Los Quetzales National Park

Definitely, it’s not the famous Cloud Forest in the country and there is not much information about Los Quetzales National Park.

What if we told you there is a cloud forest 1 hour and a half from San José that few visitors ever see and you can see also the Quetzal? no gift shop, no snack bar, no crowds!   

We decided to explore this off the beaten trail with our friends who are Costa Ricans but they live in Spain and were visiting. They have passed in front of the entrance before without noticing that was there.

It’s the latest National Park created in the country in 2006.

How to get there?

The park is located on the Interamericana Highway and usually before Route 27 was built all people have to drive through “Cerro de la muerte”, which is the area the National Park is located at mile marker 76 to be exact.

If you are visiting San Isidro del General (about 1 hour from the park) or Dominical Beach (about 2 hours from the park)  you can add this option to your itinerary. Also, we highly recommended if you have time to spent the night in San Gerardo de Dota area.

You don’t need a four-wheel drive to get to the ranger the station but the route is windy and steep so plan your trip accordingly. It´s not funny to drive in a curvy and foggy route at night!

Facts about Los Quetzales National Park

  • Area: 4117 Ha (10,914 Acres)
  • Altitude:  Highest point: 3190 meters ( Around 10,465 Feet Above Sea Level)
  • Lowest point: 1240 meters (4068 Feet Above Sea Level)
  • Type of ecosystem:  Cloud forest
  • Dry season: January until April
  • Conservation Category: National Park
  • Wildlife: Birds around 200 species (including the Resplendent Quetzal), Baird´s Tapir, deer, pumas and so much more.
  • Entrance Fee: $10 (for foreigners)/ Children $5 –  Costa Ricans $2 (I know not quite fair)
  • Schedule: Every day from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm

The trails at Los Quetzales National Park:

The infrastructure of the national park is pretty much: The ranger station, the bathrooms and the parking lot.

Expect the basic.

There are 2 trails available for the tourist:

  • Circular trail: It´s about 400 meters (0,25 miles) long and can take you around 30 minutes to complete the loop that will take you to the ranger station. You can observe birds, plants like bromelias and the big trees cover with moss.
  • Ojo de Agua Trail: It´s around 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) long. It can take you around 2 hours max 4 hours if you are walking slowly and taking your time for pictures. Good to observe birds and the vegetation typical from the cloud forest.

How we got lost in the trails?

So they said that due to the lack of staff they only have one trail available to hike but there is more and depending on the season of the year.

We thought that we were doing the “Circular” but since the lack of signs, we started following a group of students.

When we passed the group and walk waiting to see a turn or more sign but nothing, more than just the spectacular mist of the Cloud Forest.

It was this feeling like we were “on our own” and not even seeing another tourist coming back, of course, we were enjoying taking pictures to the big trees but … we start to feel that we were going down and the trail starts to be narrower and with more plants.

Something wasn’t right. So we decided to return before gets dark.

So we got after the time the park close to the ranger station about 4:30 pm and the ranger was not happy at all!

He complained that we took the “Ojo de Agua” trail instead of the “Circular” no wonder why we never did a circle and there was no sign that says the limits of the park so apparently we went to some sort of private property. Sorry!

Learning lesson: The National Park finishes where this sign is and after that, you are in private property. Important to know! Make sure to know which trail you are doing because you won’t find a lot of information inside the park.

Are you be able to see Quetzals?

The quetzal season is usually in the month of  March and July and the most popular place that people go to see them is Monteverde Cloud Forest.

However, there is this less-known spot that you might be really lucky if you see it jumping in the branches at Los Quetzales National Park.

The reality is always will be more possible to spot birds if you are going with a local tour guide that knows the behavior of the bird’s species. The Quetzal is not the exception.

So if you really are chasing the Quetzal investigate the season and try to hire a local guide and also as we did if you don´t see it in the park be flexible to explore in the surrounded areas that your guide can recommend you.

For example, in San Gerardo de Dota (close to the National Park) there is a family that has the blessing that Quetzals nest over a tree in their patio and for a small fee they let you photograph and you can have lunch there.

We did a mix of experiences visiting in the morning Los Quetzales National Park and then visiting San Gerardo area for few hours and drove 2 hours back to San José (85 kilometers – 53 miles).

Birdwatching in the area

If you are a birdwatcher this area is the paradise, we knew the Quetzal season has been over and also there are other spots close by to do birdwatching.

So we drove to San Gerardo de Dota area entrance and drive down an impressive mountain that welcomed us. (pic)

We also want to get the chance to check a spot that according to Costa Rica Birdwatchers Association you can see a special hummingbird that the last record was 25 years ago near the Poas Volcano.

 Leucistic Talamanca Hummingbird.  

Locals called “Angelito” (little angel). He is very unique because the partial loss of pigmentation gives him the white color.

Interesting fact (I love interesting facts): According to studies differs from albinism in the fact the melanin is, at least, partially absent but the eyes still have their usual color.

Miriam´s Quetzal

We found this place that even some tourists from Spain were looking for after reading on TripAdvisor and they joined us since they also lived in Barcelona where our friends also have lived … what a small world!

