Looking for some accommodation, tips and an idea of the costs when visiting Corcovado National Park, located in one of the most remote areas of Costa Rica? Then read this blog to get the most out of your trip to the end of the world.
For some inspiration on Corcovado National Park itself, read my blog Visit exquisite Corcovado, the end of the world;
#1 How to get to Corcovado?
Corcovado is one of the most remote areas of Costa Rica. So it’s quite an adventure to get there.
Sierpe boat dock
The easiest way is by plane from for example San Jose to Drake Bay or from Puerto Puerto Jiménez straight into the small airfield of Sirena Ranger Station. It’s also the most expensive one.
Most of the tourists stay in Puerto Jiménez or in Drake Bay alias Bahia Drake on the Osa Peninsula and leave from there by boat. In the dry season, you can reach both remote villages by car. In the rainy season however, Drake Bay is not reachable by car, too much rivers with high water levels to cross.
So we did as most tourists and took a small boat. We embarked at Sierpe, south of Uvita. Just drive into the small village until you reach the restaurant Donde Jorge, near the tiny port, where you can not only buy tickets for the boat but also for the car parking. And eat something if you wish.
The motorboats are pretty small, just big enough to carry about 20 persons and all the luggage.
The boat trip takes about one hour and is pretty adventurous. The views over the river are less impressive then the ones at Tortuguero but still it’s worth it. You go along mangroves and the ride can get very rough at the river mouth entering the ocean. At the time of our visit, it was windy with rough tides so we met big waves. From there on, the views from the ocean on the enormous and vast rain forest for miles and miles are pretty impressive.
There is a guarded parking near the boat dock. You cannot make reservations upfront. So when you arrive, drive up to the Donde Jorge restaurant and the people there will show you the parking spot. You get a place to park and a ticket, which you keep until your return. You pay upon return. The parking costs around 6 USD per night.
Sierpe to Drake Bay boat schedule and vice versa
There are two public taxi boat departures per day for Drake Bay, i.e. at 11.30 am and 3.30 pm. From Drake Bay to Sierpe, the boats leave around 7.15 am 2.15 pm.
Although you cannot make reservations upfront, we informed our accommodation of our arrival time and they also helped us with tickets for the return.
When you arrive at the restaurant, you tell the captains the hotel you are staying. They then indicate you a boat. It seems they are grouping tourists from several hotels together. Your luggage is loaded on the boat. You can keep a backpack with you.
The ticket costs 20 US per person one way. You pay on the boat in dollars or colones.
Make sure you are on time. At the time of our visit, there were not a lot of tourists, only about 5 boats leaving at the same time. In the village and the national park too, there were not a lot of tourists either. May have to do with the time of our visit, in the midst of the rainy season. We heard it can be very busy in the high season though. So make sure you are on time, go there at least one our before the public boat leaves, buy the tickets and then get onto the boat.
Should you miss the boat, you can still try to get a private one at the restaurant. Depending on the number of people you are with, this might be more expensive then the public boats.
In Drake Bay nor in Corcovado National Park, there is no platform to get off the boat. You go for a wet landing.The boat just stops in the sea, meaning you have to slip off your shoes and step into the water. The boatmen carry your luggage onto the beach.
# 2 Drake Bay & accommodation
It’s not easy to reach Corcovado. Most of the tourists stay in Puerto Jiménez or in Drake Bay alias Bahia Drake on the Osa Peninsula.
We choose to stay in Drake Bay, a very isolated village about 18 miles at the outset of the enormous Corcovado National Park. It’s in the middle of nowhere, with unpaved roads. You can get around easily on foot. There are a few supermarkets, quite some restaurants, a lot of accommodation and some houses. You have some splendid views on the coast and beach.
In Drake Bay, we stayed at Sunset Lodge, an excellent choice for several reasons.
- This accommodation offered a big, comfortable and spacious house for 6. We had ample of room with a pleasant outside terrace and hammocks. The house is surrounded by a small garden with plenty of wildlife. Other accommodations include smaller bungalows higher up offering splendid view over the bay. There is even one bungalow for 4 with a private swimming pool. We choose to stay in the bigger house.
- It’s a 10 minutes walk to the beach. The ad warns for steep steps, but this is OK.
- It’s only 5 minutes from the supermarket, 2 km from the center of Drake Bay and 15 minutes from the Drake Trail.
- The lodges are owned by a local family.The staff is very friendly and helpful. They picked us up at our arrival and also brought us back when we returned.
#3 An idea of the cost
Visiting Corcovado is expensive. You only get to Bahia Drake by boat. On top, you need to book a tour with an official tour operator before even getting into the park.
Boat trip: 20 USD per person one way
Guided hike (one day, boat trip and entrance ticket included): 120 USD per person per day
Tour with an overnight stay in Sirena Ranger Station: up to 345 USD or even more per person for 2 days
Restaurant: between 10 and 15 UDS per dish
Sunset lodge: 420 USD for 3 nights (in a self-catered house for 6)
- Bring cash, dollars or colones. There are no ATM in Drake Bay and quite some hotels don’t accept credit cards. So make sure you calculate upfront how much money you need, since even on an ATM machine, cash withdrawals can be limited.
- Chose a hotel in the center of the village. Everything is within walking distance.
- Make sure you bring rainwear. Corcovado can be very wet. We brought rain jackets, trousers, waterproof smartphone bags and, in general, waterproof bags. These are a must to protect your cameras, also on the boat trip. Buy decent stuff. You don’t want your camera ruined by a bag which doesn’t seem to be waterproof.
- Reserve your trip to Corcovado National Park upfront. Your accommodation can help you with chosing a tour. You cannot enter the park without an official guide. Entrance is limited. There are various tour operators and trips, ranging from a half day to a full day. We choose heading towards Sirena Station, since on this trips, you seem to be able to see most animals.
- Make sure you are on time at the boat dock in Sierpe. At the time of our visit end of July, there were few tourist but we heard that might be different in the high season. So be at least 1 hour before your boat leaves at the dock so you still can get tickets for the public boats. Alternatively, there might be private boats which might be more costly.
- Take some spare clothes in a waterproof bag. The boat trip can be pretty rough – I was already soaked before arriving to the park – and when you arrive at Drake Bay or Corcovado beach, there is no platform. You step from the boat into the sea on your foot, shoes in your hand. In Corcovado, at the beach just before entering the park, there is water to clean your feet and put on your hiking shoes. You can also leave your bag behind, without any valuables of course.
- Bring sufficient water, head protection and insect repellent on a clear and sunny day. We visited on a cloudy day, which was perfect for a walk.
- Near Corcovado, there are also excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities (Cano island). We didn’t go since it had been raining very hard and we weren’t sure whether the water would be sufficient clear.
- It’s very expensive to rent a private boat in Drake Bay. We envisaged hiking the Drake Bay Trail one way and then heading back by boat. It would cost us about 400 USD …