Corcovado National Park
OSA PENINSULA, COSTA RICA
Corcovado National Park Ranger Stations
The locations of each of the ranger stations located inside Corcovado National Park is shown in red in the map below. Access points from the nearest towns are shown in blue. Click on the red marker and/or ranger station name inside the map to link directly to individual the ranger station descriptions, or click on the links given below:
San Pedrillo Ranger Station
San Pedrillo Ranger Station is located on the Pacific Coast at the far northwestern border of Corcovado National Park. San Pedrillo is located 17 km southwest of the town of Agujitas, often referred to colloquially as Drake. Access is by either horseback or foot along the coastal trail that links Agujitas with San Pedrillo. Unlike many parts of the Corcovado coastline that are difficult to reach by boat because of high surf, boats are able to reach San Pedrillo without problem, and there is daily boat traffic carrying guided tours from Drake area lodges and San Pedrillo both in the morning and afternoon.
The San Pedrillo Ranger Station is open only during the dry summer months. It closes in mid-April and does not re-open until mid November. Still, one-day tours of the area are still permitted during this time frame. Check with park authorities or local tour providers since opening and closing dates are not fixed and vary according to weather and circumstances.
The San Pedrillo Ranger Station no longer offers camping facilities to the public. There is no lodging capacity beyond what is required for park staff stationed at the San Pedrillo, and there is no food service to the public. Moreover the San Pedrillo - Sirena trail has been closed to the public. Therefore the San Pedrillo park entrance is restricted to public use for day trips to the area and not for overnight stays.
The rangers at the San Pedrillo ranger station will inspect the permits and passes of all visitors. Day visitors that reach the park without prior arrangements may not, unlike in former times, pay in cash cash the daily use fee of $10 for foreigners. All visitors to San Pedrillo MUST have prepaid permits in hand. These are included in the day tours that are sponsored by a variety of lodges and outfitters. Alternately, you can secure such permits here.
There are a number of trails in the San Pedrillo area, and full-day tours of this part of the park are a staple tour of Drake area lodges and independent guides and outfitters. Visitors are conveyed from the Agujitas public beach or from lodges to the park entrance early in the morning by motorboat. Guided tours extend to mid-afternoon, with pack lunches provided, and the same boats return in the afternoon to the originating lodges. Mostly, individual lodges have their own tour guides and boats, and normally, visitors seeking a day trip to the park that are not staying at a lodge can reserve such expeditions here. The 2013 fee for the full-day San Pedrillo area Corcovado guided tour is $85 at nearly all the lodges.
The San Pedrillo staff ranges from 2-4, where job duties in addition to providing support for visiting guests, includes protection of the forest and enforcement of laws against hunting, collecting wildlife, mining gold, and similar forbidden activities.
Average monthly rainfall, San Pedrillo Ranger Station, Corcovado National Park, 2004-2008; average annual San Pedrillo rainfall: 1864 mm; 56.8 in
Los Patos Ranger Station
Los Patos Ranger Station is located near the eastern boundary of Corcovado National Park. Formerly a station inside the park bounderies that occupied a highland position along a ridge between the Rincon and Pavon River drainages, the ranger station was moved in 2010 to a lowland location just outside the park boundary for use as a park ranger station only. There are no longer camping or public support facilities, merely administrative and park ranger lodging and field office. Visitors entering through the Los Patos entry must check in at this station and present their permits before proceeding to the trailhead. Most visitor arrive by private taxi transport. It is also possible to take horses from Guadalupe, an inexpensive taxi ride five km from La Palma. Park rangers advise that guides be taken for visitors hiking in from Los Patos. During the rainy season, this recommendation is typically made a requirement. Also, the 20 km hike from Los Patos to Sirena is long enough that park rangers will not allow hikers arriving later than ten a.m. to proceed. Guided parties may be granted until eleven a.m., though this remains at Park Ranger discretion. The best plan is to get an early start and be at the trailhead by eight a.m. and no later than nine to have adequate time for the hike and not risk running out of daylight.
