Corcovado National Park

Created in 1975, Parque Nacional Corcovado — Corcovado National Park — protects an undeniably beautiful and biologically complex area of land. Think deserted beaches, waterfalls and high canopy trees presenting excellent wildlife-spotting opportunities. Many people come with the sole purpose of spotting margay, ocelot, tapir, puma and other rarely seen animals. Plan your trip to Corcovado National Park with our guide to Corcovado National Park — based on the The Rough Guide to Costa Rica, your travel guide for Costa Rica.

Travel tips for visiting Corcovado National Park

Located on the Osa Península, Costa Rica — one of our best travel destinations for 2023 —  Corcovado National Park has hugely diverse terrain. Corcovado (literally “hunchback”) varies from beaches of packed or soft sand, riverways, mangroves and holillo (palm) swamps. to dense forest.

Hikers can expect to spend most of their time on the beach trails that ring the outer perimeters of the peninsular section of the park. Inland, the broad, alluvial Corcovado plain contains the Corcovado Lagoon. For the most part, the cover constitutes the only sizeable chunk of tropical premontane wet forest (also called tropical humid forest) on the Pacific side of Central America.

The Osa forest is as visually and biologically magnificent as any on the subcontinent. Indeed, biologists often compare the tree heights and density here with that of the Amazon basin cover.

The coastal areas of the peninsular section of the park receive at least 3800mm of rain a year, with precipitation rising to about 5000mm in the higher elevations of the interior. This intense wetness is ideal for the development of the intricate, densely matted cover associated with tropical wet forests.

There’s also a dry(ish) season (Dec–April), which tends to be the peak season for visitors. The inland lowland areas, especially those around the lagoon, can be amazingly hot, even for those accustomed to tropical temperatures.

Find out more about Costa Rica's national parks, and consider visiting Corcovado National Park as part of our customisable Costa Rica Eco Adventure trip. This kicks off on the Osa Peninsula.

If you're into wildlife-watching, our Costa Rica's Wild South trip also includes Corcovado National Park.


Tapiers are among the mammals you might see in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Corcovado National Park

Chances are, you’ll have read about Corcovado National Park's unparalleled biodiversity before your arrival, but that does little to prepare you for the sheer scope of it when you arrive. Suffice it to say, there's much to feast your eyes on in Corcovado, and challenging trails along which to do exactly that.

#1 Hike hardcore trails

First up, be aware that hiking in Corcovado is not for the faint-hearted. Quite apart from the distances and the terrain, hazards include insects (lots of them, especially in the rainy season, so take a mosquito net and tons of repellent.

In addition, herds of peccaries have been known to menace hikers, there are rivers full of crocodiles (and, in one case, sharks) and nasty snakes. These include the terciopelo and bushmaster, which can attack without provocation. Also bear in mind that there are sharks in the sea here, though everyone swims and no attacks have ever been recorded.

That said, most of these hazards are present elsewhere in the country, and everybody seems to make it through Corcovado fine. Just be prepared to get wet, dirty and incredibly hot.

Trails in Corcovado National Park

The park’s three longest trails all lead from the peripheral ranger stations to Sirena, where you can stay for a day or two in the simple lodge, exploring local trails around the Río Sirena.

Though there is some overlap in the type of flora and fauna you might see along the different trails, each offers a distinct experience. For this reason, and if your schedule permits, it’s a good idea to walk into Sirena on one trail and back out via another.

If you plan to spend a few days in the park, consider hiking in from Los Patos, spend a night or two in Sirena and then back out to La Leona. It’s much easier to move on from La Leona at the end of a hike than from Los Patos.

Los Patos

The well-marked twenty-kilometre inland trail from Los Patos to Sirena is, for many, the holy grail of Corcovado hikes. From Los Patos the trail takes you steeply uphill for some 5km into high, wet and dense rainforest. After this, the walk is flat, but extremely hot.

This is a trail for experienced rainforest hikers and hopeful mammal-spotters, giving you a reasonable chance of coming across, for example, tapirs, peccaries, margay or the tracks of tapirs and jaguars.