Miriam´s place is a small soda surrounded by a beautiful garden. Also some lodging options we saw.

A small deck to observe and photograph the birds, where the birds visit the flowers and feeders.

A few minutes later after our arrival, there was our friend “the White hummingbird” jumping flower by flower and showing his uniqueness.

He was just soooo freaking cute!

After having our delicious lunch the place became like a small UN office. All of them were chasing our friend so the place got full of tourist from France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and who knows where else.

Tourists with humongous camera lenses, families, couple who speak all languages and probably beside the restaurant owner, we were the only Costa Ricans but what made our heart happy is to see how they were enjoying our country.

“Angelito” without knowing what makes him different also didn’t know how many benefits were brought to this family who owns the restaurant because after he showed up a lot of birders and photographers has come to the place.

We witness a beautiful example of how you can do tourism, enjoy nature and benefit the local economies. What a joyful moment!

Most of the hotels in the area are owned also by local families.  Definitely, we can wait to explore more the area.

So if you are visiting the National Park make sure to also visit this area.  We are going to leave Miriam´s information in case you want to check it up.

Website: Miriam´s Quetzals*

*We really like it, however, this is not an ad or affiliate link.

Recommendations

  • AEAP: Costa Rica is the country that As Early As possible. First if you want to do birdwatching you know the earliest the better.
  • The weather in the cloud forest might be sunny but the wet clouds can come anytime. Remember: Rain Jacket, sunscreen and hiking shoes are essential. You can have an extra pair of shoes some parts were really muddy, specially if you are going in rainy season.
  • There is a famous cafeteria called Chespirito in front the ranger station if you want some chocolate or cup of coffee.
  • Ask for a map or double check with the ranger the landmark that you need to know for your turning point.
  • Expect basic infrastructure at National Park. The park accept credit card but always carry some cash in case of them not having signal.
  • Hire a tour guide if you are really interested to do birdwatching. You can ask us about it and we can put you in contact with local guides from the area.
  • ENJOY NATURE! NEVER FEED WILDLIFE!

National Parks in Costa Rica: See how easily you can impact nature and people

The nationals parks in Costa Rica conserve the best of the nation’s natural and cultural heritage. According to the National Parks Guide, we have in our forest:

221 mammals, 830 bird species, 150 amphibians, 215 reptiles and 1080 salt and freshwater fishes. Around 366,000 arthropods also 10,000 species of vascular plants identified. (National Parks Guide, 2002)

We have a network that protects 24.6% of the territory in 107 units divided into 11 conservation areas.

The guide also mentions, that our country internationally is considered the “mecca” for nature-loving tourists, naturalists, and researchers who wish to admire and study exuberant Costa Rica’s tropical Nature.

Doesn’t matter the reason that you are visiting them, if you are looking for a selfie, an adventure, to find yourself in nature, a research or any other kind of reason.

The thing is that you are making an impact on nature and people that work or leave the national park.

We were invited to celebrate the 40 years anniversary of Carara National Park.

It was an event that involves from rangers who work at the park, tour guides, schools, 8 communities that lives close the park, NGOs, private companies and of course tourists.

So from that day our perspective of the effort that is behind the maintenance of a national park. The effort to protect the environment and the impact on the communities.

Just awesome! Don´t think just because we are the “Meca” of ecotourism all our resources go to the environment.

Not every Costa Rican, unfortunately, enjoy and values the work and passion that is put in our National Parks.

Still, more work to do but by you visiting them we want to show how easily you can impact the nature and communities. Let’s check deeper those impacts. For now, let’s focus on the positive ones.

By visiting the National Parks in Costa Rica naturally impacting environment

Protection of Natural Resources:

All the resources that a National Park protects in Costa Rica we consider the 3 main ones: Water, Forest, and Wildlife.

After the creation of the National Parks in Costa Rica the biggest achievements for the country in the environmental matter.

Quick science class here I guess everyone will know this part but never hurt to remind ourselves.

What are natural resources? These things include water (seas and fresh water), land, soils, rocks, forests (vegetation), animals (including the little ones that we can’t even see), fossil fuels and minerals. They are called Natural Resources and are the basis of life on earth.

Also, unfortunately, we didn’t care about them for a long time and now we have a mess in our ecosystem. Yes! Yes! Good answer. You know that thing the climate change is a myth! yea right.

  • Water:

We don’t have gold but the water is our gold. Water is drinkable mostly in all Costa Rica.

As a consequence, National Parks in Costa Rica protects the springs coming from the forests. However, not all the rivers provide the quality of water for our marine wildlife.

For  example:

Tarcoles River, one of the most polluted rivers in Central America. Learn more about it.

Recommended articles: Pollution, Juan Castro Blanco National Park.

  • Forest:

Back in the days, our forests were living a horror movie. Yep, deforestation, agriculture, cattle farming and other practices that involve deforestation.

Around 1940 – Over 75% of the country was covered in indigenous woodland. According to an article published by United Nations University.