The Park staff stationed at Los Patos includes administrative staff to support guests and check permits and passes as well as law enforcement personnel to control illegal hunting, logging, drug trafficking, poaching, and other proscribed activities.
The ecosystem comprising the Los Patos Ranger station is montane tropical and cloud forest, but the region is mostly secondary forest and does not boast the amount of wildlife that is to be seen at the other three ranger stations, particularly at Sirena. A number of trails exist around the old ranger station that permit visitors to explore the vicinity. These trails are no longer maintained however, and no local hiking should be undertaken without an experienced guide. In addition to wilderness viewing and hiking, there is a nearby waterfall and streams to swim in. The nearby Guaymi Indian Reservation offers those with additional interest a side excursion to visit the Ngobe Nation, where visitors will have the opportunity to purchase hand-made crafts made from forest materials, including woven purses and bags ans well as beaded jewelry and hand-carved forest animals, figurines, and masks. There is a $5 daily use fee that must be paid at the Ngobe village to the headman or to his representative.
All visitors to the Los Patos sector must have prepaid advance reservations to gain entry into Corcovado. There are no exceptions to this, so all visitors should ensure that they have permits in advance, whether for day visits or multiple day excursions.
Average monthly rainfall, Los Patos Ranger Station, Corcovado National Park, 2004-2008; average annual Los Patos rainfall: 1945 mm; 59.3 in
La Leona Ranger Station
La Leona Ranger Station is located on the Pacific coastline on the far southern boundary of Corcovado National Park. It is located on the northwest bank of the Quebrada Leona on a beach terrace looking out over the Pacific Ocean. La Leona Ranger Station can be reached by walking along the beach three kilometers beyond the Carate. Just before reaching the stream that forms the park boundary, visitors will first pass the now defunct Corcovado Lodge, and the very comfortable and pleasant La Leona Lodge, a comfortable and well-equipped ecolodge featuring lodging in well-anointed tent platforms with a full range of amenities looking out over this primal stretch of savage coastline. The same beach trail connects La Leona Ranger Station with Sirena Ranger station, located 17 kilometers to the northwest in what is also a beach trail with only a very small portion of the trail that periodically diverges from the beach to enter the forest in some stretches.
La Leona Ranger Station is open year round but no longer offers camping. There are no dormitory lodging options and no publicly supplied meals. Potable water is available free of charge to refill water bottles.
The small contingent of park officials stationed at La Leona provide administrative support to park visitors and law enforcement. Full time staff normally range from 3-5 park rangers and support staff.
There are no real trails around the La Leona ranger station, though it is certainly possible to hike the Leona Creek watershed upland and into the forest in order to get away from the beach environment to explore forest habitat. Also, there is a private trail network on the grounds of La Leona Lodge across the creek that is available for exploration for those staying there or if you have lunch or ask nicely.
Because of its proximity to Carate and reasonable accessibility from Puerto Jimenez, it is possible to do single-day exploration of the La Leona region. For those traveling from Puerto Jimenez, I do not recommend this highly as the drive is two hours one way, and the walk to the park entrance is another forty minutes. Since hikers must be back in Carate by 3:00 p.m. to catch the afternoon colectivo, this leaves only two-three hours in which to explore the park, arguably insufficient for such a spectacular place. For those visitors that wish to explore the La Leona region with greater leisure, I suggest overnighting 1-2 nights at La Leona Lodge or at one of the Carate eco-lodges, like the Lookout Inn, Finca Exotica, and Luna Lodge to provide a full day of hiking without having to worry about transport schedules.
Visitors arriving at La Leona for either day visits or multiple day expeditions must have prepaid permits in hand in order to proceed. It is not possible to gain entrance at La Leona--or any park station--without having these permits in hand. Permits must be produced for the rangers at La Leona Ranger Station upon arrival.
