Corcovado National Park-Puerto Jimenez Travel Guide

Situated in the Golfo Dulce, on the Southern tip of Costa Rica, Puerto Jimenez is the largest town in the Peninsula de Osa, and it is considered the gateway to the one of the most renowned National Parks in the world, Corcovado National Park. Our Puerto Jimenez travel guide fills you in on what you need to know about this quiet little fishing town, which has become the hub for extreme hiking adventures in Costa Rica’s last frontier.

Overview

  • Area: Southern Pacific Coast 
  • Average Temperature: 71-93º F (22-34º C)
  • Closest Airport: : Puerto Jimenez (flight time from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez is 1 hour) Both Sansa Airlines and Nature Air have several daily flights to and from Puerto Jimenez
  • Can’t-Miss Attractions: Corcovado National Park, considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, Cabo Matapalo beautiful secluded beaches with excellent surfing conditions, Playa Carate remote and deserted a true paradise, chocolate tours
  • Hot Activities: Hiking through the jungle, kayaking in the Golfo Dulce waters, swimming, bird watching, dolphin and whale watching tours, sport fishing
  • Great for: Adventurers, wildlife lovers.

Peninsula de Osa gives you a chance to see nature at its best. For many, this is the last wild frontier in Costa Rica, relatively underdeveloped compared to other destinations in the country, it is fast becoming more and more of a tourist destination. So, if you are looking for that raw experience, you better hurry before this incredible hidden gem becomes known to the world.

Use this Puerto Jimenez travel guide to discover the perfect hub for travelers who wish to take a multi-day hiking tour of the Corcovado National Park. The town offers several rent-a-car offices, as well as tour operators which are experts in creating the perfect expedition for you. It also has a couple of well-stocked supermarkets for you to load up on provisions for your excursion and plenty of restaurants and hotels.

“National Geographic has described the Peninsula de Osa and the Corcovado National Park as the most biologically intense places on Earth, and for good reason, the Peninsula represents 0.001% of the Earth’s surface but it is home to 2.5% of its biodiversity”

One of the first things you will notice when you arrive in Puerto Jimenez is the screech of the scarlet macaws that live in and around the town. These majestic birds are usually seen in small flocks, and are simply spectacular to watch when they take flight; they have grown accustomed to living in close proximity to humans, making it possible to see them up close. During one of my trips, I was awoken by the loud calls of a macaw in the early morning. When I opened the curtains of my room, there were two macaws eating almonds from a tree in front of my room, they were less than 10 feet away and so beautiful they took my breath away.

Our Corcovado National Park and Puerto Jimenez travel guide takes you there – to the most unforgettable things to do, the can’t-miss attractions, and the best hotels, restaurants, and bars in the area.

What to do in Puerto Jimenez and Corcovado National Park

Hiking in Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is a special place for many reasons, one of which is that the park contains the largest continuous expanse of primary tropical rainforest north of the equator, the variety of forests within the park contribute to the immense biodiversity found here.

Hiking in this area can be a challenge because of the heat and humidity, but the payoff is worth every drop of sweat. As you walk the trails, you may hear strange noises and then all of a sudden you are in the presence of a beautiful wild animal, people have reported seeing monkeys, tons of birds from toucans and scarlet macaws to migrating birds; it’s likely you will run into a large family of coati’s (a cousin of the raccoon), and some lucky travelers have encountered pumas and the elusive tapir which can sometimes be seen walking along the deserted beaches. As of 2014, the park’s regulations stipulate that all visitors must be accompanied by a trained naturalist guide to enter the park, this is to prevent tourists from getting lost or injured during the hikes, as well as to preserve the resources of the park.

There are several park entrances and the hiking trails connect the four ranger stations. Some the trails loop around the ranger stations and are good for a one day hike, others lead to another ranger station and those are best done on a multi-day hiking tour. Not all of the trails are open to the public year-round and others have been closed to the public indefinitely, your guide will know which trails are open and suitable for hiking during the time of your visit.