It’s a gruelling trek, especially with the hot inland temperatures (at least 26°C, with 100 percent humidity) and the lack of sea breezes. In all honesty, this trail is probably best avoided if you’ve not done much rainforest hiking before.

Walking through Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Rainforest hiking in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Louis-Michel Desert/Shutterstock

La Leona

From La Leona, a sixteen-kilometre trail runs to Sirena just inland from the beach, making it easy to keep your bearings. You can only walk its full length at low tide. If you get stuck, the only thing to do is wait for the water to recede.

If you can avoid problems with the tides, you should be able to do the walk in five to six hours, taking time to look out for birds.

While the walking can get a bit monotonous, the beaches are uniformly lovely and deserted, and you may be lucky enough to spot a flock of scarlet macaws in the coastal trees — a rare sight. You will probably see (or hear) monkeys, too.

Take lots of sunscreen, a big hat and at least five litres of water per person – the trail gets very hot, despite the sea breezes.


Coastline of Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

San Pedrillo

Corcovado National Park's most heroic walk, all 25km of it, runs from San Pedrillo to Sirena. It’s a two-day trek, so you need a tent, sleeping bag and mosquito net, and you mustn’t be worried by having to set up camp in the jungle.

Hikers and tour groups coming from the Bahía Drake area enter the park at the San Pedrillo ranger station. From here, a few well-marked, short trails lead into the forest. The ranger station itself can be a good spot to see foraging wildlife, as there are several fruit trees near it.

Fording the Río Sirena, just 1km before the Sirena ranger station, is the biggest obstacle. This is the deepest of all the rivers on the peninsula, with the strongest out-tow current. It has to be crossed with care, and at low tide only. And the reason? At high tide sharks come in and out in search of food. Be sure to get the latest information from the San Pedrillo rangers before you set out.

The first half of the walk — a seven-hour stint — is in the jungle, just inland from the coast. Much of the rest of the hike is spent slogging it out on the beach, where the sand is more tightly packed than along the La Leona–Sirena stretch.

Some hikers do the beach section of the walk well before dawn or after dark. There are fewer dangers (like snakes) at night on the beach and as long as you have a good torch with lots of batteries and/or the moon is out, this is a reasonable option.


Río Sirena, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

El Tigre

El Tigre ranger station, at the eastern inland entrance to the park, is a decent place to take breakfast or lunch with the ranger(s) before setting off on the local trails.

To get there from Jiménez, drive 10km north and take the second left, a dirt track, signed to El Tigre and Dos Brazos. The short walking trails laid out around the ranger station provide an introduction to Corcovado without making you slog it out on the marathon trails, and can easily be covered in a morning or afternoon.

If you're into epic walks, discover the best hikes in Costa Rica.

#2 Spot amazing mammals

Corcovado National Park supports a higher volume of large mammals than most other areas of the country, except perhaps the wild and rugged Talamancas.

Jaguars need more than 100 square kilometres each for their hunting. If you're a good tracker, you may be able to spot their traces within the park, especially in the fresh mud along trails and riverbeds.

You might also see the margay, a spotted wildcat about the size of a large domesticated house cat, which comes down from the forest to sun itself on rocks at midday. The ocelot, a larger spotted cat, is even shyer, rarely seen for more than a second.

With a body shape somewhere between a large pig and a cow, the Baird’s tapir is an odd-looking animal, most immediately recognizable for its funny-looking snout — a truncated elephant-type trunk. Tapirs are very shy, and have been made even more so through large-scale hunting.

More threatening are the packs of white-collared peccaries, a type of wild pig, who typically group themselves in packs of about thirty. They're often seen along the trails and should be treated with caution, since they can bite you.

More common mammals that you’ll likely spot are the ubiquitous agouti, foraging in the underbrush. These are essentially large rodents with smooth, glossy hair. The coati, a member of the raccoon family, with a long ringed tail, is also sure to cross your path.

Another mammal found in significant numbers in the park is the tayra (tolumuco), a small and swift mink-like creature. They will, in most cases, run from you, but should not be approached — they have teeth and can be aggressive.

jaguar, costa, rica

Jaguars reside in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

#3 See exceptional birds

Among Corcovado’s resident birds is the scarlet macaw, around 300 of which live in the park – more, in terms of birds per square kilometre, than anywhere else in the country.