Average monthly rainfall, La Leona Ranger Station, Corcovado National Park, 2004-2008; average annual La Leona rainfall: 1441 mm; 43.9 in
Sirena Ranger Station
Sirena Ranger Station is the headquarters of Corcovado National Park. It has extensive facilities for the support of academic research, park improvement and protection activities, and for camping, overnight dorm-style lodging, and hot meals prepared by Park staff. Sirena is is served by both charter air and boat access. It is connected to all the other ranger stations by maintained trails. There are also a number of wildlife loop trails that are maintained in the Sirena area that provide a variety of options of day excursions for visitors overnighting at Sirena. It has an extensive support staff and shifting populations of resident and visiting academic researchers. Sirena Ranger Station is located within the Corcovado Basin and boasts an unparalleled abundance of wildlife of all types. The wildlife in the area is accustomed to human visitors and has for the most part lost its instinctive fear of man. For this reason it is possible to view unusual animals from very close range. Unquestionably, Sirena Ranger Station is the best destination in all of Corcovado for maximizing wildlife viewing. Below are descriptions of facilities that are hoped to provide prospective visitors with a full appreciation of what they may expect so that the best decisions can be made about whether to include this destination in travel plans and if so what to expect and what to bring to ensure that your stay is comfortable and enjoyable.
Dorm Lodging. Sirena is the only ranger station that offers overnight lodging in dorm style accommodations for up to 20 dormitory guests. Each bunkroom has two bunk beds plus an additional single bed. Each two to three rooms shares a common restroom which includes a shower, sink, and toilet. Groups are berthed together in individual rooms and are not expected to share rooms with other groups unless by advance request. The bunk rooms are Spartan, containing only bunk beds and mattresses. Rooms have screened windows, but the beds do not include either sheets or mosquito netting, so visitors should bring their own sheets or hire guides, who maintain equipment in lockers on site. Since insect repellant is highly recommended especially around dusk and during certain stages of the moon, visitors may opt to forego the mosquito net and rely exclusively on bug dope. In my overnight stays, I have never found mosquitoes or sand fleas to be a nuisance, and that is without using repellant, but I think that I am not as popular with mosquitoes as more tender and succulent people. The dorm capacity at Sirena Ranger Station is 20 individual beds divided among five rooms. Preference is always given to academic and governmental researchers and to MINAET employees and volunteers during park initiatives over visiting guests, so often dorm lodging is not available at short notice. To ensure availability it is always necessary to reserve in advance. Formerly reservations were not accepted more than 30 days prior to anticipated arrival, but that rule has been changed and permits can be purchased for the calendar year as far in advance as possible, though permits for the new year become available only starting December of the year in course. Dorm lodging carries a fee of $8 per person per night. To secure permits, click here.
Camping. Camping at Sirena Ranger Station is restricted to a maximum number of forty campers at any one time. There is a covered platform that is dedicated to campers; foam pads are no longer provided to soften the floor a bit, so camping visitors should bring a sleeping pad. There is an expansive lawn in front of the Sirena ranger station facility, and campers are welcome to pitch their tents on the lawn if they prefer this to the covered camping area. Common restroom / shower / hand-laundering / food preparation facilities are provided for both the covered camping platform as well as the lawn camping area. For hot meals, priority is given to MINAE staff, visiting researchers, and visitors that are staying in dorm housing. If the meal capacity is not exhausted by these groups at the time reservations are secured for camping, then prepared meals can be reserved and purchased in advance. However, the food preparation area beside the tent platform is roomy with many sinks and surfaces and cooking areas for the use of camp stoves and is actually very convenient for those campers prepared to cook their own meals. Camping is $4 per night per person. To secure permits, click here.
