This sleepy village on the Río Sierpe is the gateway to Bahía Drake, and if you’ve made a reservation with any of the jungle lodges further down the coast, you will be picked up here by boat. Beyond its function as a transit point, there is little reason to spend any more time here than necessary, though you won’t have to if you time the connection right

La Perla del Sur (Tel: 27881071, 27881082; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), the open-air restaurant and info center next to the boat dock, is the hub of Sierpe – arrange your long term parking (US$6 per night), grab a bite at the lovely riverside restaurant (do not miss the coconut flan), book a tour and take advantage of the free wifi before catching your boat to Drake.

If you get stuck here, the dockside Hotel Oleaje Sereno (Tel: 27881111; www.hoteloleajesereno.com; s/d including breakfast from US$30/50; p a) is a surprisingly nice little motel overlooking the Río Sierpe. It has pleasant rooms with wood floors and sturdy furniture, and is the most convenient digs in town.

Scheduled flights and charters fly into Palmar Sur, 14km north of Sierpe. If you are heading to Bahía Drake, most upmarket lodges will arrange the boat transfer. Should things go awry or if you’re traveling independently, there’s no shortage of water taxis milling about – be prepared to negotiate a fair price. Regularly scheduled colectivo boats depart Sierpe for Drake at 11:30am (US$15) and 4:30pm (US$20).

Buses to Palmar Norte (US$0.75, 40 minutes) depart from in front of Pulpería Fenix at 5:30am, 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm and 6pm. A taxi to Palmar costs about US$30.


Humedal Nacional

Térraba Sierpe

The Ríos Térraba and Sierpe begin on the southern slopes of the Talamanca Mountains and, nearing the Pacific Ocean, they form a network of channels and waterways that weave around the country’s largest mangrove swamp. This river delta comprises the Humedal Nacional Térraba Sierpe, which protects approximately 330 sq. km of wetland and is home to red, black and tea mangrove species. The reserve also protects a plethora of birdlife, especially water birds such as herons, egrets and cormorants.

Veragua River House B&B$$ (Tel: 27881460; www.hotelveragua.com/en; s/d including breakfast US$50/60; p) Run by an accommodating Italian Tico couple, this memorable B&B is set on a pair of riverside gardens lovingly planted with fruit trees and tropical flowers. Guests stay in the four garden bungalows, built in a uniquely Costa Rican Victorian architectural style. The B&B is easily reached by car; if you don’t have private transportation, arrange a pickup with the lodge. Its located 3km north of Sierpe. Lunch and dinner (US$15 to US$20) are also available with prior notice.



As many as seven different species of manglar (mangrove) thrive in Costa Rica. Comprising the vast majority of tropical coastline, mangroves play a crucial role in protecting it from erosion. Mangroves also serve as a refuge for countless species of animals, especially fish, crab, shrimp and mollusks, and as a sanctuary for roosting birds seeking protection from terrestrial predators.

Mangroves are unique among plants in that they have distinct methods for aeration (getting oxygen into the system) and desalination (getting rid of the salt that is absorbed with the water). Red mangroves, which are the most common species in Costa Rica, use their web of aboveground prop roots for aerating the plant’s sap system. Other species, such as the black mangrove, have vertical roots that stick out above the mud, while buttonwood mangroves have elaborate buttresses.

The most amazing feature of the mangrove is its tolerance for salt, which enables the plant to thrive in brackish and saltwater habitats. Some species, such as the Pacific coast black mangrove, absorb the salinized water, and then excrete the salt through their leaves and roots, leaving behind visible crystals. Other species filter the water as it is absorbed – the mangrove root system is so effective as a filter that the water from a cut root is drinkable!

Despite their ecological importance, mangrove habitats the world over are being increasingly threatened by expanding human habitats. Furthermore, mangrove wood is an easily exploitable source of fuel and tannin (used in processing leather), which has also hastened their destruction. Fortunately in the Humedal Nacional Térraba Sierpe, this fragile yet vitally important ecosystem is receiving the respect and protection that it deserves.



The Térraba Sierpe reserve has no facilities for visitors, though lodges can organize tours to help you explore the wetlands.

Bahía Drake

As one of Costa Rica’s most isolated destinations, Bahía Drake (‘drahkay’) is a veritable Lost World filled with tropical landscapes and abundant wildlife. In the rainforest canopy, howlers greet the rising sun with their haunting bellows, while pairs of macaws soar between the treetops, filling the air with their cacophonous squawking. Offshore in the bay itself, pods of migrating dolphins flit through turquoise waters.

Of course, one of the reasons why Bahía Drake is brimming with wildlife is that it remains largely cut off from the rest of the country. With little infrastructure beyond dirt roads and the occasionally used airstrip, most of the area remains off the grid. However, Bahía Drake is home to a number of stunning wilderness lodges, which all serve as ideal bases for exploring this ecological gem.