Macaws are highly prized as caged birds and poaching is still a problem here, as their (relative) abundance makes them easy prey.

Around the Río Sirena estuary, especially, keep an eye out for the boat-billed heron, whose wide bill gives it a lopsided quality. The big black king vulture can also be found in Corcovado. A forager rather than a hunter, it nevertheless looks quite ominous.

There are many other smaller birds in Corcovado including, perhaps, the fluffy-headed harpy eagle. Though the harpy is thought to be extinct in Costa Rica, ornithologists reckon there’s a chance that a few pairs still live in Corcovado, and in the Parque Internacional La Amistad on the Talamanca coast.

Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in flight with nut in its beak, Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, Central America, Costa Rica

Scarlet macaw, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

#4 Marvel at extraordinary plants and trees

Walking through Corcovado National Park you’ll see many lianas, vines, mosses and spectacularly tall trees — some of them 50 or 60m high, and a few more than 80m high.

All in all, the Corcovado area is home to about a quarter of all the tree species in Costa Rica. These include the silkwood, characterized by its height — it's thought to be the largest tree in Central America — and smooth grey bark.

One silkwood, near the Llorona–San Pedrillo section of the trail, is over 80m high and 3m in diameter. You’ll also notice huge buttresses — above-ground roots shot out by the silkwoods and other tall canopy species. These are used to help anchor the massive tree in thin tropical soil, where drainage is particularly poor.

Where to stay

It’s possible to camp within the park (at the La Sirena station) for a maximum of four nights. Otherwise, La Leona Eco Lodge is the closest accommodation to the park.

Many people opt to base themsevles in Carate, about 25km west of Cabo Matapalo and 43km from Puerto Jiménez. Carate is literally the end of the road — the beach is just steps from where the road terminates, with the Parque Nacional Corcovado a little further to the west via hiking trail.

There’s nothing in the tiny hamlet to detain you, save for the mini-grocery (pulpería) just off the beach, where you can stock up on basic foodstuffs before entering the park. You can pitch your tent right outside the grocery, but for those requiring more comfort, there are a few idyllic lodges in the area.

Browse places to stay near Corcovado National Park, and places to stay in Carate, Costa Rica.

Best restaurants and bars

Meal plans are available if you arrange to camp in Corcovado National Park. Alternatively, stock up in the grocery store in Carate. If you've opted to stay in one of Carate's lodges, you'll be served quality home-cooked food.

For example, the rates at Lookout Inn, just off Playa Carate, include three wonderful buffet meals daily. This is also open to non-guests for a fee. Meanwhile, Luna Lodge, set in the hills above Carate, includes three healthy, home-cooked meals in their daily rate.


Load up on the likes of gallo pinto before heading to hike in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

How to get to Corcovado National Park

From San Jose, you can take a domestic flight to either Puerto Jimenez or Drake Bay, which are the closest airports to the park. Alternatively, you can also hire a private car or take a shared shuttle from San Jose to the park. Once you arrive in Puerto Jimenez or Drake Bay, you can take a boat or hike to the park entrance.

Getting to La Leona

It’s a 45min–1hr walk (3.5km) across the Río Carate and along the beach from the village of Carate to the La Leona ranger station. Refreshments are available en route at the La Leona Eco Lodge.

Getting to Los Patos

The small hamlet of La Palma, 24km northwest of Puerto Jiménez, is the gateway to the Los Patos ranger station. It’s a 12km walk from here to the park, much of it through hot lowland terrain (allow 4–5hr).

A much more sensible idea, however — given the hike that awaits you in the park — is to try and arrange for a taxi in La Palma to take you as far as water levels on the bumpy dirt track will allow.

Getting to San Pedrillo

Most people travelling to the San Pedrillo ranger station do so on a boat tour with one of the Bahía Drake lodges. From Agujitas you can also follow the 17km trail to San Pedrillo.

