Arguably the best all around two-day Corcovado trek is the route from Los Patos through Sirena to La Leona. I recommend that this trip be started from Los Patos rather than from Carate for two reasons: 1) there is daily transport from Carate in the afternoons so no special arrangements are required to get back to town; and 2) it is possible to rent horses in Guadalupe to ride on horseback to the park boundary, or alternately to hire a four wheel drive taxi to ferry hikers to the Los Patos trailhead. If you come out from Los Patos, then this luxury is not available, and after the 19 kilometer hike from Sirena, there are another seven grueling kilometers before reaching Guadalupe, the earliest point that some form of transport can be secured.
While the expedition is most easily undertaken with a guide that knows the route and is familiar with wildlife, it is possible to undertake this expedition without professional guidance. In recent years, the Park Service has restricted this particular trail to groups accompanied by guides. This is particularly the case in the rainy season months and strongly advised during the summer months. These policies change according to the criteria of Park Service staff and local conditions.
Ground transfers to begin this expedition include either 4WD transfer to the Los Patos ranger station ($90 from Puerto Jimenez) or combination of private taxi to Guadalupe and horseback from there to the trailhead.
The overall route is described in sections linked below:
The Park Service requires that hikers traveling to Sirena reach the Los Patos ranger station by ten a.m. or they will not allow them to continue forward. This time limit is extended to 11:00 a.m. for hikers accompanied by a professional guide. In order to reach Los Patos by ten a.m., that means that you have to be at the park boundary by nine a.m. at the latest. Since it is two hours by horseback, this implies that seven a.m. is the latest safe departure time from Danta Lodge. Since most travelers taking this route originate in Puerto Jimenez, this means leaving town on the 5:00 a.m. bus or departing by private taxi no later than 6:00 a.m. For those travelers planning to travel to the trailhead by four wheel drive transport, there is a bit more leeway, since it is no more than 30 minutes from La Palma to the trailhead and 30-40 minutes drive between Puerto Jimenez and La Palma, depending on road conditions at the time.
For those that do not reach La Palma in time to continue forward, this is not earth-shattering for those that have tents and were planning to camp and prepare their own meals, since they will be allowed to stay at Los Patos and can enjoy the area around this ranger station. For those that do not have camping supplies and food that were depending on dorm lodging and hot meals, being turned around at Los Patos for not getting there early enough is calamitous, since it means hiking all the way back down to La Palma (9 kilometers away) and most likely being unable to reschedule at Sirena. Bottom line: start early so there is no chance of arriving late.
Carry plenty of water and refill at Los Patos.
For most hikers the 1.75 liter water bottle sold in stores is enough water to get from station to station. Be sure to start the trip fully hydrated. Hikers will be thankful for having abstained from drinking the night before the hike since alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body. All ranger stations in the park are equipped with potable water. Don’t forget to refill your water bottle at Los Patos, or you may run out before reaching Sirena. Although the trail between Los Patos and Sirena is within the forest and completely shaded by canopy, it is nevertheless tropical rain forest. Temperatures stay in the low nineties year round with comparable humidity levels, and a lot of water is required to replace what is lost through perspiration.
Please click here for a discussion of what you should consider bringing with you. Pack as light as possible, and if you have any doubt about whether to bring something or not, then probably you should leave it.
Wear appropriate footwear and bring a hat.
If you get blisters your first day of hiking, then your second day is going to be miserable. Take care of your dogs. Depending on the time of year, the Los Patos – Sirena trail may have long stretches of mud and puddles. Although most hikers insist on their own hiking boots and hiking shoes, locals all use rubber boots to walk in the forest. They are worth considering for several reasons: 1) they will keep your feet dry except for stream crossings; 2) even if you go over the top and get them wet, they dry quckly and cannot become water-logged and heavy; and 3) they have excellent traction. The only disadvantage to them is that they do not have the internal padding that expensive hiking boots may have. However with a good pair of thick socks, this shortcoming is compensated. You can buy a pair of rubber boots in Puerto Jimenez, La Palma, or Drake for around $8 that can be discarded or given away at the end of the trip as needed. If you plan to opt for rubber boots, be sure to purchase high quality knee length soccer socks locally available. These are important not just to provide cushion for your feet but also to keep the tops of the boots from chafing the calf.
River sandals like Tevas are not a particularly good alternative for the Los Patos trail except during the dry season. The mud is likely to cause your foot to slip around inside the sandal and cause chafing and blistering by the straps, particularly if your feet are not well-accustomed to the shoes. While these shoes are not a good option for the first day of the hike, this is a very good alternative for the second day, which is a beach hike. River shoes are better than rubber boots for the beach walk because they are light and sand can be difficult to walk in if it is dry.
