Costa Rica – 15 days – first proposal

Monteverde, Arenal, Guanacaste’s Gold Coast, Manuel Antonio & The Osa Peninsula

Day 1: Arrival

Fly into San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). Explore downtown San Jose and spend the evening relaxing at your hotel.

Day 2: Lava Tour & Hot Springs

A morning shuttle will deliver you to your ecolodge in La Fortuna, a town located at the base of Arenal Volcano. Costa Rica welcomes you with an exciting lava tour and an evening of relaxation in volcano-fed hot springs.

Day 3: Arenal Volcano & Adventure

Explore Arenal Volcano National Park on horseback or with your own two feet – you’ll find new-growth rainforest, volcano views and inquisitive wildlife around every corner. If you’re looking to up the adrenaline, take an optional waterfall rappelling or whitewater rafting tour.

Day 4: Scenic Boat Ride & Night Tour

Take a Jeep-Boat-Jeep transfer to the cloud forest town of Monteverde. En route, you’ll enjoy a peaceful and scenic boat ride on Lake Arenal. Get settled at your mountain lodge and explore the town in the afternoon. After the sun sets, visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for an informative and exciting night tour.

Day 5: Cloud Forest Hike & Canopy Tour

Take a morning hike through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve; keep your eyes peeled for resplendent quetzals, dangling forest epiphytes, and tiny tree frogs. Later, soar like a bird on a thrilling canopy tour – Monteverde has some of the most exciting ziplines in Costa Rica.

Day 6: Gold Coast Beaches

Transfer in an air-conditioned shuttle to your ocean view hotel on Guanacaste’s Gold Coast. Relax and enjoy Costa Rica’s Pacific – stroll down stunning Playa Conchal, where pink sand meets turquoise ocean, or make plans to visit Playa Grande’s nesting leatherback sea turtles (October-February).

Day 7-8: Beachside Relaxing & Optional Tours

These days are yours to be as active or relaxed as you choose. Learn to surf, explore the ocean depths while snorkeling or scuba diving, catch your lunch on a deep-sea fishing trip, or just enjoy the warm sun and sand between your toes. Unwind with a spa treatment tailored to your needs.

Day 9: Relaxation & A Sunset Sail

Depart for your jungle beach lodge in Manuel Antonio, where you’ll be treated to oceanfront rainforest, gentle waves and amazing wildlife watching. Splash around in the warm ocean, take a horseback ride to nearby waterfalls, or spend the afternoon enjoying the sun. Just before dusk, you’ll board a romantic sunset sail for a front-row seat to the night’s main attraction: brilliant colors light up the sky, the breeze is warm, and if you keep your eyes trained on the horizon, you may glimpse whales or dolphins.

Day 10-11: Exploration & Adventure

Spend these days exploring your surroundings – the Pacific Ocean and beach offer kayaking, sport fishing, mangrove tours, surfing, jet skiing, snorkeling, and hours of lounging with the sand between your toes. On terra firma, try an exhilarating ATV tour, mountain biking or one of Manuel Antonio’s first-class spas. Be sure to plan a hike to Manuel Antonio National Park, where a trained guide will help you spot white-faced monkeys, sloths, coatimundis and other forest dwellers.

Day 12: Nature & Wildlife

Transfer to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, one of the world’s most biologically diverse places. Take a self-guided hike around your jungle ecolodge – marked trails and helpful hotel staff will point out all the best places to find sloths, monkeys, birds and other wildlife. In the evening, head out on the area’s most popular night hike. From 7:30-10:00 p.m., you and your flashlight will illuminate tree frogs, bats, jumping spiders and other creepy crawlers.

Day 13-14: Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula offers an array of activities for any visitor, and you will be amazed at the options offered. Drake Bay is known for excellent dolphin and whale watching, sport fishing, and bird and wildlife watching. You can’t miss a hike to Corcovado National Park’s Sirena Station, where Baird’s tapir, ocelots, and other endangered wildlife are frequently spotted. Surfing and sunbathing are Osa Peninsula highlights, as well. Choose your favorites, and enjoy yourself!

Day 15: Departure

Fly back to San Jose, where you’ll catch your return flight home or spend the night in the city.