Then in next decades rampant and unchecked logging ensued as the nation’s valuable forest resources were transformed into cash profits.

So for that reason in 1969  was created the laws to protect the forests and the firsts National Parks in Costa Rica were created.

  • Wildlife:

As a result in the same years that all the deforestation happened. The mindset in order to preserve the wildlife was very inefficient. It´s bad to say but we have family members that tell stories of this practice and how they hunt back in those days.

Another achievement by the creation of the National Parks in Costa Rica is to control the hunting. The government only allow it when is an overpopulation of one species or for scientific purposes.

Recommended articles: Corcovado National Park.

The behind scenes of your visit: Social impacts on surrounded communities at National Parks in Costa Rica

Research and environmental education

National Parks in Costa Rica also has a huge impact in the academic field.

Costa Rica has 5 public universities and all of them has careers that involve environmental science.

Also, a lot of international programs includes the study of the tropics in our conservation areas.

Experts have done studies about the important scientific data of different wildlife species.

Environmental education programs have been taking place at the National Parks in Costa Rica to take elementary schools and high schools to learn about science.

The same trails that you walk on the National Parks are open classrooms for our kids.

Also the private companies, recently are doing volunteer programs in our National Parks as ways to have a social responsibility and give back.

We have witnessed and attended workshops like in Carara National Park where they also open their doors to the communities.

All this is great to see because really we are learning to love nature and protect it.

So more tourist can visit the country!!!

Economical aspect:

Ok. I think everyone gets how great efforts can be for nature.

But let´s talk about the economic benefits also from the protection of nature.

  • Tourism:

66% of tourists who come to the country their main purpose is to do ecotourism. Based on official data, from the Ministry of environment and energy (Minae) it indicates that the income of foreign exchange for tourism was $3.941 million in the year 2016.

Therefore it is estimated that National Parks and conservation areas contributed $2 billion and created around 50.000 direct jobs.

  • Jobs:

Our protected areas are producing countless jobs in companies that bring tourists to our national parks.

Also, have the great potential to create jobs in neighboring communities. Just think of families that live around of the park. They usually invested in a restaurant, a souvenir shop or the person that take care of the cars outside the park.

National parks in Costa Rica has created direct and indirect jobs to our economy.

  • Culture and Arts:

We have got the opportunity to talk to artists who inspired their art on nature.

Some of them have been lucky to represent Costa Rica internationally and also sell their products in souvenir shops or hotels.

Also, our culture of the family trip during the weekends or on holidays includes the visit of the National Park.

In conclusion: Costa Rica benefits more from protecting the nature

Well, let me tell you I have enjoyed writing this article and getting a better understanding of the changes that we have done since the creation of the National Parks in Costa Rica.

This small nation from Central America has changed the way that nature is been exploited in the past.

We are not perfect yet but honestly, we have been doing peace with nature and we appreciated when you find on media how high-rate is Costa Rica in that sense.

One thing that I can be convinced is the majority of the tourists won´t see the impact of their visit when they go to a National Park and we want to say thank you if you are one of them that have done!!!

Definitely, there are more benefits not mentioned here and I am sure that this positive impacts you can make easily in any country that you visit. Even better if you do it in your home country. Get out and explore the National parks in Costa Rica and in the world.

You can find the national parks that we have visited so far hope our list grow soon to show you more.

References:

  • Blasiak, Robert. “Ethics and Environmentalism: Costa Rica’s Lesson.” United Nations University, 27 Nov. 2011, unu.edu/publications/articles/ethics-and-environmentalism-costa-ricas-lesson.html.
  • Mata Ferreto , Ana Virginia. “Informe Final – Tema: Educación Ambiental En Costa Rica .” Agencia Para La Cooperación Internacional Del Japón JICA , 25 Mar. 2013. http://www.pnuma.org/educamb/reunion_foro_internacional/Informe_Final-Educacion_Ambientalen_Costa_Rica_JICA(3).pdf
  • Meléndez, José. “Costa Rica, Primer País De América Latina Que Prohíbe La Caza Deportiva.” EL PAÍS, 12 Dec. 2012, elpais.com/sociedad/2012/12/12/actualidad/1355344777_670377.html.
  • Vicente Castro, Carlos Manuel. Los Parques Nacionales De Daniel Oduber. No. 32 , Editorial Raices, 2009.

 

Carara National Park: The River of Alligators

*** Note: Updated May 2018. This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Have you ever been close to a crocodile, caiman or any big reptile?!

Well, if you are a biologist, crazy wildlife filmmaker or live next to a river with a bunch of them, maybe so. But the majority of people here in Costa Rica have seen them in a zoo or by Tarcoles Bridge.

Tarcoles River is famous for the number of crocodiles that you can observe from the bridge that is 2 kilometers from the main entrance of Carara National Park.

Tarcoles River

Unfortunately, this river is also the most polluted river in the country. (Read an article that we did about it here).

Actually, most people don’t even realize at the “Crocodile Bridge” in Tarcoles River is the northern boundary of the park, so technically that can count as the National Park.

