The Last Best Peninsula

Corcovado National Park

Aug 10, 2001
Outside Magazine

Situated 11 miles south of Drake Bay, heavily forested Corcovado is so rugged that to this day it remains roadless. That makes it a perfect park for hikers, especially if they don't mind getting hot under the collar. Temperatures here routinely soar into the nineties.

Corcovado's main trail, and its most scenic, is the 25-mile coastal walk. For part of its length it hugs the beach, where you'll see turtle tracks in the sand, monkeys in the trees, and great gaudy flocks of scarlet macaws winging overhead. Before setting out, be sure to check the tide tables (every lodge has a set) so you don't get trapped when a beach covers or a river becomes too deep to wade. Watch the weather as well. If it has been raining hard, some rivers may become impassable. And if you decide to cool off in the ocean, beware of riptides or you may suddenly find yourself halfway to Hawaii.
The coast walk has two trailheads, depending on whether you access it from the north end of Corcovado or the south. San Pedrillo, just south of Drake Bay, is at the northernmost end; La Leona is at the southern starting point. You must check in with the ranger station at either trailhead, and you need a reservation, which can be made in advance through the national park headquarters in San Jos‹ (011-506-735-5036). Trail fee is $7 in advance, $15 at the station.

From either starting point, you'll spend the night at Sirena, a ranger station halfway along the trail. Pitch a tent ($2) or sleep beneath the eaves of the station's roof ($4). With advance notice, the rangers can feed you rice and beans ($16 per day). If your Spanish is passable, stick around for an extra day. You'll hear some good stories about hikers getting treed by wild pigs. Don't laugh too heartily, though; the same fate could await you. Angry boars are a common trailside hazard.

At the end of the coastal walk, plan a few days of R&R at Costa Rica Expeditions's Corcovado Lodge Tent Camp on Playa Carate. The camp's beachfront setting is one of the most isolated and beautiful in all of Costa Rica (doubles, $67.85 per person, including three meals; phone 257-0766, fax 257-1665). It also has a tree-canopy platform, and if you are absolutely sure you don't sleepwalk, you can spend the night there, 120 feet up ($125 per person).