The bay is named for Sir Francis Drake himself, who visited this area in March 1579, during his circumnavigation in the Golden Hind. History has it that he stopped on the nearby Isla del Caño, but locals speculate that he probably landed on the continent as well. A monument at Punta Agujitas, located on the grounds of the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, states as much.




All of the lodges offer tours to Parque Nacional Corcovado, Usually a full day trip to San Pedrillo or Sirena ranger stations (from US$85 to US$150 per person), including boat transportation, lunch and guided hikes. Indeed, if you came all the way to the Peninsula de Osa, it’s hard to pass up a visit to the national park that made it famous.

Some travelers, however, come away from these tours disappointed. The trails around San Pedrillo station attract many groups of people, which inhibit animal sightings. Furthermore, most tours arrive at the park well after sunrise, when activity in the rainforest has already quietened down.

If you’re here to see wildlife, taking the time to spend a night in the park is the way to go, as many animals are at their most active around dawn and dusk. All park visitors are now required to be accompanied by a guide certified by the ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Board), so exploring the beaches and jungles with an eagle-eyed guide will reveal much more than you would likely discover on your own.

If you’d prefer to hike independently, the easiest and most obvious route is the long coastal trail that heads south out of Agujitas and continues about 10km to the border of the national park. A determined, reasonably fit hiker could make it all the way to San Pedrillo ranger station in three to four hours (though visitors intending to enter or spend the night in the park must have secured reservations in advance and must be accompanied by a guide). Hikers along this narrow, muddy trail should remember that sunset descends swiftly at around 5:30pm.

Other popular day hikes along this trail including guide Playa Cocalito, Playa Caletas and Playa San Josecito, a stunningly remote beach. Other nearby options including guide Punta Río Claro Wildlife Refuge (also called the Marenco Rainforest Reserve), which can be accessed from the Río Claro trail or from Playa San Josecito.


Swimming & Snorkeling

About 20km west of Agujitas, Isla del Caño is considered the best place for snorkeling in this area. Lodges offer day trips to the island (from US$80 per person), Usually including the park fee, snorkeling equipment and lunch on Playa San Josecito. The clarity of the ocean and the variety of the fish fluctuate according to water and weather conditions: it’s worth inquiring before booking.

There are other opportunities for snorkeling on the coast between Agujitas and Corcovado. Playa San Josecito attracts scores of colorful species, which hide out between the coral reef and rocks. Another recommended spot is Playa Caletas, just in front of the Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp, and Playa Cocalito, a small, pretty beach near Agujitas that is pleasant for swimming and sunbathing.


Scuba Diving

Isla del Caño (p457) is one of Costa Rica’s top spots for diving, with attractions including intricate rock and coral formations and an amazing array of underwater life. Divers report that the schools of fish swimming overhead are often so dense that they block the sunlight from filtering down.

While the bay is rich with dive sites, a local highlight is undoubtedly the Bajo del Diablo (Devil’s Rock), an astonishing formation of submerged mountains that attracts an incredible variety of fish species, including jack, snapper, barracuda, puffer, parrotfish, moray eel and shark.

A two-tank dive runs from US$100 to US$150 depending on the site. Several upscale lodges have onsite dive centers, but most lodges in the area can arrange trips through a nearby dive center.


Kayaking & Canoeing

A fantastic way to explore the region’s biodiversity is to paddle through it. The idyllic Río Agujitas attracts a huge variety of birdlife and lots of scaly reptiles. The river conveniently empties out into the bay, which is surrounded by hidden coves and sandy beaches ideal for exploring in a sea kayak. Paddling at high tide is recommended because it allows you to explore more territory. Most accommodations in the area have kayaks and canoes for rent for a small fee.

Sport fishing

Bahia Drake claims more than 40 fishing records, including sailfish, marlin, yellow fin tuna, wahoo, cubera snapper, mackerel and roosterfish. Fishing is excellent year-round, although the catch may vary according to the season. The peak season for tuna and marlin is from August to December. Sailfish are caught year-round, but experience a slowdown in May and June. Dorado and wahoo peak between May and August. Other species of fish are abundant year-round, so you are virtually assured to reel in something. Many lodges are able to arrange fishing excursions, but you need to be prepared to pay for the experience – half/full day excursions cost around US$600/1000.


Dolphin & Whale Watching

Bahía Drake is rife with marine life, including more than 25 species of dolphin and whale that pass through on their migrations throughout the year. This area is uniquely suited for whale watching: humpback whales come from both the northern and the southern hemispheres to calve, resulting in the longest humpback whale season in the world. Humpbacks can be spotted in Bahía Drake year-round (except May), but the best months to see whales are late July through early November.