Location: The Osa Peninsula; 208 miles from San Jose;  less than 9° north of the equator in Costa Rica

See South Pacific Tourism Region 

Size: 104,900 acres; 1/3 of the Peninsula de Osa 

Date of Creation: October 1975 

Elevations: from sea level to 2,444 feet 

Part of: Osa Conservation Area

Explore Corcovado National Park on our travel blog

About:

Corcovado National Park is one of the few places in the world that truly merits the phrase teeming with wildlife. National geographic named it “the most biologically intense place on Earth” with good reason. Its proximity to the equator, and the fact that it makes up part of an isthmus that connects North and South America, create ideal circumstances for over 13 types of forest to thrive – along with the dizzying array of wildlife inhabiting them.

The sheer amount of wildlife inhabiting the park is astounding. Scarlet macaws and toucans fly lazily overhead, while poison dart frogs hop underfoot – all the while, monkeys nonchalantly bask in trees, tapirs graze in nearby swamps, and crocodiles perch in wait of their next meal.

This environmental marvel has a tumultuous history. Great quantities of gold were discovered in Corcovado in the 1930’s, leading to a gold rush that was detrimental to local wildlife. The area was doubly endangered due to the logging industry and its resulting deforestation. Thankfully, then President Daniel Oduber declared the area a protected zone in 1975. While this immensely improved conditions, illegal activities were not truly quashed until the 1980’s – when the government completely banned the practice of gold panning in Corcovado. Citizens began to realize that tourism’s long-term economic gains would be more sustainable than the timber and precious metals industries.

The majority of the lowland tropical rainforest that comprises Corcovado National Park is original, or primary, forest – the type of habitat that many endangered species, like spider monkeys and jaguars, require.  Baird’s tapir, white-lipped peccaries and four kinds of wildcats are also dependent upon these undisturbed lands for their survival.

Hiking or camping at Corcovado requires careful planning and an adventurous spirit – as well as a desire for– or at least not an aversion to–closely observing a variety of insects and serpents, including venomous snakes. Day and camping passes can normally be obtained without prior reservations, but advanced notice is required in order to lodge at Sirena.

All of Corcovado’s ranger stations are extremely isolated, and some more difficult to reach than others. No roads connect the park to the rest of the country; instead, Corcovado is best accessed by air, boat, horseback, or on foot (a hike that can take up to fifteen hours). Trails range from one and two-hour day hikes to lengthy overnight trips.

Activites:

Bird and Wildlife Watching: At least 367 species of birds, 140 mammals, 107 reptiles and amphibians, and 40 freshwater fish inhabit the zone. This list includes four types of venomous snake, all four species of monkey found in Costa Rica, and about 40 jaguars – a critically endangered cat. The park boasts significant populations of rare and endangered species like the Baird’s tapir, white-lipped peccaries, and at least four species of wildcat.  It is home to the largest numbers of scarlet macaws and great curassows in Central America, and is one of only two areas in Costa Rica where squirrel monkeys prosper. Additionally, four species of sea turtle (Olive Ridley, leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtle) nest on its shores.

Birding in Corcovado is an especially rich experience. Species such as the turquoise cotinga, white-crested coquette, red-throated caracara, slaty-tailed trogon and the harpy eagle all call the area their home.  Other species include the king vulture, white hawk, short-billed pigeon, tovi parakeet and bronze-tailed sicklebill.

Over 300 types of trees can be found in Corcovado – this represents about one-third of the total tree species in the entire country. Some of the larger trees include the purple heart, cow tree, espave and crabwood.

Canoeing: Canoes can be rented for $20 per day at the Sirena ranger station. Availability is scarce.

Hiking: Corcovado’s main attractions are its beautiful hiking trails – the deeper into the park, the greater the chance of observing wildlife. While terrain is generally flat around the beach areas, inland areas can get quite hilly. Narrow ridges and steep ravines characterize the rugged uplands, which ascend from isolated shores and estuaries.Heavy rains from April to December can making visiting the park – let alone hiking it – difficult to impossible. The rainiest months are September, October, and November.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: Visitors can snorkel and scuba dive off of many of Corcovado’s beaches, but it is not recommended. Strong currents and marine predators, like sharks and crocodiles, inhabit the park’s waters and estuaries. Sirena station is particularly dangerous. Visitors must not swim here, and great care should be taken at river crossings. Bull sharks are abnormally aggressive in this area, and currents are especially strong.

