always stop at La Leona Eco Lodge for a cold drink; a hammock and yes, tapirs are sometimes spotted here. Be sure to bring binoculars, as there are so many stunning birds. 

Photo by Alvaro Montoya

3. Hiking the San Pedrillo Corcovado National Park

San Pedrillo offers the best sunsets in all of Osa! The place is simply out of this world. Combining unique elevations of primary forest, waterfalls, rivers, and beaches all in one. Pumas are known around the area, and so are the gigantic tapirs. The waterfall is cold and the perfect place to connect in silence with nature. 

This 6-kilometer trail is a great place to see some of the oldest trees in the park. You'll also likely see myriads of birds, such as toucans, hummingbirds, kingfishers, herons, and shore birds.

  • The trail is best hiked during the dry season (December to April), and be prepared to get wet. Bathrooms are okay and just what is needed. Be sure to bring binoculars to look at all the alluring birds
  • We love it because of the rocky setting, rivers, and the combination of everything. Be sure to bring binoculars, as there are so many appealing birds. 

Photo by Jose Huertas

4. Dive at La Isla del Caño Biological Reserve

A short boat tour of less than 1 hour to the Caño Island Biological Reserve is an opportunity to explore the marine wonders surrounding Corcovado. Snorkel in crystal-clear waters and dive or swim with marine turtles, huge schools of brilliant fish, and even white-tip sharks. Incredible opportunity to dive into an underwater paradise.

  • Caño Island Biological Reserve is a protected area home to various wildlife, including dolphins, turtles, and sharks. You can also go snorkeling or diving to see the coral reefs.
  • The boat tours usually depart from Drake Bay and take about 30 minutes to get there. If you're interested in snorkeling or diving, the company will provide you with snorkeling gear for these activities.
  • This boat tour is an excellent option for nature lovers or anyone who wants to see some of the most beautiful marine life in Costa Rica. 
  • We love it because the boat trip is short, the place has excellent local guides, and the Island has many spots to dive in small groups and almost alone. 

Photo by Drake Divers

5. Hiking El Tigre Trail

Take on the Sendero El Tigre trail for a challenging and rewarding adventure, which leads you to higher elevations, providing panoramic views of the park's diverse landscapes. As you ascend, watch for elusive poisonous dart frogs and vibrant bird species that call this area home.

  • This shorter 8-kilometer trail is more challenging than the Sendero La Leona, but it's still a great way to see wildlife. You'll likely see monkeys, sloths, frogs, reptiles, and birds along the way.
  • Hiking the trail is best during the dry season (December to April). Bring plenty of water and snacks, and wear sturdy hiking boots.
  • If you're seeking a challenging day hike through pristine primary forests, that directly benefits the local community, here's an excellent option available.
  • This trail is a must for bird enthusiasts.
  • We love it because it is 100% managed by the community. They offer one of the best typical lunches you’ll ever try, and the gold-digging vibe of this town is just epic. Be sure to bring binoculars; the birds here are truly magnificent. 
Trail w/boar

Photo by Danilo Montero 

As you plan your visit to Corcovado National Park, consider these activities essential to your adventure. Each offers a unique way to connect with the park's remarkable biodiversity and, at the same time, support our local community through tourism. Whether you're an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking tranquility in nature, Corcovado has something special for you.

Wildlife Watching in Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. The park's unique ecosystem and diverse habitats make it one of the best places in the world for wildlife watching. From rare species to breathtaking landscapes, Corcovado offers an unparalleled experience for travelers seeking an adventure in nature.