Hot Meals. Sirena Ranger Station has a fully equipped kitchen and staff that is responsible for the preparation of three meals per day for the MINAE employees stationed at the park, visiting researchers, and the visiting public. However, the kitchen has a capacity of around 30 persons, so meal service at Sirena is first come, first served. Beyond employees, meal priorities are extended first to researchers, then to dorm lodgers, and finally to campers and day visitors arriving by boat from Drake or that fly in from Jimenez on a charter flight. Meals are typical Costa Rican casados for lunch and dinner and gallo pinto. Portions are hearty, and the fare is simple but quite satisfying. Meals are served with cold water and cold fruit drinks made from dried mixes (like Tang, only not meant for astronauts) as well as coffee. Lunch and dinner typically includes: rice, bean, salad, some type of meat, fried bananas, and a fricassee palmito or potato dish or else stir fried mixed vegetables. Breakfast includes gallo pinto with eggs, cheese or ham, two types of fruit, toast and fried sweet bananas. Meal prices for foreigners are as follows: breakfast: $20; lunch: $25; dinner: $2025 Costa Rican nationals pay around half this amount. Meals must be reserved and purchased in advance as meal preparation at Sirena is based upon the number of pre-ordered meals. There is no provision for food sales outside of this structure. To secure permits, click here.
Laundry, Showers, and Water. The Sirena infrastructure includes extensive facilities for hand-washing laundry, and there are a large number of showers. Perhaps at peak occupancy the facilities become congested, but commonly there is plenty of room and sinks and showers for everybody to take care of their laundering and showering requirements without having to stand in line or wait. The water at the facility is all potable, so water bottles can be filled without concern for filtration or supplemental water purification tablets.
Electricity. Sirena Ranger Station has both an array of solar panels as well as a generator. Power is turned on facility wide from 5:30 to around 8:30 in the evening to provide guests with access to lighting in the early evening hours. After lights out, visitors must rely on their own flashlights and lighting facilities for reading or getting ready for bed. No electrical outlets are provided for small appliances or the charging of batteries, so visitors should bring fully charged cameras and other tech gadgets and spare batteries for flashlights.
Communications. Sirena Ranger Station does enjoy cell phone communications with the outside world, thanks to an antenna that provides signal to a portion of Costa Rica that is not covered by existing cell tower coverage. This telephone is for the use of the administrative staff only and is not available to the public. It is available in case of emergencies, and there is case-by-case flexibility to allow communications for guests faced with changes in their circumstances. Plan to be incommunicado while in the park and resist the temptation to request access to the telephone facilities in anything other than an emergency.
Alcohol. Alcohol is not permitted at Sirena Ranger Station or anywhere in Corcovado National Park
Cold Drinks. Formerly, ice cold soft drinks were available for sale at Sirena. That practice has since been phased out, so prepare yourself in advance for this slight deprivation. This fact makes the cold fruit punches and water served at meal times all the more appealing.
Roughing It. Sirena Ranger Station is actually a fully equipped and reasonably comfortable destination. However, it is not a lodge and does not cater to its guests. Visitors must be prepared for the facilities that exist. For those that are accustomed to greater creature comforts, it is very important to ask yourself up front if you want to subject yourself to the challenges that Corcovado hiking and a stay at Sirena may imply. However, for those that realize that Sirena is not a lodge but a spectacular overnight station in the middle of one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife and biodiversity on the planet, then your visit may be accordingly enjoyed in the context of what you are doing. In truth, Sirena has everything needed to be comfortable: shelter, food, clean water, rest rooms, laundering, bathing, and cooking facilities, as well as staff that are well-versed in local wildlife and conditions and are eager to provide support and information about the park and the vicinity. Finally, since it has both cell communications with the outside world and is served by boat access and a landing strip, it is well-equipped to respond to a medical emergency or simply to accommodate the needs of those that decide after hiking in that they would rather be transported out than to return to civilization on foot.
Average monthly rainfall, Sirena Ranger Station, Corcovado National Park, 2004-2008, average annual rainfall: 1854 mm; 54.5 in
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