Facilities:

There are four main ranger stations within Corcovado National Park. Click on the links to get detailed information about each ranger station.

•    Sirena

•    San Pedrillo

•    La Leona

•    Los Patos

The park’s headquarters are located at Sirena, which is equipped with an airstrip, research station, and dormitory lodging. Camping is permitted in designated areas of all of the park’s ranger stations.  Facilities include potable water and latrines. Tents and sheets are not provided.

Fees and Schedule:

Schedule: Ranger Stations are open year round, although some trails may be closed during the rainy season (April 15-December 15). Official hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Note: The Sirena Ranger Station is closed every October.

Daily Entrance Fee: $10 per person per day for visitors, $3 per person per day for Costa Rican nationals.

Camping: $4 per person, per night for tent campers; $8 per person, per night for a dorm bed at Sirena. Visitors are allowed four consecutive nights in the park, although extensions can be granted under certain circumstances – it never hurts to ask the park ranger. Reservations are recommended (but not required) at all stations except for Sirena, where advanced permits are obligatory.

Getting There:

Arrival to Corcovado National Park can be accomplished on foot, on horseback, by boat, or by plane. All stations can be hiked to with enough energy, planning and patience. 

Los Patos can be reached on horseback. Take the bus from Puerto Jimenez the town of La Palma, and from here grab a taxi to Guadalupe. Horses can be rented in order to complete the trek to Los Patos. 

Boats can be hired from Drake Bay to San Pedrillo and Sirena stations.

Bus: From Puerto Jimenez, a bus stops just outside the town of Carate. It is a 40-minute walk from here to La Leona station.

Plane: Chartered flights leave from Golfito, Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, and San Jose to the airstrip at the Sirena station.

Recommendations:

1) The dry months of January through April are the best times to visit. Be prepared for rain year-round; bring several changes of socks, quick-dry clothing, comfortable and durable walking shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and sunglasses.  Refillable water bottles and snacks that will not melt are also recommended.

2)  Make reservations with plenty of advanced notice.

3)  Hire a guide! A world of wildlife can be revealed by a knowledgeable pathfinder. They also ensure safety when navigating from one ranger station to another.

4)  Be careful.  There are no facilities along the trails, particularly the long ones – if someone becomes sick or injured, getting out safely can be a challenge.

5)  Check the tides. Crossing rivers at high tide is dangerous. Crocodiles, bull sharks and strong currents are very real hazards. Time crossings carefully and consult park officials for schedules.

6)  Bring plenty of water – Corcovado is hot and humid.

7) Purchase food and other necessary supplies ahead of time in Puerto Jimenez or Drake.

Contact info:

ACOSA: Osa Conservation Area

Tel: 2735-5036 or 2735-5580

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In 1988, Costa Rica was divided up into 11 different conservation areas, collectively known as SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion).  These 11 conservation areas are responsible for the management of the public lands of Costa Rica and are under the department of  MINAE (Ministerio de Ambiental y Energia).

The 11 Conservation Areas:

.    Arenal – Huetar North Arenal Tilaran Area Central Volcanic Area Guanacaste Area Caribbean La Amistad Area Pacific La Amistad Cocos Island Marine Area Central Pacific Area Osa Conservation Area Tempisque Area Tortuguero Area

MINAE is responsible for managing the biodiversity of Costa Rica while SINAC is responsible for the conservation and sustainable use of these areas.

“In the past, local communities were never consulted about changes greatly affecting their lives, such as prohibiting their use of a resource (hunting, firewood extraction, etc.). This resulted in misunderstandings and hostility towards conservation efforts.” (RAMSAR, Managing Beyond the Borders)

In a new approach to Costa Rican wildland management, SINAC is implementing a decentralized management approach.  Instead of management emerging from one central governmental agency, agencies in each of the eleven locals are now controlling the management of their respective wildlands. Active participation by the surrounding communities is now integral to the success of conservation and sustainable use of these natural areas.

“SINAC promotes participation of all groups, public and private, national and international, who share the common objective of preservation, restoration and protection of ecological equilibrium and biodiversity. SINAC now functions as a technical organization decentralized from the central government and with a legal mandate which permits a great amount of flexibility in carrying out its mission.” (RAMSAR, Managing Beyond Borders)

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