Photo by Ifi Garita 

Where to Go for Incredible Wildlife Watching

  1. The heart of Corcovado National Park hosts the Sirena Biological Station, one of the best places to watch wildlife. It is home to various animals, including tapirs, monkeys, peccaries, and sloths. You can visit Sirena Biological Station for one day, or you can spend up to 4 nights. If your main goal is to watch as much wildlife as possible, you should spend at least one night in Sirena Station.
  2. The La Leona Station is another great place to watch wildlife, with pristine beaches and a very productive secondary forest; monkeys, coatis, and anteaters are abundant in the area. With good luck, one might even find tayras or pumas prowling around. La Leona Station is located on the coast and is an excellent place to see sea turtles, coastal and marine birds, and other animals.
  3. Another great option for wildlife watching is San Pedrillo Station, located on the park's western side. Surrounded by the region's most ancient primary forests and the Pacific Ocean's magnificent waters, San Pedrillo offers the chance to see both marine life and many kinds of land animals like mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.
  4. Hikers and wildlife watchers can enjoy another great option with the Sendero El Tigre Trail, located in the eastern part of the park. It is home to various animals, including monkeys, snakes, and frogs, but it is unique for birdwatching. You can visit for the day or stay at any of the local accommodations in Dos Brazos de Río Tigre, which is immersed in this unique gold town surrounded by primary forest.
Puma

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

How to Plan Your Perfect Wildlife-Watching Trip to Corcovado

Planning a wildlife-watching trip to Corcovado National Park requires careful consideration to make the most of your experience. Here are some tips to help you create an unforgettable adventure:

  1. Choose the Right Season: Wildlife activity varies yearly. The dry season (December to April) offers clearer trails and increased chances of wildlife sightings, while the wet season (May to November) provides lush foliage, fewer crowds, and muddier, more adventurous conditions. We love to recommend your trip during May, it is cooler, with the usual sunny mornings and some rain at night, fewer people and the best prices of the year.
  2. Guided Tours: Enlist the expertise of local guides who are intimately familiar with the park's ecosystem. They can lead you to the best viewing spots and provide insights into the wildlife's behavior. Osa Wild hires only 100% Costa Rican and local guides, and we are the only company that trains and runs a unique program for youngsters at the local high schools. 
  3. Accommodation: Depending on your preferences, you can stay at ranger stations, campsites, or nearby lodges. Booking at least one month in advance is recommended, even during low season. For peak season, we recommend booking at least three months in advance, and you can book even six months ahead if you prefer. 
  4. Pack Essentials: Bring sturdy hiking gear, a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, an adequate backpack for long hikes, biodegradable insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat or cap, flashlight, binoculars, and a camera to capture those unforgettable moments.
  5. Respect the Wildlife: Remember, we are guests in their home. Maintain a respectful distance from animals, avoid making loud noises, and follow park regulations. Food is not allowed for day tours, only certain snacks for long hikes. 

As a final thought, Corcovado National Park is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, offering a chance to witness nature's wonders in their purest form. With careful planning, knowledgeable guides, and a deep respect for the environment, your wildlife-watching trip to Corcovado will undoubtedly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Monkey

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Corcovado National Park: Where to Stay

When planning your visit to Corcovado National Park, one of the critical considerations is where to stay. The park's immense natural beauty and diverse wildlife make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Whether you're looking for a rustic camping experience, a comfortable lodge near the park, or an immersive stay within the park boundaries, several options suit every traveler's preference. Let's explore some of the best accommodations for your Corcovado adventure, ensuring a comfortable and unforgettable stay.

Stay at Sirena Ranger Station

For the most immersive experience in Corcovado National Park, staying at the Sirena Ranger Station is an exceptional and adventurous choice. Nestled deep within the park's heart, this station offers a unique opportunity to be surrounded by pristine wilderness. Imagine waking up to the sounds of howler monkeys echoing through the trees and the sight of rare tapir species feeding in front of the main deck. Accommodations are simple yet comfortable, providing all the essentials for an authentic rainforest experience. The Sirena Ranger Station is a base for guided hikes, wildlife observation, and research, making it an ideal choice for avid nature enthusiasts. We think it's important to clarify that Sirena Station is technically the only place where you can spend the night inside the park.

Stay at a Lodge near Corcovado National Park

If you prefer a blend of comfort and proximity to the park, consider staying at one of the lodges near Corcovado National Park. These lodges offer a range of amenities, from cozy rooms to more luxurious suites, ensuring a comfortable retreat after outdoor adventures. Many lodges are situated within lush surroundings, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature without sacrificing modern comforts. From these lodges, you can easily access guided tours into the park.

