Hiking Corcovado National Park the Crown Jewel of Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park is the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national park system. Located on the remote Osa Peninsula in southwest Costa Rica, Corcovado protects the largest remaining expanse of primary rainforest on the Pacific coast of Central America. It has been described as “one of the most biologically intense places on the planet” by the National Geographic Society. The park hosts 2.5 % of the world’s biodiversity and 25% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity and is truly the most spectacular activity on the Peninsula.

Hiking at Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica is open to the public and can be visited on a day trip or an overnight trip. However, all visitors must be accompanied by a certified guide, through the national park or in the Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez area. 

There are four ranger stations inside the park: Sirena, San Pedrillo, La Leona, and Los Patos, with hiking trails winding from each one. Los Patos, La Leona, and San Pedrillo stations are located on the edges of the park, while Sirena is in the heart of the park, connected by walking trails to La Leona and Los Patos.

The El Tigre trail in the east is another entrance into the park.  However, it is not connected to any of the ranger stations and thus is only accessible for a day hike.

Sirena Station

Sirena station is surrounded by secondary rainforest and thus attracts lots of animals to its trails. As you traverse, you’ll spot monkeys, sloths, coatis, caymans, and varieties of birds, and if you are lucky, you might even spot an endangered Baird’s Tapir.  The trail is 17.7km, is a moderately challenging route and is excellent for backpacking, camping and hiking. The view of the pacific and jungle is breathtaking and must be captured. 

The Jungle trail of Sirena 

San Pedrillo

San Pedrillo station isn’t as rich in wildlife, but what it lacks in fauna, it makes up in flora. It is a primary rainforest area where anyone hiking in Corcovado National Park will discover hundred-year-old trees and unique plants and learn lots about the ecosystem in the park.  It is a 3.1 km loop trail near the Bahia Drake Puntarenas and is moderately challenging and takes about an hour to complete. Excellent for walking and hiking.

The Lush rainforest 

La Leona Station

La Leona station, located on the southern side of the park, doesn’t have as many trails as the other two, but it is possible to hike up Leona Creek to get away from the beach and explore the forest habitat. It is an easy hiking and running trail that completes in 2 hrs and 30 mins.  Day Tours take visitors to La Leona station. You will travel by car to Carate, then walk through the forest and along a beach path to reach the ranger station. Once there, you’ll explore the area near the station and get ready to head back. 

The beach path to reach the ranger station 

Los Patos Station

Los Patos station is reachable via La Palma community from Puerto Jimenez or an 8-10 hour hike from Sirena station. It can only be done on overnight or multi-day treks. Los Patos lies within a montane tropical and cloud forest and has several trails opened to the public. It is said to offer lots of opportunities for wildlife spotting. 

 

El Tigre Trail

And finally, the El Tigre trail. While not a station itself, the El Tigre trail starts outside the park with a steep 1-hour climb and then levels out into a variable, up and down terrain. In total, the 8 km loop takes about 7-8 hours.

Overnight at La Sirena Ranger Station

La Sirena Ranger Station is the only place guests can stay overnight in Corcovado National Park. When arriving at La Sirena Ranger Station, you’ll need a guided certified agent. Your guide will help you arrange transport to the park entrance. There you’ll hike around 8 hours into the park from a place called Carate, at the end of the road on the East side of the Osa Peninsula. If you take ground transport, Carate will be where you’ll be dropped off the bus or taxi, from there you have to hike into the park for around 1 hour to a Ranger Station called La Leona. At that Ranger Station, they’ll check that you’re with a guide and have park permits.

From La Leona Ranger Station, it is another 6-7 hour hike, but if a VERY fit and fast hiker, it can be done in 5 hours.  The hike begins very early to arrive in La Sirena in the afternoon. You should bring at least 3 litres of water with you, and bring food to snack on. You should also wear good comfortable shoes and lightweight, breathable clothes. In the rainy season, it can rain anytime, so get rain protection for yourself and your gear.

Sirena is the only ranger station that offers overnight lodging. It offers basic accommodations,  five dormitory-style rooms, each with two bunk beds and one single bed. Sheets and towels are not provided. Private rooms are only available if space permits; otherwise, you’ll share a bedroom with other guests. Shared bathrooms have cold water showers, and electricity is only available for a few hours. The dorm capacity at Sirena Ranger Station is 70 individual beds divided into three rooms. To ensure availability, it is always best to reserve in advance.

In wrapping Up: You may access the Corcovado National Park by hiking from Carate. However, you will set this up through a travel agent or guide. From, Carate, you’ll start your hike into the park, which is around 3.5 km to the first Ranger Station, La Leona, where you’ll enter Corcovado National Park.

Claro River Trail