Several of the lodges are involved with programs that protect and preserve marine life in Bahía Drake, as well as programs that offer tourists a chance for a close encounter. Tours generally cost about US$100 per person. Note that since 2006 it has been illegal to swim with dolphins.



Corcovado Info Center

(Tel: 88464734, 27750916; www.corcovadoinfocenter.com) Leading tours into Corcovado and Isla del Caño, all guides with this outfit are local, bilingual and ICT certified. They’re at the beach end of the main road in Agujitas.


Night Tour

(Tel: 87017462, 87017356; www.thenighttour.com; tours US$35; h 7:3010pm) Tracie the ‘Bug Lady’ has created quite a name for herself with this fascinating nighttime walk in the jungle. Tracie is a walking encyclopedia on bug facts, and not just the boring scientific detail – one of her fields of research is the military use of insects! Her Tico naturalist photographer husband Gian also leads the night tours; reserve in advance.


Original Canopy Tour

(Tel: 22914465, 83711598; www.jinetesdeosa.com/ canopy_tour; admission US$35; h 8am4pm) At Hotel Jinetes de Osa, the Original Canopy Tour has nine platforms, six cables and one 20mobservation deck from where you can get a new perspective on the rainforest. Tours take two to three hours.


Sleeping & Eating

This area is off the grid, so many places do not have 24/7 electricity. Reservations are recommended in the dry season (mid December to mid April).

While budget and midrange options are available in Agujitas, accommodations in Bahía Drake are heavily skewed toward the top end. This is largely because these all includinclusive lodges must incorporate the significant costs of transporting food into this remote area. The upside to upscale: you can expect tremendous quality and service for the money.

High season rates are quoted; prices include three meals, unless otherwise stated. There are a handful of local restaurants, a bakery and pulperías in Agujitas.

All of the midrange and top end accommodations listed in this section provide transportation (sometimes free, sometimes not) from either Agujitas or the airstrip in Drake with prior arrangements.

For other accommodations, check out the stretch of coastline from Bahía Drake to Corcovado.


Martina’s Place Cabina $ (Tel: 87200801; www.puravidadrakebay.com; from US$1520 per person without meals; W) With several crammed together sheltered tents outside and a few fan cooled rooms inside, all guests at this budget spot have access to a clean, thoroughly equipped communal kitchen. This friendly, economical place in the middle of Agujitas is an excellent spot to meet other budget travelers, tap into Martina’s wealth of Corcovado intel and arrange a variety of local tours.


Cabinas Jade Mar Cabina $ (Tel: 88450394, 23846681; www.jademarcr.com; r per person without bathroom US$15, s/d with bathroom from US$25/40, all without meals; p a W) This quiet, family run compound 150m up the main road from the beach in Agujitas offers rooms in wood slat cottages amid a garden frequented by birds. The least expensive rooms share bathrooms and a kitchen in one House, while the more spacious rooms and bungalows have terraces (some with ocean views). It’s a sweet deal for these prices. The family can also arrange tours.


Finca Maresia Bungalow $$ (Tel: 88881625, 27750279; www.fincamaresia.com; Camino a los Planes; s/d budget US$30/40, standard US$50/60, superior US$75/90, all including breakfast) After traveling the world for more than 20 years, the owners of this absolute gem of a hotel decided to settle down in their own veritable slice of paradise. Here amid a large finca that stretches across a series of hills, Finca Maresia beckons to budget travelers by offering a combination of low prices, high value and good design sense. All seven rooms overlook lush environs, and play a near continuous audio track of jungle sounds.

Beyond the show stopping natural setting, the good taste of the owners is evident as you walk from room to room and view the transition from modernist glass walls to Japanese style sliding rice paper doors.


Cabinas El Mirador Cabina $$ (Tel: 27752727; www.miradordrakebay.com; per person including meals from US$46; p W) High on a hill at the northern end of Agujitas, El Mirador (Lookout Point) lives up to its name, offering spectacular views of the bay from its eight cozy cabins – catch the sunset from the balcony or climb to the lookout that perches above. The hospitable Vargas family ensures all guests receive a warm welcome. Rates including three square meals a day of hearty, home cooked Costa Rican fare.


Hotel Jinetes de Osa Hotel $$$ (Tel: 22315806, in USA 8665537073; www.jinetesdeosa.com; s/d standard US$102/108, superior US$147/158, all including breakfast; W) Ideal for divers, the reasonably priced Jinetes de Osa boasts a choice bayside location that is literally steps from the ocean. Jinetes also runs a canopy tour, as well as one of the peninsula’s top PADI dive facilities. Located just outside Agujitas, this sweet collection of rooms strikes the perfect balance between town and country.