We have three great options to recommend, all locally owned; hurray!: La Leona Ecolodge, Ecoturistico La Tarde, and Danta Corcovado Lodge. These lodges provide excellent accommodations and can enhance your Corcovado experience while supporting the local community. Whether you're looking for a cozy cabin or a more upscale suite, these lodges have something to suit your preferences. Plus, they offer convenient access to guided tours into the park, making it an excellent choice for those who want to explore Corcovado while enjoying a comfortable stay.

If you're looking for a more luxurious, high-end stay you should try Luna Lodge, Lapa Rios, Bosque del Cabo, or El Remanso. 

Photo Salma Polanco

Stay in Drake Bay

Drake Bay, located on the northern edge of the Osa Peninsula, is another fantastic option for accommodation near Corcovado National Park. This charming coastal village offers a variety of lodging options, including eco-friendly resorts and boutique hotels. From Drake Bay, you can start any guided day tours into the park and engage in water-based activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat tours to nearby islands. The bay's stunning views and vibrant marine life make it a captivating place to unwind after a day of exploration.

We recommend considering the following accommodations in Drake Bay for your stay: Casa Myriam, Caligo de Osa, Sunset Lodge, Casa Horizontes, and Cabinas Pura Vida. These options provide a range of choices to suit your preferences, whether seeking a tranquil eco-retreat or a cozy boutique experience. Each of these lodgings offers its unique charm and amenities, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of Drake Bay while being close to the wonders of Corcovado National Park.

If you're looking for a more luxurious, high-end stay you should try Copa de Arbol, Aguila de Osa, La Paloma Lodge, Drake Bay Getaway, and Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge.

Stay in Puerto Jimenez

Puerto Jimenez is a gateway to Corcovado National Park for a more bustling atmosphere. This town provides a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to comfortable local cabins. Puerto Jimenez offers a blend of convenience and local charm, with access to essential amenities, restaurants, and local culture. It's an ideal starting point for guided tours into the park and other outdoor activities, ensuring a well-rounded travel experience.

We recommend considering the following accommodations in Puerto Jimenez for your stay: Osa Lodge, Refugio Turistico, Cabinas Marcelina, Corcovado Beach Lodge, the Corner, and Sweet Gulf Hostel. These options are all locally owned and some are managed by the first settler families that came from Panama to Puerto Jimenez. Cabinas Jimenez is also an excellent alternative if you want to have swimming pool and gulf view. The location allows you to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Puerto Jimenez while embarking on your Corcovado National Park adventures.

Camping and van sites for travelers visiting Corcovado National Park

For adventurous souls who seek a truly immersive experience, camping within Corcovado National Park is no longer an option. But, there are unique places where to camp around the Osa. Start at Rincon, near Chontal Camping, and enjoy the gulf's calm waters and blue mountains. Then, move to Playa Blanca, La Palma and enjoy a Blue Flag beach, kayaking, the best fried fish, sloth paradise, and cold drinks. Stop at Juanito Mora Beach for high tide and dip in the biggest natural swimming pool, the Golfo Dulce. Then, drive to Puerto Jimenez to get some fuel and shop at the local supermarket BM, or if you are here on Saturdays, enjoy the Green Market at Los Higuerones Cooperative from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. At Puerto Jimenez, you can look for Adonis Camping or take off and continue to Matapalo Paradise, where epic waves and emerald waters inspire your time while observing monkeys, toucans, and numerous other birds. When moving on, towards the end of the road, don´t forget to visit Finca Bijagual, ask for their empanadas with chile! At the end of the road, literally, you will find Carate, a gold epicenter town, another great place for camping. Make sure to enjoy a cold beer at Coco Osa in front of the beach and experience the vibe this place has.

We love these options because they're fully enveloped in nature; everything is local, and you will probably be there alone with your friends and nature. Beaches are just stunning, and camping or van-tripping is safe and wild.

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