 “The need for a guide is imperative when visiting the park, the area consists of rugged terrain, with hills and dense vegetation, making it easy to lose your way, there are also large predators like pumas, jaguars, and wild boars roaming freely in the park”

Camping and overnight lodging require a reservation and must be paid prior to your arrival, the reservations need to be made no more than a month in advance. You can make reservations directly through the park service by emailing them at pncorcovado@gmail.com or plan an expedition with one of the local tour operators, which is my recommendation.

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

By C. Horwitz, uploaded with help of husband Steven G. Johnson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

This wonderful place is a true labor of love, the people who run it, do so solely on their own resources and donations they receive. The animals that live here, arrived either because they were orphaned, injured or displaced from their natural habitats. The sanctuary’s main goal is to rehabilitate and release back into the wild as many animals as possible.Unfortunately for some, this is not an option and they become permanent residents.

The sanctuary is located on the other side of the Golfo Dulce, and is reached by boat, because of this, it is often combined with a mangrove forest tour, a dolphin and/or whale watching tour or even a snorkeling expedition.

Cabo Matapalo

Located on the southern tip of the Peninsula, it is only about 12.5 miles south of Puerto Jimenez, but the dirt road to reach it will make for a slow bumpy ride, it will take 45 minutes to get there on a 4×4.

Remote and secluded, the cape has several beaches to enjoy. Pan Dulce offers some great surfing opportunities, but it can be dangerous as there are rocks lining the bottom. Playa Carbonera is ideal for swimming, natural pools form during low tide and are great to just sit and relax. Playa Matapalo is the most secluded of the beaches in the area its waters are a clear turquoise and the scenery is breathtaking.

Then there is the spectacular King Louis Waterfall, here, water cascades down a 100-foot cliff, the hike to reach this attraction will bring you up close and personal with nature and the local wildlife, once here you can opt to go tree climbing or waterfall rappelling.

Carate

The little village of Carate is situated right next to the Corcovado National Park, this is the starting point of the hike to La Leona ranger station and many tourists prefer to stay in the village rather than camp out at the ranger station.

Playa Carate is a nesting place for several species of sea turtles including the Pacific Ridley, Leatherback, Green and Hawksbill sea turtles. It is also a great place to spot the migrating humpback, pilot and orca whales that come to mate in the warm waters of the Pacific.

You can reach this remote area either by land, with the help of a sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicle or by place as there is a small landing strip here.

Chocolate Tours

There are two organic cacao farms close to Puerto Jimenez, the closest one to town is Rancho Raices about 10 minutes outside of the town center, the other is Finca Kobo which is about 10 miles outside of Puerto Jimenez.

Both farms offer tours of the plantation and will show you the process of making chocolate from the pods. The best part is you get to taste the final product, a dream come true for all my fellow chocoholics.

Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours

The tranquil waters of the Golfo Dulce are a preferred hangout spot for humpback whales during the months of December to April and July through November. Whale Sharks can also be spotted during the months of April and May, whale sharks are one of the largest fish species in the world, and they travel in small pods which makes seeing them an even greater treat.

Dolphins, on the other hand, can be seen frolicking in the gulf year-round in huge pods, some of which may have 100 or more dolphins swimming alongside the boats.

Book a Tour in Puerto Jimenez

Puerto Jimenez Travel Guide to Bars and Restaurants

Puerto Jimenez offers a lot when it comes to food. As expected in any beach town, seafood is widely abundant but there are some Italian and international restaurants as well that are surprisingly good.

Marisqueria Corcovado — This open-air seafood restaurant overlooks the Golfo Dulce on the Boulervar de La Playa. They are famous for their ceviche and other seafood dishes. The restaurant offers free Wi-Fi which makes it a great place to hang out and upload all your pictures.

Pizzamail.It — For some reason, Puerto Jimenez has become a popular place for Italians to relocate, which is great if you enjoy Italian food. Pizza Mail is a little gem located close to the soccer field in town, their pizza is amazing! A thin crust baked in a wood fire oven and lots of different toppings to choose from, they also have several vegetarian options. Buon Appetito!