Aguila de Osa Inn lodge $$$ (Tel: 22962190, toll-free in USA 8669248452; www. aguiladeosa.com; s/d 2night package US$673/1130) On the east side of the Río Agujitas, this swanky lodge consists of roomy quarters with shining wood floors, cathedral ceilings and private decks with expansive ocean views. Diving and sport fishing charters are available to guests, as are significant discounts if you stay beyond two nights. Rates including all meals, plus an Isla del Caño tour and a Corcovado tour.


La Paloma Lodge $$$ (Tel: 22937502, 27751684; www.lapalomalodge.com; 3/4/5day package per person from US$1119/1379/1667; a W s ) Perched on a lush hillside, this exquisite lodge provides guests with an incredible panorama of ocean and forest, all from the comfort of the sumptuous, stylish quarters. Rooms have shiny hardwood floors and queen-sized orthopedic beds, draped in mosquito netting, while shoulder high walls in all the bathrooms offer rainforest views while you bathe. Each room has a large balcony (with hammock, of course) that catches the cool breeze off the ocean. Rates for stays of three days or more including a tour to both Isla del Caño and Corcovado.


Drake Bay Wilderness Resort Cabin $$$ (Tel: 27751715; www.drakebay.com; 4day package s/d from US$1310/1660; a s ) Sitting pretty on Punta Agujitas, this relaxed resort occupies the optimal piece of real estate in all of Bahía Drake. Naturalists will be won over by the lovely landscaping, from flowering trees to the rocky oceanfront outcroppings, while history buffs will appreciate the memorial to Drake’s landing. Accommodations are in comfortable cabins, which have mural painted walls and ocean view terraces. Book early, as research and university groups often use the lodge as their home base.


Restaurante Mary Bosque Costa Rican $ (Tel: 83131366; dishes US$416; h 5:30am9pm; W) This restaurant up the hill in Agujitas has a spacious terrace from where it’s possible to catch a cool breeze and spot pairs of scarlet macaws passing overhead. Serving typical Tico cuisine and an array of desserts, it even has free wifi.



the shores of Bahía Drake are home to two settlements: agujitas, a tiny town of 300 residents spread out along the southern shore of the bay, and Drake, a few kilometers to the north, which is little more than a few Houses alongside the airstrip .

if you’re visiting the area on a budget, the best bet is to stay in agujitas, a one road town . that road comes south from Rincón and past the airstrip in Drake . at the t, the right branch deadens at the water, where the pulpería, clinic

and school constitute the heart of agujitas; the left branch heads out of town southeast to los Planes . From the eastern end of agujitas, a path follows the shoreline out of town . a swinging, swaying pedestrian bridge crosses the Río agujitas to Punta agujitas . From here, the trail picks up and continues south along the coast, all the way to Parque Nacional Corcovado .

the only way to get around the area is by boat or by foot . Fortunately, both forms of transportation are also recreation, as sightings of macaws, monkeys and other wildlife are practically guaranteed .


Bahía Drake to Corcovado

This craggy stretch of coastline is home to sandy inlets that disappear at high tide, leaving only the rocky outcroppings and luxuriant rainforest. Virtually uninhabited and undeveloped beyond a few tourist lodges, the setting here is magnificent and wild. If you’re looking to spend a bit more time along the shores of Bahía Drake before penetrating the depths of Parque Nacional Corcovado, consider a night or two in some of the country’s most remote accommodations.

The only way to get around the area is by boat or by foot, which means that travelers are more or less dependent on their lodges.


Sights & Activities

A public trail follows the coastline for the entire spectacular stretch, and it’s excellent for wildlife spotting. Among the multitude of bird species, you’re likely to see squawking scarlet macaws and the chestnutmandibled toucan. White-faced capuchin and howler monkeys inhabit the treetops, while eagle-eyed hikers might also spot a sloth or a kinkajou.

Scenic little inlets punctuate this entire route, each with a wild, windswept beach. Just west of Punta Agujitas, a short detour off the main trail leads to the picturesque Playa Cocalito, a secluded cove perfect for sunning, swimming and body surfing. With no lodges in the immediate vicinity, it’s often deserted. Playa Caletas, in front of the Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp, is excellent for snorkeling.

Further south, the Río Claro empties out into the ocean. Water can be waist deep or higher, and the current swift, so take care when wading across. This is also the start of the Río Claro trail, which leads inland into the 400hectare Punta Río Claro Wildlife Refuge (formerly known as the Marenco Rainforest Reserve) and passes a picturesque waterfall along the way. Be aware that there are two rivers known as the Río Claro: one is located near Bahía Drake, while the other is inside Corcovado near Sirena station.