Also, next to the bridge, you will see a whole commercial area that benefits the community. There are souvenirs, restaurants, parking spaces for the curious tourists that parks next to the bridge.

Note: We don’t recommend leaving your valuable stuff in the car there because the area is well-known for thieves who try to take advantage while tourists are admiring crocs. Try to park next to the restaurants, let say if you are coming from the airport will be before the bridge.

But for nature lovers and bird watchers, Carara National Park is the perfect place. It is close to San José (around and hour and a half) and also on the way to famous places like Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Dominical.

General information

  • Area: 5242 hectares (12953 acres)
  • Altitude: The elevation ranges from 100 – 500 meters (328 – 1,640 feet).1
  • Type of ecosystem: Habitats within the park include rainforest and river habitats.1
  • Dry season: December through April
  • Conservation Category: National Park

This national park is open EVERYDAY from 8 am to 4 pm, but during dry season it is open from 7 am to 3 pm.

The cost per person is $10 USD

Wildlife and Birdwatching

I have visited Carara a many times and I have seen different types of birds, frogs, snakes, and mammals. Every time that I’ve been there, I spent around 5 or 6 hours walking and stopping to take in all the details, with my camera and binoculars in hand.

The wildlife in this area is incredible. The first time Ligia visited Carara, she didn’t realize that we’d get to see a bunch of wildlife without going far from home.

Animals: 

  • White Bats
  • 3 species of monkeys (Howlers, white-faced and spiders)
  • Sloths
  • Snakes as: Boa constrictors
  • Lizards
  • Anteaters
  • Dart Frogs

Birds:

  • Toucans
  • Trogons
  • Musketeers
  • Hummingbirds
  • Manakins
  • Tinamus
  • MACAWS

The park is part of the biological bridge between the conservation areas in the South in Costa Rica.

A governmental law created “the path of the macaws,” where the idea is to preserve the ecosystem of the macaws.²

Therefore for birdwatchers, this place is really nice because if you go early, it’s easy to spot a lot of birds.

We took pictures of a Macaw nest, trogons. Also, the famous “moonwalk” of the male red-capped manakin snaps his wings and dances on a branch to catch a female’s eye.

Hiking Trails (Handicap Accessible)

  • Universal Trail:

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers and the financial support of a big campaign that was done in Costa Rica, the public and private organizations donated money to create a trail that is handicap friendly. They have braille signs of wildlife of the area and the trails are in good shape for wheelchairs.

Distance: 1.2 km (Approximately 1,5 miles)

Walking Distance: 1 hour 40 minutes round trip

  • Las Araceas Trail:

Distance:1.2 km (Approximately 1,5 miles)

Walking Distance:1 hour 40 minutes round trip

  • Quebrada Bonita Trail:

Distance: 1.5 km meters from the main path (Approximately)

Walking Distance: One hour and a half round trip

  • Laguna Meandrica Trail: Separated entrance but you have to pay the entrance first. 2 km away from the main entrance. 

Distance: 4 Kilometers (Approximately  1.8 miles)

Walking Distance: 2 – 4 hours round trip

Photography and ASOGUIPACE

If you are really interested in getting the full experience in wildlife, these guys can help you. They are the ones that told us the season of some of the species, and we learned they labor to protect this area as their house.

We do believe supporting local guide organizations will help with nature preservation. And it’s worth it to learn from the people who spend most of their days studying animal behavior.

Because you care about what you know, we have decided to interview the president of the association and learn more about their work.

An interview with Enrique Cambronero – President of the Association of Guides from Carara.³

1- When was the guide association formed?

ASOGUIPACE was created in 2006.

2- What is the main purpose for which the association was formed?

The main purpose was organizing a small group of local guides who came to the park to offer their services as naturalist guides to nationals and foreign tourists who visit Carara. The idea was to also cooperate with the administration of the park in the maintenance of the trails of the parking lot and maintenance to the trails.

3- How many guides are integrated? Are they local?

There’s a group of 8 guides, all locals. Normally, we have 4-6 guides in the park.

4- What days are the guides in the national park?

Every day of the year.

5- What are the hours and duration of the tours?

The tours are organized as tourists arrive or by reservation. They are determined depending on the time requested by the tourist. The tours will take between 2 and 2 and a half hours.

6-What is the cost of the tour? What can make the cost vary?

Between $25 – $40 depending on the number of people. They do prices for high school and college students.

7- What is the maximum number of people per tour?

The minimum can be 2 people.

Seems like the maximum of the group must be less than 20 people per group according to the Public Use Regulations of the park. It could be private tours for a family or different tourists that are at the park at the same time.

8- In case a person does not speak English or Spanish, in what other languages can the tour be offered?

The tours are offered in Spanish, English, French, and German

9- What animals can usually be observed?

Answered in Wildlife and Birdwatching

10- What are the best times to visit the park? And why?

So all year long, at any time during the dry season, in the morning during the rainy season. Or if you enjoy the rain it can also be in the rainy hours in the afternoon, it is very beautiful.

11- Do you have any web page? Do you have Facebook or Instagram?