Getting to El Tigre

To get here from Puerto Jiménez, drive 10km north and take the second left, a dirt track, signed to “El Tigre” and “Dos Brazos”. A colectivo runs the 12km to Dos Brazos from Puerto Jiménez main street, just south of the police station (Mon–Fri 11am & 4pm). Taxis are available.

Tree frog, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Tree frog in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Tips for getting around 

Getting around Corcovado National Park requires some planning and preparation. The park is mostly inaccessible by car, so hiking is the most common way to explore the area. It is recommended to hire a guide, as they can provide important information about the park's flora and fauna, as well as ensure your safety. When hiking, wear sturdy shoes, bring plenty of water, and protect yourself from the sun and rain with appropriate clothing.

Entry and reservations

Unless you’re coming as part of a tour, you must reserve several days in advance at least — the maximum is thirty days in advance — with SINAC (T2735 5036,

You’ll have to specify your group size and dates, plus any meals you require at Sirena. It’s possible to do all this via email or at the Oficina de Área de Conservación Osa office in Jiménez, but you must arrange a guide before you contact SINAC.

Incidentally, it’s especially important when coming to Corcovado to brush up on your Spanish. You’ll be asking the rangers for a lot of crucial information and few, if any, speak English. Bring a phrasebook if you’re not fluent.

Ranger stations

All the ranger stations (daily 8am–4pm) have drinking water, information, toilets and telephone or radio-telephone contact.

Visitor numbers are strictly controlled at Corcovado, so rangers at each station always know how many people are on a given trail, and how long they're expected to be. If you are late getting back, they will go looking for you. This gives a measure of security, but take precautions. Always check current conditions with the rangers.

Corcovado rules and regulations

Park officials have tightened the rules governing visits to Corcovado in recent years. While these may change again (local tour operators are generally in favour of much looser restrictions), this was the situation at the time of writing, so always check the current policies in advance.

  • All park visitors must be accompanied by a professional guide (email the park for a current list) even for one-day tours.
  • You must apply for entry permits, up to 30 days in advance, but after you have arranged a guide.
  • Payment must be made via an international wire transfer or at the Banco Nacional in Puerto Jiménez, within two days of SINAC’s confirmation. Email the receipt to You cannot pay at the park office in Jiménez or at the park itself.
  • All overnight guests at Sirena must purchase meals from the on-site restaurant in advance.
  • The trail from San Pedrillo to Sirena is normally open Dec–April only, but is sometimes closed during this period.
  • It's no longer possible to rent canoes on the Río Sirena – check the latest with local guides.
  • Visits to Los Patos, La Leona, Sirena and El Tigre are restricted to 80 people/day (a maximum of 40 people can camp at Sirena at any one time).
  • San Pedrillo is restricted to 100 people/day.
  • Night tours are not available.

Spider monkey in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Kit Korzun/Shutterstock

Best time to visit

In the rainy season, some parts of Corcovado National Park become more or less unwalkable, local roads become impassable due to surging rivers, and everything gets more difficult. This makes it a good time to come if you want to avoid the crowds, but you’ll need a 4WD and lots of patience.

That said, be aware that heavy rains can close the park, especially in October and November. If this happens, there’s no refund if you’ve purchased tickets in advance, and you can't transfer/re-book your entry date.

The Península de Osa (along with Golfito and Golfo Dulce) does not have an espcecially marked a dry season. Although the months from December to April are less wet, due to localised wind patterns from the Pacific, the region gets very wet at other times.

In fact, the peninsula receives up to 5000mm of rain a year, with spectacular seasonal thunder and lightning storms cantering in across the Pacific from around October to December.

All that considered, the best tIme to visit Corcovado National Park is between December and April.

For more on the best time to visit different destinations in Costa Rica, read our guide to when to go to Costa Rica.

Looking for more inspiration? Read up on the best things to do in Costa Rica, and get yourself a copy of The Rough Guide to Costa Rica. Our Costa Rica travel tips will also help you plan your trip.

Not keen on planning? You'll love our customisable Costa Rica itineraries. Top tip — our Costa Rica's Wild South trip includes Corcovado National Park, with all the details and admin taken care of.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: coastline of Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

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written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 20.03.2023

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