South of Río Claro, the Playa San Josecito is the longest stretch of white sand beach on this side of the Península de Osa. It is popular with swimmers, snorkelers and sunbathers, though you’ll rarely find it crowded.

The border of Parque Nacional Corcovado is about 5km south of Playa San Josecito (it’s about 16km in total from Agujitas to Corcovado). The trail is more overgrown as it gets closer to the park, and in the months after the rainy season it can close completely. Ask around in Agujitas or your lodge before embarking on this route.


Sleeping & Eating

Reservations are recommended in the dry season (mid December to mid April). High season rates are quoted; prices including three meals, unless otherwise stated. Many places in this area don’t have 24hour electricity (pack a flashlight) or hot water. Standalone eating options are virtually nonexistent in this part of the peninsula.

With prior arrangements, all of the accommodations listed in this section provide

transportation (free or for a charge) from Agujitas, Sierpe or the airstrip in Drake.

Las Caletas Lodge $$ (Tel: 88639631, 88261460, 25606602; www.caletas.cr; Playa Caletas; tents/r per person from US$70/80; i W ) S This adorable lodge consists of cozy wooden cabins and safari tents perched above the picturesque beach of the same name. The Swiss and Tico owners are warm hosts who established this convivial spot before there was phone access or electricity (now mostly solar and hydro powered). The food is delicious and bountiful, the staff friendly and the environment beautifully chill.

Proyecto Campanario $$$ (Tel: 22898694, in USA 8887226769; www.campanario .org; 4day package per person US$489) S Run by a former Peace Corps volunteer, this biological reserve is more of an education center than a tourist facility, as evidenced by the dormitory, library and field station. Ecology courses and conservation camps are scheduled throughout the year, but individuals are also invited to take advantage of the facilities.

Copade Arbol lodge $$$ (Tel: 89351212, in USA 8312464265; www.copa dearbol.com; Playa Caletas; s/d from US$382/610; W s ) Though they look a bit rustic from the outside with their thatch roofs and stilts, these cabinas are gorgeously outfitted inside – built with sustainably grown wood and recycled materials, each has a private terrace and air con. The lodge, located just steps from the beach, is all laidback luxury, run smoothly by super friendly staff.

Paddleboards and kayaks are available to rent.

Guaria de Osa lodge $$$ (Tel: 22354313, in USA 5102354313; www.guariadeosa.com; per person US$150; W) Cultivating a new age ambience, this Asian style retreat center offers yoga, tai chi and ‘Sentient Experiential’ events, along with the more typical rainforest activities. The lovely grounds including an ethno botanical garden, which features exotic local species. The architecture of this place is unique: the centerpiece is the Lapa Lapa Lounge, a spacious multistory pagoda built entirely from reclaimed hardwood.



Traversed by many streams and rivers, Corcovado is a hot spot for exquisitely beautiful poison art frogs. Two species here, the granular poison art frog and the Golfo Dulce poison art frog, are Costa Rican endemics – the latter only occurs in and around Corcovado. A search of the leaf litter near Sirena ranger station readily turns up both species, as well as the more widespread green and black poison art frog.

You might also find some other members of the family that have one important difference: they’re not poisonous! Called rocket frogs because of their habit of launching themselves into streams when disturbed, they are essentially poison art frogs without the poisonous punch.

The difference is likely in their diets. Poison art frogs have a diet dominated by ants, which are rich in alkaloids, and are thought to give rise to their formidable defenses. Rocket frogs also eat ants but in lower quantities, and rely instead on their astound in leaps to escape predation. They also lack the dazzling warning colors of their toxic cousins.

Costa Rica’s poison art frogs are not dangerous to humans unless their toxins come into contact with a person’s bloodstream or mucous membranes. It’s probably best to admire their cautionary colors without touching.

Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp $$$ (Tel: 83862296, in USA 8664980824; www.corcovado.com; 2day package per person from US$299; W) Less than an hour’s walk from Agujitas brings you to this rugged family run spot. It’s like camping but comfy: spacious safari tents are set up on covered platforms and fully equipped with sturdy wood furniture. Twenty hectares of rainforest offer plenty of opportunity for exploration, and the beachfront setting is excellent for kayaking, snorkeling and boogie boarding (equipment rental is free).

Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge $$$ (Tel: 22563181, in USA 8888966097; www. casacorcovado.com; s/d 4day package from US$1025/1830; W s ) S A spine-tingling boat ride takes you to this luxurious lodge on 175 hectares of rainforest bordering the national park. Each bungalow is tucked away in its own private tropical garden, and artistic details, including antique Mexican tiles and handmade stained-glass windows, make the Casa Corcovado one of this area’s classiest accommodation options.

