Spend a moment disconnecting from the simulated technological world and explore the natural connection to Mother Earth on a bucket list destination to Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica. Tantalize your senses with the sights, sounds, smells, touch, and taste of the magnificent ecological wonder, and one of the largest tropical rainforests in Central America. The park was considered “the most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic. Anyone who chooses to add this site to their itinerary will realize that it is nature, not man, which truly embodies the power over all living things.
Located in the southwest of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, the various habitats range from beaches, to mangrove swamps, to lowland. The park is practically untouched by mankind, and the wildlife that flourishes rarely encounter our species.
In this haven of buzzing life, you can find a variety of animal species including big cats like the endangered jaguar, jaguarundi, margay, ocelot and the puma; you should note that the cats are typically nocturnal and rarely visible during the day. Corcovado Park is also the only place in the country where you can witness all four monkeys’ native to the land–the squirrel monkey, the spider monkey, the white-faced capuchin, and the howler monkeys. Of course, the sloths are always a favorite, along with the sea turtles, wild pigs, and crocodiles. In addition, you might come across several of the 140 mammals, 370 bird species, and 10,000 different insects!
What to Expect
To maintain its primitive status, Corcovado is absent of paved roads. Visitors should expect to navigate the natural trails on foot, while enduring the intense heat and humidity. Some of the park is inaccessible due to the wild jungle, but the trails that are meant for trekking are fairly visible and lead you from one ranger station to the next. It is required that all travelers visit the park with a registered guide, but looking at a map ahead of time will help you to familiarize yourself with the trails before venturing into the unknown.
Hiking in the park can become increasingly unmanageable due to the muddy conditions during the rainy season, as the park can average up to 20 feet of water per year. Trailing the beach can also be challenging when high tides are in effect for the day. Unexpected river crossings can (and likely will) take place. Make sure to plan accordingly.
The best time to visit will be during the peninsula’s dry season from December to April. Rainy season begins in May, with the wettest months being September and October. Some of the lodges are closed during these times to avoid an influx of tourists during these low points.
There is a $10 admission fee to the park.
Off the coast of the Osa Peninsula, you can find another gem perfect for snorkeling and diving called Caño Island. With unique underwater rock formations, and crystal-clear waters, you can easily spot the various coral species, and some of the more exotic sea creatures including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, manta rays, and some of the most colorful fish off the coast of the island.
Another notable destination is Piedras Blancas National Park, formerly a part of Corcovado but was later sold to private owners.
Where To Stay
There are a number of eco-lodges outside of the National Park in the town of Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez. Smaller boutique eco-lodges can be found on the Osa Peninsula itself, though they may be a bit pricier due to the convenient location. Definitely due to its location, all visitors should expect to confront nature face-first (bug in the face, anyone?) and have a sense of adventure, however some lodges can satisfy even the most luxurious travelers. Most are all inclusive due to its remote setting. Booking in advance during high season is advised.
You will also learn that camping in the park is permissible, as hiking from one ranger station to the next usually consist of a full days’ trek, anyway. Food is also available at the stations. Again, booking in advance is highly recommended.
What to Bring
A trip to Corcovado National Park is sure to be an active one. Hiking shoes or sandals, are recommended for the trek, as well as a waterproof jacket and quick-dry clothing. A swimsuit and sunscreen is necessary for swimming and lounging on the beach, and a water bottle, binoculars, a camera, and insect repellent are a must in general!
Getting to Corcovado National Park is an adventure in itself. It’s easiest to first land in the town of your eco lodge (likely Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez) from Manuel Antonio, or another destination along the Pacific coast. Private ground transportation can be arranged, with a boat ride that will move you through the jungle waterways to reach your destination. From San Jose, it is possible to take a domestic flight into Puerto Jimenez.
Many of the eco-lodges offer one day tours of the National Park, either by plane, boat, or jeep. Note that traveling through the park will require hiking, therefore travelers must forgo their vehicles at either of the ranger stations, and continue their journeys into the forest on foot.