Our Facebook is: Guides of Carara / Asoguipace

12- Who can people contact to make a reservation in advance?

In conclusion, they are the experts of the area. Any other information such as reservations, questions about the park, people can email [email protected]

How to get there

Note: This post is in no way sponsored and we have no affiliation with the association of guides. We do believe in their work and how they can make a living from their profession.

References:

  1. Various. (2004). Editor (Ed. San Marcos),Guía de Parques Nacionales. (2 ed., Vol.1.)
  2. Nº 33494-MINAE (Internet como prioridad) (2006, Diciembre 19).Constituye Corredor Biológico Paso de Las Lapas.
  3. Enrique Cambronero. Information with President of the Association of Guides Carara. ASOGUIPACE . Interviewer: Rodrigo Santamaría, Explore Tikizia.

Hiking Corcovado National Park from Sirena to Carate station

After you travel to someplace … Have you ever felt it was a dream? Did I really go there?

Well, to me, Corcovado National Park feels like that sort of memory. I’m still processing that we’ve been there. Especially because you get to this stage of consciousness after immersing yourself in such a natural and wild environment. Corcovado National Park made my brain start working more harmoniously and helped me develop a better understanding of how tiny I am in front of this majesty of nature.

I would like to make this blog a sort of diary entry to remember those memories after our first visit to Corcovado National Park. But also, the purpose of this post is to give you an idea of the hiking that we did from Sirena Ranger Station to Carate.

Rodrigo and I decided to give ourselves a different hiking challenge every year. Check our 2017 challenge to Chirripo. Corcovado was our 2018 challenge.

Friday, February 2nd… It takes some effort to get there

We left San Ramon early that day and drove to Dominical.

We had met a Dutch couple who came to Costa Rica and met each other through Instagram, and they were looking to visit Corcovado National Park, so we decided to do this adventure together. So we picked them up in Dominical and had breakfast with them.

Then we drove for about an hour more to Sierpe, where we needed to catch the boat that would take the four of us to Drake Bay. Click here if you want to learn more.

We had a nice boat ride with a lot of nature on the river and the “bocana” (how locals call the part where the river mix with the ocean).

Upon our arrival in Drake Bay, we met a friend of Rodrigo and also our guide for our trip to Corcovado National Park: Elberth of Nativos Corcovado. Sigrid and Francois (the Dutch couple) checked into the rooms and we said goodbye until we started our adventure the next day.

Saturday, February 3rd… Day 1  in Corcovado National Park 

6:30 am: We made our way to the Beach in Drake Bay. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the environment from tourists and locals that provide services. We sailed for about one hour into the national park. Fortunately, the sea was calm. Once we were in the park, there was literally no infrastructure more than the Corcovado sign. Personally, I found that really nice.

So here we are with excitement ready to start exploring the jungle!

We had maybe 30 minutes walking when we found ourselves immersed in a trail where every step, Elberth was pointing out a new animal. We were able to see 3 of the 4 species of monkeys in Costa Rica:  howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. They were very nice to see.

I hadn’t seen the “titis” (squirrel monkeys) since I was little. This species is the smallest in size in the country.

Because it was the mating season of many species, we saw a lot of birds singing and calling the attention of the females. We also saw monkey mommas with their babies. So cute!!!!

12:00 pm: It was hot and I was hungry (as always) … we walked toward La Sirena, one of the ranger stations in Corcovado National Park and the place where we would spend the night.

This ranger station is really in the middle of the jungle. After lunch and a short break, we went back to the park with the five of us.

Afternoon… 

One of the coolest parts of the second part of the hike was when the whole neighborhood started the alarm because there was a Puma in the area.

Howler monkeys screamed louder than ever, spider monkeys didn’t stop moving around …

My heart was beating faster because of the mix of feelings—on one hand, I want to see the puma, but on the other hand, I didn’t know what we would do if we faced him.

Still, our friend Puma sneaked out, but let me tell you, it was one of the coolest experiences just knowing that he was around.

Then it was time for dinner and bed since they shut down the power at the ranger station around 8:00 pm. They have Wi-Fi, but since were many people in the station the signal is pretty weak.

Sunday, February 4th… from Sirena to La Leona to Carate station

I’m a light sleeper, so I didn’t sleep too well that night (remember the number of noises: farts, snores, and people walking around. Yes, you share more than a room and the people’s sleep secrets).

A quick funny story is when an Italian couple was walking around the station. Apparently, a tour guide was camping outside of the station and his snores were beyond anything that I have heard, I swear!!!  The couple thought that it was an animal and they were telling me to be careful. I explained to them that the animal wasn’t exactly an animal. We all started cracking up.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo saw a tapir walking with a baby in front of the ranger station! I was so jealous!

5:30 am That morning we did an amazing trip. It was raining at the beginning and I didn’t tell anyone, but in a part when we had to cross a river, I was a little scared. I was thinking “Great. Crocodiles and sharks live in these waters. Oh well, I want adventure!”

Fortunately, everything is about attitude, and Elberth found a narrower space where we crossed the river without problems!