Guests can also stretch their legs at any time on the lodge’s extensive network of trails, which pass a number of watering holes. On site, the Margarita Sunset Bar lives up to its name, serving up margaritas and great sunset views over the Pacific. Discounts are available for longer stays.


Getting There & Away


All of the hotels offer boat transfers between Sierpe and Bahía Drake with prior arrangements. If you have not made advance arrangements with your lodge for a pickup, two colectivo boats depart daily from Sierpe at 11:30am and 4:30pm, and from Bahía Drake back to Sierpe at 7:15am (US$15) and 2:30pm (US$20).


From Bahía Drake, it’s a three to four-hour hike along the beachside trail to San Pedrillo ranger station at the north end of Corcovado. Note that this trail can be impassable and overgrown depending on the season advance reservations are required if you’re planning to camp overnight at the ranger station.


Reserva Biológica

Isla del Caño

The centerpiece of this biological reserve is a 326hectare island that is the tip of numerous underwater rock formations. Along the rocky coastline, towering peaks soar as high as 70m, which provides a dramatic setting for anyone who loves secluded nature.

The submarine rock formations are among the island’s main attractions, drawing divers to explore the underwater architecture. Snorkelers can investigate the coral and rock formations along the landing beach. Fifteen different species of coral have been recorded,

as well as threatened species that including the Panulirus lobster and the giant conch. The sheer numbers of fish attract dolphins and whales, which – along with hammerhead sharks, manta rays and sea turtles – are frequently seen swimming in these waters.

On the island, at about 110m above sea level, the evergreen trees consist primarily of milk trees (also called ‘cow trees’ after the drinkable white latex they exude), believed to be the remains of an orchard planted by pre Columbian indigenous inhabitants. Near the top of the ridge, there are several pre Columbian granite spheres. Archaeologists speculate that the island may have been a ceremonial or burial site for the same indigenous tribes.

To preserve the ecology of the island, recreational visitors were prohibited from venturing beyond the boat-landing beach at the end of 2013.

The nearby lodges arrange most snorkeling and diving tours. Admission is US$10 per person, plus a US$4 additional charge for divers; the fee is usually included in tour prices.

the park’s rivers and streams. By 1986 the number of gold miners had exceeded 1000, which promptly caused the government to evict them (and their families) from the park.

Illegal logging has all but subsided, primarily since tourism has led to an increased human presence in the park. Furthermore, a coalition of organizations – including Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund – has banded together to help organize and fund the park’s antipoaching units.

Since 2003 Corcovado has – much to the chagrin of Minae (the Ministry of Environment and Energy) – remained stagnant on the ‘tentative list’ of Unesco World Heritage Sites. While no official disclosure has been released as to the reason behind the park’s perennial failure to achieve recognition, local media speculate that mismanagement, poor funding and the inability to control illegal poaching may be contributing factors.

2 Activities WildlifeWatching The best wildlife watching in Corcovado is at Sirena, but the coastal trails have two advantages: they are more open, and the constant crashing of waves covers the sound of noisy walkers. White-faced capuchin, red-tailed squirrel, collared peccary, white nosed coati and northern tamandua are regularly seen on both of the following trails.

The coastal trail from Carate to Sirena produces an endless pageant of birds. Sightings of scarlet macaws are guaranteed, as the tropical almond trees lining the coast are a favorite food. The sections along the beach shelter mangrove black hawk by the dozens and numerous water bird species.

The Los Patos–Sirena trail attracts lowland rainforest birds such as great curassow, chestnutmandibled toucan, fiery-billed aracari and rufous piha. Encounters with mixed flocks are common. Mammals are similar to those near coastal trails, but Los Patos is better for primates and white-lipped peccary.

For wildlife watchers frustrated at the difficulty of seeing rainforest mammals, a stay at Sirena ranger station is a must. Baird’s tapirs are practically assured – a statement that can be made at few other places in the world. This endangered and distant relative of the rhinoceros is frequently spotted grazing along the airstrip




Famously labeled by National Geographic as ‘the most biologically intense place on earth,’ this national park is the last great original tract of tropical rainforest in Pacific Central America. The bastion of biological diversity is home to Costa Rica’s largest population of scarlet macaws, as well as countless other endangered species, including Baird’s tapir, the giant anteater and the world’s largest bird of prey, the harpy eagle. Corcovado’s amazing biodiversity has long attracted a devoted stream of visitors who descend from Bahía Drake and Puerto Jiménez to explore the remote location and spot a wide array of wildlife.