Hiking boots get wet and heavy, and they don’t get dry. Leather is the worst. Also, it takes time to take them off and put them back on for river crossings. Since hiking boots are also heavy and likely not useful in other parts of most people’s travels, it is likely that the best place for your expensive hiking boots while you are in Corcovado is sitting on the floor of your closet back home. Go local for best results and bring along a high quality pair of river shoes or Tevas as your second pair. Do not bring cheap shoes or they will come apart on you and leave you awkwardly barefoot.
Even if you don’t like hats, bring one for the second day. The hike is mostly under the sun, and it will bake your brain. A hat provides you with an excellent first line of defense from the sun’s relentless attention.
Did I mention bringing enough water? You don’t want to run out of water. If you drink from streams you are subject to giardiasis (beaver fever) which is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and severe stomach cramps and less common waterborne illnesses. The protozoan giardia lamblia is carried in the gastro-intestinal tract of all warm-blooded animals in the park and is a ubiquitous contaminant of surface water drainages world wide. It is a naturally occurring pathogen and not the result of human contamination.
Check the tide tables.
The Rio Claro is the only river that you will cross that is deep enough to provide a bit of a challenge at full tide. It is located about two kilometers from Sirena, so it is about thirty minutes from Sirena and about five-six hours from La Leona. Even at high tide the river does not get higher than chest deep at the designated crossing spot. Still that is deep enough to require that hikers carry their packs on top of their heads to avoid getting them wet. The Rio Claro does have crocodiles and caymans, and it may be a bit unsettling to march right through their dining room up to your chest in water. Also, bull sharks feed at the mouths of all rivers and at high tide may stray into the river itself to feed. They commonly feed in turbid water and are indiscriminant in their predation. While shark bites are extremely unusual and there is no record ever of a crocodile attack on a human inside the park, you can avoid all concerns by timing your arrival at the Rio Claro to correspond with low tide. Please note the signs on both sides of the Rio Claro that designate the best crossing spot. Even though the mouth of the river itself is one twentieth or less the width of the designated crossing spot, the river mouth has a stiff current and is more likely to cause you to lose your balance and fall.
The Madrigal River is somewhat similar to the Claro River but is smaller and less of a challenge. It is not necessary to take tide stage into account in its crossing.
Don’t be late.
It gets dark fast in the tropics, and you do not want to be stuck on the trail after dark on the way to Sirena on Day One. Beyond the inconvenience of hiking through pitch darkness, you will also miss dinner which is served between 5:45 and 6:15 only.
Remember also that the colectivo departs Carate at 3:45. If you miss it on Day Two, then you will not have any way to get back to Puerto Jimenez till the next morning. While there are places to stay in Carate, these ecolodges are spread out and none of them are particularly convenient. Also, during the high season, these destinations are often full, so you cannot count on being able to walk in without advance reservations and be able to expect a vacancy.
Consider hiring a guide.
A professional guide will take all the guess work and any preoccupations about logistics right out of the equation. Plus, local guides are familiar with the wildlife and know where and when to go for the best viewing. While it is certainly possible to do the two-day expedition without accompaniment, for those that wish to maximize the educational opportunities, then a guide is highly recommended. To inquire about a fully-outfitted all-inclusive two-day Corcovado tour, you may either write me or fill out the questionnaire here. The outline pasted below is the approximate itinerary of our two-day Corcovado excursion.
0500 Departure Jimenez in taxi.
0600 Mount up on horses at Danta Lodge and head for the mountains
0800 Dismount at Corcovado Park boundary and climb to Los Patos Ranger Station
0900 Pass through Los Patos, fill water bottles
1130 Pack lunch in the forest
1530 Arrival and check-in at Sirena Ranger Station: soft drinks, showers, laundry, lounging
1745 Dinner, Sirena
Night hikes were formerly allowed at Sirena, but this policy has changed, and night hikes are not permitted. Guides are required to abide by park rules in order to maintain their certifications in good standing.
0700 Departure (fill water bottles). Hike along the beach trail to the La Leona Ranger Station
1500 Arrival at latest at Carate General Store (the Pulperia). Depending on time you can stop at La Leona Lodge forty minutes prior for ice cold soft drinks, or, even iced cold beer (since you’re nearly there).
1530 Departure by private taxi from the Carate Pulperia
1800 Back in Puerto Jimenez
|PRICE IN $ PER PERSON|
|2 PERSON||3 PERSON||4 PERSON|
|2-DAY||$ 450||$ 380||$340|
|3-DAY||$ 630||$ 540||$500|