Tip: Light dry-fit clothes are very important for this hike.

The trail switches from the jungle to the beach and vice-versa. At the beach, we found many traces of a tapir. Finally, we saw it lying, pretty relaxed at the beach! It was my first time seeing a tapir in the wild.

“Salsipuedes” – Second part of the hike

It was around noon, the sun was pretty heavy, humidity was a real thing, but Elberth said we were close. So we were walking on the beach and rocks!

The beach was beautiful. The contrast of the green jungle and the blue ocean was magical. We saw 2 couples of scarlet macaws that danced for us, letting us take pretty nice pictures.

I felt the anteaters was one of the species that we were very lucky to see. We saw 3 of them on the whole trail.

1:00 pm: We got to La Leona Ranger station, where you sign up saying that you are leaving the park. The station has water and bathrooms. It’s perfect to eat a snack. I washed my tennis shoes from the sand but I wished I brought shoes more like sandals or “chacos”.

We chat with some other tourists who showed us  pictures of the Puma they saw. Well for us, not this time, but we were close.

Tip: Use shoes that are easy to wash and dry fast. Also, make sure to bring enough snacks for the whole trip.

We walked around 1 hour and a half more until we got to Carate. There was not a building there either but just a few places to buy some drinks!!!

At this point, all that I wanted was a Coke! It’s one of the few times that happened to me. So we cheer our drinks and check our 23 kilometers that our clocks marked, with a rewarding feeling of accomplishment!

We left Carate around 2:30 pm and got to Drake Bay around 6:30 pm. The total time it took us for the hike was 8 hours. We stopped a lot taking pictures, but apparently, we still did it in the average time.

We know that some people do the walk the opposite direction than we did. They leave Carate first then to go to Sirena and spend the night there and then go back to Carate and stay near the Puerto Jimenez area. So that’s another possibility for people who want to do the hike.

Final thoughts

I am definitely happy to share this experience with you. Thanks for reading! If you make it until here I just want you to know that I hope you can have many experiences in nature like the one in Corcovado National Park.

I realized while I was doing my research to go to Corcovado that only 1% of Costa Ricans have gone to this park. So we are glad to see the statistic and know that we were there.

At the same time, I know this won’t be my last time. There is so much more to explore there.

I want to end the blog with our Dutch friends’ thoughts about Corcovado National Park. They have traveled a lot around the world so I feel honored about what they said.

I will quote what Sigrid wrote in her blog, because it is so true:

Corcovado National Park is ultimately one of the most beautiful wildlife experiences we have ever experienced. You can see so many wild animals here and nature is so beautiful. Many people skip this park during a trip through Costa Rica, because it is so remote, but I can only say: Go! Do not miss this special place. You will have no regret!  – Sigrid, Mytravelecret

So, if you are planning to come to Costa Rica, there is an option to add to your itinerary!! Pura Vida!

Corcovado National Park

When you hear the word “jungle,” what goes through your head?

For me, Corcovado “jungle” sounds like: rivers with bull sharks, pumas, hot humidity, mosquitos, snakes, and awesome wildlife. It sounds like the most amazing place to understand and connect with nature.

Corcovado National Park was on my list for a long time. After listening to my parents’ stories from college years when my dad got lost in Corcovado, I was intrigued to see if it was as wild as they said.

And recently, the day to meet this legendary place had finally come. Rodrigo has already been here but also was happy to be back. We had arranged with a couple from Holland to do this adventure together, who also has a travel blog. You can check  @mytravelsecret (Everything is in Dutch :).

Corcovado National Park is famous as the park that hosts 2,5 % of the biodiversity of the world. According to our National System of conservation areas (SINAC for the letters in Spanish).

When I read this, I had to process it again. Corcovado is home to 50 percent of the country’s species and harbors—2,5% percent of the world’s biodiversity. That’s pretty intense!

 National Geographic has called the Osa Peninsula, the area where Corcovado National Park is, “the most biologically intense place on Earth.”

Getting there:

There are various access points to Corcovado National Park:

  • Sirena
  • La Leona
  • San Pedrillo
  • Los Patos
  • Los Planes

Corcovado National Park map

You can get there by air, car, bus or boat. However, this is the observations we got from the people who live in the area and their order of choices.

Airplane: It’s the easiest and fastest and most comfortable, but it is expensive.

Taxi Boat: The second choice, as it’s sometimes hard.

Car: it’s almost impossible to get through the rivers during the rainy season

Bus: There is a company called “Transportes Blanco” that travels daily from San José to Puerto Jimenez and vice-versa. If you want to go to Drake Bay you can take this bus, but you need to get off in “Rincon,” which is the main entrance to get to Drake Bay. 

From Rincon, you will take another bus. We have been told that the bus schedule is 11:30 am and 4:30 am.

Link (apparently you can buy the tickets online): Click here

When you book your accommodation in either Puerto Jimenez or Drake Bay, they can help you with travel arrangements and suggested routes or ways to explore the park. Also, tour operators are in the area and can help you with all the arrangements.