Because of its remoteness, Corcovado remained undisturbed until loggers invaded in the 1960s. The destruction was halted in 1975 when the area was established as government administered parklands. In the early days park authorities had limited personnel and resources to deal with illegal clear-cutting, poaching and gold mining, the last of which was causing severe erosion in after dusk. Sirena is excellent for other herbivores, particularly red brocket (especially on the Los Patos–Sirena trail) and both species of peccary. Agouti and tayra are also common.

Jaguars are spotted extremely rarely, as their population in the Osa is suspected to be in the single digits. At night look for kinkajou and crab eating skunk (especially at the mouth of the Río Sirena). Ocelot represents your best chance for observing a cat, but again, don’t get your hopes up.

Corcovado is the only national park in Costa Rica with all four of the country’s primate species. Spider monkey, mantled howler and white-faced capuchin can be encountered anywhere, while the Los Platos–Sirena trail is best for the fourth and most endangered species, the Central American squirrel monkey. Sirena also has fair chances for the extremely hard to find silky anteater, a nocturnal animal that frequents the beachside forests between the Río Claro and the station.

The Río Sirena is a popular spot for American crocodile, three toed sloth and bull shark.


Baird’s Tapir Project

The Baird’s Tapir Project (http://savetapirs.org) has been studying the populations of Baird’s tapir around Sirena station since 1994 in the hope of enhancing conservation efforts. Scientists use radio collars to collect data about where the tapirs live, how far they wander, whom they associate with and how often they reproduce. So far, several dozen tapirs around Sirena have been wearing collars, allowing scientists to collect the data without disrupting the animals.

Sirena station is an ideal place to do such research, because there is no pressure from deforestation or hunting, which gives researchers the chance to observe a healthy, thriving population. The animals’ longevity and slow rate of reproduction mean that many years of observation are required before drawing conclusions.

So, what have we learned about these river rhinos so far? The nocturnal animals spend their nights foraging – oddly, they prefer to forage in ‘disturbed habitats’ (such as along the airstrip), not in the dense rainforest. They spend their days in the cool waters of the swamp, out of the hot sun. Tapirs are not very social, but a male female pair often shares the same ‘home range,’ living together for years at a time. Scientists speculate that tapirs may in fact be monogamous – who knew these ungainly creatures would be so romantic!



Paths are primitive and the hiking is hot, humid and insect ridden, but the challenge of the trek and the interaction with wildlife at Corcovado are thrilling. Carry plenty of food, water and insect repellent.

The most popular route traverses the park from Los Patos to Sirena, then exits the park at La Leona (or vice versa). This allows hikers to begin and end their journey in or near Puerto Jiménez, offering easy access to La Leona and Los Patos.

Hiking is best in the dry season (from December to April), when there is still regular rain but all of the trails are open. It’s still muddy, but you won’t sink quite as deep.

San Pedrillo to Sirena

Hiking At 23km, the route between San Pedrillo and Sirena is the longest trail in Corcovado, but due to its treacherously overgrown condition and several dangerous river crossings, it has been closed permanently to visitors. However, you can camp at San Pedrillo station and hike various trails in the area.

La Leonato Sirena

Hiking The 16km hike from La Leona to Sirena is a sizzler, following the shoreline through coastal forest and along deserted beaches. It involves one major river crossing at Río Claro, just south of Sirena station.

The journey between La Leona and Sirena takes six or seven hours. You can camp at either ranger station, and Sirena also has dorm accommodations and hot meals (both must be reserved in advance). From Sirena,

it takes another hour to hike the additional 3.5km to Carate, where you can stay in a local lodge or catch the colectivo to Puerto Jiménez.

Sirenato Los Patos

Hiking The route to Los Patos goes 18km through the heart of Corcovado, affording the opportunity to pass through plenty of primary and secondary forest. The trail is relatively flat for the first 12km. You will hike through secondary forest and wade through two river tributaries before reaching the Laguna Corcovado. From this point, the route undulates steeply (mostly uphill!) for the remaining 6km. One guide recommends doing this hike in the opposite direction – from Los Patos to Sirena – to avoid this exhausting, uphill ending. Near Los Patos, a lovely waterfall provides a much-needed shower at the end of a long trek.

The largest herds of peccary are reportedly on this trail. Local guides advise that peccary sense fear, but they will back off if you act aggressively. Alternatively, if you climb up a tree – about 2m off the ground – you’ll avoid being bitten or trampled in the event of running into a surly bunch. Fun fact: peccary herds emit a light smell of onions, so you Usually have a bit of a heads-up before they come crashing through the bush.

You can camp at Los Patos, or continue an additional 14km to the village of La Palma. This four-hour journey is a shady and muddy descent of the valley of the Río Rincón. If you are traveling from La Palma to Los Patos, be prepared for a steep climb. The Danta Corcovado Lodge also makes a heavenly overnight near the Los Patos station.


