Corcovado National Park is by far the most wild and densely forested part of Costa Rica. So wild, in fact, that in the last years they’ve prohibited tourists from entering without a guide due to so many having gotten lost. The area is immensely rich in wildlife, with exotic animals such as the puma, the jaguar, all four of Costa Rica’s monkey species, caimans and sloths (to name a few!) and It is home to many endangered, endemic and rare species.
Corcovado National Park covers the Osa Peninsula, in the south-west of Costa Rica, just near the border with Panama. There are two acces points to the park, Drake Bay and Puerto Jiménez, both only accessible by boat. Because it is so remote, getting into the park can be quite expensive. In order to enter a park, you must book a tour with a guide in either of these towns, which can cost around $100 a day.
For a low budget backpacker on a mission, spending a couple hundred dollars for two days in the park just wasn’t in my cards. So I went to Drake Bay, and found a way to see the area without paying to get into the park.
I stayed three nights, giving me two full days in Drake Bay in which I managed to see plenty of species of mammals, reptiles and insects. Admittedly it probably wasn’t as profound an experience as it could have been with a guide, but after having spent a decent amount of time already in the Costa Rican jungle, it was enough for me. So instead of actually entering the park, I took my two days to explore the surrounding areas. The first day I walked along the coast, and on the second, I ventured into the jungle. All three nights I slept in at a local family’s house in a room adjacent room which they rented out for $30 a night.
DAY ONE – Along the Coast
The first day, we walked several miles along the coast. There is a trail at the end of the beach in Drake Bay which looks as if it belongs to a hotel. If you follow that trail past the hotel it will lead you along the coast where you will pass gorgeous coves and small beaches on your right, and densely forested jungle on your left. You could even go all the way to the national park if you wanted (though it is at least 14 km to the park boundary!). We walked for several hours, stopping to enjoy some of the beaches, and at one point taking a trail deeper into the jungle to see what we could find. All in all it was a perfect day.
Just a fair warning though, beware of the Capuchin (white faced) monkeys! A large family tends to hang out near the trail, and they have become incredibly aggressive and territorial. Rumor has it, school children tend to provoke them by throwing things at them. We found ourselves surrounded by them at one point, and as we were ooh-ing and ahh-ing at how adorable they were, two monkeys came charging at us hissing and showing us their teeth. We were forced to veer off the trail and pass them by walking on the beach! We were defeated by the most adorable animal on the planet.
DAY TWO – Up River
The second day, we headed in the same direction, however before crossing the suspension bridge, we took a trail which veered off to the left and followed the river a ways. When we lost sight of the trail, we went in the river and continued upstream, sometimes walking through the water, sometimes swimming, other times along the rocky banks. Just opening my ears to the sounds of this experience made it incredible; the birds, the monkeys, the breeze through the canopy, the silence. Butterflies would occasionally fly around my head as fish and turtles gathered around my ankles. I felt a deep sense of freedom and adventure.
By the end of day two we were disappointed not to see much more of the Osa peninsula. Thus began my mission to find a person willing enough to rent us their motorcycle or quad. This is a remote area, and what was very clear from the beginning was that motorcycles were very precious assets to the locals. However, I managed to convince an 18 year old that 40 bucks was more interesting than having his bike for a couple hours. Two hours before sunset, we set off to explore the peninsula.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know where we ended up, but in order to get there we had to drive through two rivers and over a suspension bridge. The journey was well worth the money, but the destination left a permanent stamp in my memory. The beach where we found ourselves was as most places are in Costa Rica… and authentic, breathtaking paradise.
The end 🙂