Seasons: Dry (January to April) Rainy (May to November) December is a transition month. I think you need to be brave enough to go in the rainy season.

In our case, we visited in February. We had the advice of our friends from Nativos Corcovado who suggested to explore the park in the following way:

  • Arrival Day 1: spend the night in Drake Bay
  • Day 2: take the boat and access the park through Sirena Station. Spend the night in Sirena station.
  • Day 3: Hike from Sirena – La Leona –  Carate and then go back to Drake Bay
  • Last Day 4: Recovery and explore Drake Bay area.

Also, I read that some people do a 3-day hike staying in Puerto Jimenez and starting in Carate -Leona-Sirena-Carate.

The boat ride from Drake Bay to Corcovado National Park

Boat is one of the most popular ways to get into the national park. We took the boat at 6:30 am at Drake Bay beach and it took us an hour to get to the entrance of Corcovado National Park. The cost per person was around $30.

The sea was calm and no one got sick. Although they advised that depending on the tides it could be bumpy. In the rainy season, they have to check the tides and some days they can’t access the park by boat.

Corcovado National Park: Reservation, certified guides and food regulations

One of the most common questions that I found on the web, is this one:

Hola,

I heard that you need a permit and also a guide in order to do any hiking in Corcovado National Park. In other words, you cannot go on your own at all. Does anyone know if this is true and how to go about getting a permit?

User from Tripadvisor, Feb 2, 2015, 7:42 PM

Reservations:

Since December 15, 2016, the reservation system changed and is split in a platform that can be a little confusing to the visitor. SINAC is in charge of National Park entrance, and the accommodations and food are managed by a local association called ADI that runs development projects in the area.

The answer is that the information is true: you do need a permit to hike in the park. How to go about getting the permit? ... well, there are many details that make the reservation process a little hectic even for us as locals going there for the first time. Plus, every traveler does things differently depending budget, physical condition and time they want to spend in the area.

However, the reasons for the permit system are understandable after accidents inside the park like the controversial case of Cody Dial—a 27-year-old student from the United States. (NatGeo also has a series about it). It was better to change the system. Plus, I am sure there were other factors that added to the decision.

You may be thinking this is exaggerated, but in any place that is full of wildlife like Corcovado, it’s better to be smart and respectful of nature. So we did our reservations with a tour operator, but you will find plenty of travel agents or hotels that will help.

On the other hand, I think the permit model is helping the local economy to benefit from tourism. I love to see the tour guides guiding people on the trails because that means there is a local family that is receiving an income.

So here is a chart that we want to share with you and might help you understand the dynamics and factors involved when you visit the area.

Still, if you feel that you want to make your reservation directly on your own, we are going to leave the information below about the entrance and the accommodation to the park. Take into consideration that you have to do it 30 days in advance to guarantee spaces. 

Local tour guide operators 

We found information online about two associations we would recommend as guides. Also, you can contact us and we can recommend the tour operator that we use and some contacts that we have in the area.

You can email and book directly with them in the following emails provided by ADI:                                              Association of Guides of Puerto Jiménez: – [email protected]
Association of Drake Bay Guides: – [email protected]

Accommodation:

I read reviews on TripAdvisor about Sirena Ranger station, and apparently, the upgrade is significantly better. The place is not a bad spot to be in the middle of the jungle. The shower was clean and the bunk beds had mosquito nets but … it was a little crowded and not so good for people who are light sleepers, mainly because of the noises (not wildlife noises, human noises: snores, farts, people moving). Oh yeah, I had a fun night!

The accommodation includes bunk beds with mosquito nets, sheets, and pillows.

The price per person is $30. There is no camping allowed.

Here is the link (Click here) to the consortium website where you can make the reservation for accommodation and food.

Food:

You are not allowed to bring your own food into the national park. The food was pretty good—no complaints. The food will offer vegetarian options, and you might ask for vegan options, as well.

MealPrice
Breakfast (6am-8am)$20 USD p.p
Kid´s Breakfast$10 USD p.p
Snacks (10am -11: 30 am) *$12 USD p.p
Lunch (12md- 1pm)$25 USD p.p
Kid´s Lunch$12.50 USD p.p
Dinner (6-7pm)$25 USD p.p
Kid´s Dinner$12.50 USD p.p

* The rate for children is established between 3 years and 12 years.

Entrance Fee to the park:

Rates in Sirena:

Admission adults:  $15
Admission children: $5

They don’t accept international wire transfers, so you have to do a deposit to their bank account when you get to the country. 

Here is the email address to make your reservation: [email protected]

To make reservations for the day, communicate to:  [email protected]

Phone: (506) 2735- 5036 – National Park Office

Link to SINAC website: Click here 

However, you can’t make reservations through the website.

Estimated expenses:

If you decided to do something similar as we did, here are our expenses for the trip. This will differ depending on the tour operator or the route that you pick.

The main purpose of this blog was more to provide information about reservations and the system to go to Corcovado National Park. We are going to talk more about trekking and wildlife in another post. There is so much to talk about Corcovado but the most important for us is to help you understand the system and share our experience. It definitely will be one of the highlight trips of 2018!