Southern Costa Rica & Peninsula de Osa

Parque Nacional Corcovado


Changes to park regulations in early 2014 mean that all visitors to Corcovado must be accompanied by an ICT certified guide. Besides their intimate knowledge of the trails, local guides are amazingly informed about flora and fauna, including the best places to spot various species. Most guides also carry telescopes, allowing for up-close views of wildlife.

Guides are most often hired through the Área de Conservación Osa park office in Puerto Jiménez, or through hotels and tour operators. Two recommended local offices are the super reliable, locally run Osa Wild (p443) in Puerto Jiménez and Corcovado Info Center (p453) in Bahía Drake. Prices vary considerably depending on the season, availability, size of your party and type of expedition you want to arrange. In any case, you will need to negotiate a price that including park fees, meals and transportation.

Sleeping & Eating

Camping costs US$4 per person per day at any of the ranger stations; facilities including potable water and latrines. Sirena station has a covered platform, but other stations have no such luxuries. Remember to bring a flashlight or a headlamp, as the campsites are pitch black at night. Camping is not permitted in areas other than the ranger stations.

Simple dormitory lodging (US$8 per person) is available at Sirena station only. Here, you’ll find vinyl mattresses and simple bunk beds. The station serves decent meals (breakfast is US$20, lunch or dinner is US$25) by advance reservation only; if packing in your own food, no cooking is allowed, so be sure it’s edible as is or with cold preparation.

All visitors are required to pack out all of their trash.


Information and maps are available at the office of Área de Conservación Osa in Puerto Jiménez . if you hire a guide through a tour agency, the agency will make all the arrangements for you and including the required fees in the package price. If you hire a guide independently, you may have to make the reservations for lodging and meals yourself . Be sure to make these arrangements a few days in advance, especially in dry season, as there’s a daily limit to the number of visitors allowed in the park and facilities sometimes hit their maximum capacity .

Park headquarters are at Sirena ranger station on the coast in the middle of the park . other ranger stations are located on the park boundaries: San Pedrillo station in the northwest corner on the coast; la leona station in the southeast corner on the coast (near the village of Carate); and los Patos ranger station in the northeast corner (near the village of la Palma) .


Getting There & Away


Alfa Romeo Aero Taxi (Tel: 27355353; www. alfaromeoair.com) offers charter flights connecting Puerto Jiménez, Drake and Golfito to Carate and Sirena. Flights are best booked at the airport in person, and one-way fares are typically less than US$100. Note that long-term parking is not available at any of these locations, so it’s best to make prior arrangements if you need to leave your car somewhere.



From Bahía Drake, you can walk the coastal trail that leads to San Pedrillo station (about four hours from agujitas). Many lodges run day tours here, with a boat ride to San Pedrillo (30 minutes to an hour, depending on the departure point) or Sirena (one to 11⁄2 hours). You can make camping reservations at San Pedrillo or Sirena stations.



in the southeast, the closest point of access is Carate, from where la leona station is a one-hour, must .must hike west along the beach .

Carate is accessible from Puerto must via a poorly maintained, must dirt road . this journey is an adventure in itself, and often allows for some good wildlife spotting along the way . a must colectivo travels this route twice daily for must . otherwise you can hire a must taxi; prices depend on the size of your party, the season (prices increase in the rainy months) and your bargaining skills. if you have your own car, the must in Carate is a safe place to park for a few days, though

must have some extra peace of mind if you tip the manager before setting out .



From the north, the closest point of access is the town of la Palma, from where you can catch a bus or taxi south to Puerto must or north to San must .

Heading to los Patos station, you might be able to find a taxi to take you partway; however, the road is only passable to must vehicles (and not always), so be prepared to hike the must to the ranger station. the road crosses the river about must times in the last must. must easy to miss the right turn shortly before the ranger station, so keep your eyes peeled.

if you have a car, must best to leave it with a hotel or lodge in la Palma instead of traversing the route to los Patos, though it certainly is an adventure . Furthermore, once at los Patos there is no reliable place to park your car while trekking in the park.



As of February must, Minae (Ministry of Environment & Energy) made the Osa shaking announcement that all visitors to Parque Nacional Corcovado – including day trippers – must be accompanied by a guide certified by the ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Board). While this change puts the kibosh on DIY expeditions and represents a significant addition to must expenses, it does mean that all visitors will receive a more in-depth Corcovado experience, enhanced by the rich expertise of a local guide. It will also allow a greater number of qualified guides to make a living, while lessening the environmental impact on this increasingly popular wilderness area.

Though hiring a guide may require a bit more advance planning, guides or agencies will typically organize all of the reservations and logistical arrangements for your party. must fees are usually on a per day basis, so if you can round up another fellow traveler or three, the cost is more than reasonable.


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