Perla de Osa — This is the restaurant of the Iguana Lodge—not located within the town. You will need to drive there as it is too far for a leisure walk. The place is famous for their cocktails more than for their food, but, I do recommend you try their pork tacos and the Asian-style tuna, they also have some nice vegetarian options.

Soda Jimenez — If you are looking for a more local experience, then this is the place to start. Soda Jimenez is close to the airstrip in Puerto Jimenez and offers typical Costa Rican dishes, large portions for a great price and super friendly service.

Puerto Jimenez Travel Guide to Hotels

Cabinas Marcelina — A great budget option, located in downtown Puerto Jimenez, it offers clean comfortable rooms, each room has a private bathroom, hot water and ceiling fans—for an extra fee you can opt for a room with AC. The rooms overlook a beautiful garden where macaws are known to visit. Despite being centrally located, it is surprisingly quiet and relaxing, and best of all, the rooms and bathrooms are clean.

Cabinas Jimenez — Right on the water close to the soccer field, you will find Cabinas Jimenez.Probably the best mid-range option in Puerto Jimenez. Several of the rooms have their own private decks overlooking the Golfo Dulce, there are a small pool and private parking. The staff is very friendly and happy to help you arrange tours and give you expert advice.

La Leona Eco Lodge — This mid-range hotel located in Carate, close to the Corcovado National Park offers a unique lodging experience as the rustic bungalows have no electricity and are instead illuminated with candles, bathrooms can be private or shared. The beach is a 1-minute walk from the hotel, and the park entrance is 200 meters away.

Lapa Rios — This gorgeous eco-resort is on the high-end. Located in the mountains overlooking Cabo Matapalo, it sits on a 1000-acre estate with plenty of trails to explore and an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce.

Getting to Puerto Jimenez and Corcovado National Park

By Air — The fastest and easiest way to get to Puerto Jimenez is by air, both local airlines Sansa and Nature Air offer several daily flights in and out of Puerto Jimenez. Once there, you can rent a 4×4 vehicle to travel within the Peninsula.

Charter flights to Carate are offered by Alfa Romeo Air Taxi, however, these can be expensive and rob you of the full experience of traveling within the Peninsula de Osa on a colectivo (a shared taxi).

By Bus — Transporte Blanco Loco is the company offering public bus transportation from San José to Puerto Jimenez, the bus stop is in downtown San José on Calle 14 and Avenidas 9 y 11. The bus ride will take around 8 hours.

By Car to Puerto Jimenez — I do not recommend you drive down to Puerto Jimenez, it will take between 7 and 8 hours to get there, but if you have rented a car and wish to drive down the easiest way is to take route 27 from San José to Orotina, then take route 34 from Orotina to Palmar Norte. From there you will need to take route 2 from Palmar Norte to Chacarita and, finally, take route 245 from Chacarita to Puerto Jimenez.

Taxi Service from Puerto Jimenez to Matapalo and Carate — There are shared taxi services (colectivos), which are nothing more than modified 4×4 trucks with benches on their flatbeds that will take you from Puerto Jimenez to Cabo Matapalo or Carate. Some hotels offer transportation from Puerto Jimenez to their location, so make sure to inquire.

Location

Puerto Jimenez is located on the southeastern side of the Peninsula de Osa in the Province of Puntarenas. The town sits right on the edge of a wide tranquil bay called the Golfo Dulce which translates to Sweet Gulf.

Weather

The Peninsula de Osa gets a lot of rainfall year-round. On average, the Peninsula receives about 190 inches of rain a year, the wettest month being October—which receives almost 30 inches of rain. December through April see the least amount of rain, but, this does not mean you won’t see a spontaneous downpour during this time. The driest month of the year is February.

Average temperatures in the region range between 72 and 90°F, the temperature can seem higher because of the humidity.

Plan a Visit: Corcovado Park and Puerto Jimenez 

If you are looking for a wild adventure and a way to experience nature in its most raw state, then a visit to Costa Rica’s last wild frontier is what you need. Puerto Jimenez and especially Corcovado National Park are ideal destinations for nature lovers who are willing to venture into the jungle, hiking difficult trails in extreme weather conditions, to witness the grandeur of Mother Nature.

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