In conclusion, if you are a nature lover and enjoy your time getting wild, Corcovado National Park is the place for you. Corcovado is not for everybody, but since we’re wired to seek out comfort, why not include a trip like this to your bucket list and let comfort go!  

References

  • Arturo Mora (Personal communication, March 10th,2018) Staff from SINAC – ACOSA Office.
  • James Badilla (Personal communication, March 9th,2018) Staff from ADI Corcovado-Carate(Non-profit Association)
  • Cabinas Jimenez (consulted March 8th,2018) Corcovado National Park. Recovered from: http://www.cabinasjimenez.com/corcovado-national-park/
  • Sinac Official Website (consulted March 8th,2018) Área de Conservación Osa (ACOSA). Recovered from: http://www.sinac.go.cr/ES/ac/acosa
  • TripAdvisor (consulted March 7th,2018) Sirena Ranger Station. Recovered from: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g309281-d309769-Reviews-Sirena_Ranger_Station-Corcovado_National_Park_Osa_Peninsula_Province_of_Puntarenas.html
  • Ligia Morera (Personal Notes and Pictures, Trip Februrary 2018)

 

Tips for visiting Juan Castro Blanco National Park: The Park of Waters



Juan Castro Blanco is not too far from our hometown (San Ramón). It was the last National Park created in Costa Rica in 1992 with a total extension of 35715 acres (equivalent 14453 Ha). It’s considered part of the Arenal Conservation Area.

The park was set up in order to conserve a tract of primary and secondary forest that protects a series of important of water sources.
I remember that I visited the park when I was in elementary school as part of field trip we were learning of the importance of water as a “renewable resource.” I didn’t understand at that time the importance of the creation of this national park.
Understanding now that only 3 percent of the Earth’s water is freshwater, and only one-third of that amount is usable for drinking water, I am glad to hear about the fights of the neighbors and locals to protect this important water resource for our country.

Pozo Verde – Our day at Juan Castro Blanco National Park:

Getting there

We left San Ramón at 7:00 am and took the same route we would take to Arenal National Park. We passed Zarcero (the picturesque town with cypress trees with shapes), we stopped for our breakfast and kept driving to a town called Sucre. Here, we went to the right and started on a route surrounded by cows and farms going up for about 30 minutes until we got to the majestic mountain. We recommend 4×4 cars, especially if you are going in the rainy season. There is no bus to get there.

Location

San Jose de la Montana, San Carlos, Costa Rica

Facilities

They have a visitor center (pretty nice and new) but not rangers yet. You can use the restrooms. There seems that they have a parking lot next to the entrance but it is only for 4-wheel-drive cars, others just park on the side of the route. There is also a map that shows you the trails, and that’s it pretty much.

Trails

There are 3 trails. One says it will take you to the mines (35 km), but we didn’t pick that one because they highly recommend that you have to hire a tour guide and there is no trail literally the mountain close more and more you will need a machete to get there haha, no but really we don’t recommend without a guide.
The trail we took begins by passing the bridge on the left. It is quite broad and easy to follow. In total, we walked about 3 km without much slope in a cloud forest similar to Monteverde, then we passed between mystical pastures with mossy stones and small springs of crystalline water.

Difficulty of the hike

Easy

Pozo Verde

We found a sign and took the left side of the trail and found the emerald-colored lagoon. The sunny day with the green-emerald lagoon and a huge mountain in the back made it inevitable to think that nature is awesome.
My friend Gina and I were dominated by our mermaid instinct to jump into the water. It wasn’t the best idea because the water on the edges is muddy and stinky. (You need to be careful make sure you are a good swimmer because you will be in the middle of the mountains).

In the center of the lagoon, the blue color was stunning. If the water wasn’t so cold I would have stayed the whole day there.
After our swim, we ate our snacks. We changed into dry clothes and started our way back. We explored a little of the other trail even though it was not recommended to do it by yourself. The journey back took us like 2 hours.

We finished by 2:00 pm and came back to civilization.  Left the national park and had our late lunch in Zarcero because there aren’t many places to eat in the surrounding area.
It recommends doing this hike if your are planning to visit the Arenal Volcano area, because this can be a half day tour.

Pozo Verde Lagoon

Pozo Verde from the air – Magic Lagoon

Video

What to bring

Sportswear, hiking boots I made with tennis shoes but some parts are muddy and slippery, snacks to do a picnic on the grass, bug repellent. During the rainy season, a rain jacket and boots will be good.
*Optional: swimwear

Interesting Fact

Fewer than 1000 tourists visit the park per year. The park focuses more on conservation and research and they don´t even charge us. However, they are accepting donations for investigations and volunteer labor through a Cooperative Association led by the locals.The families in the surrounding areas are part of a network for rural tourism experience.

If you would like to have an experience like the one described above in nontouristy places or less crowded national parks, let us know the area is not that developed in tourist facilities but there are few options that you can stay or stop for lunch. We will be happy to help you to get there or even find more information for you as locals.