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The Osa Peninsula is where we finished our trip in Costa Rica. The southwest corner of the country is home to miles and miles of beautiful jungle and wilderness. It includes Corcovado National Park, many beaches, and a ton of wildlife. We spent two days exploring the peninsula. Our first day consisted of visiting Matapalo beach, getting lost in the Piro jungle, and hiking to a waterfall. On our second day, we hired a guide and explored Corcovado National Park.
Day 1 – Piro, Matapalo Beach, and Waterfall Hike
Time Required: 2 days+ to explore the peninsula
Location: Southwest corner of Costa Rica (7-hour drive from San Jose)
Distance: Approx 10km total hiking in Corcovado
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Difficulty: 5/10 – Guided tour, and well-maintained trails in National Park
Season: December to April are the dry months
Additional Requirements: Guide to enter Corcovado National Park
From Puerto Jimenez: From Puerto Jimenez head south on route 245. To visit Matapalo Beach follow route 245 for about 17km and turn left onto Matapalo Rd. To get to Corcovado follow route 245 to Carate at the end of the road.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking shoes are ideal when walking on the jungle trails. Water shoes should be utilized when hiking to the waterfall. You have to walk through a creek and over rocks so your feet will get wet.
- Water: It is always important to have water with you on hikes like this. The weather is very hot and humid and you will sweat a lot. Replenish fluids regularly.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike as well as a light lunch. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can greatly improve your hiking experience.
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Wildlife: The Osa Peninsula is full of wildlife. Some animals can be dangerous and there are many that are venomous. Be cautious of where you step, and utilize a guide when you can.
Guide: In Corcovado National Park it is mandatory that everyone has a guide with them. We really enjoyed having a guide, as he was very informative and knew his way around the area. You can get guides to show you around the Piro area as well. We hired our guide in the town of Puerto Jimenez the day before our hike in Corcovado.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: We spent two days on the Osa Peninsula. The first day we explored Piro, Matapalo Beach and hiked to the Lapa Rios Waterfall. On day two we hired a guide in Puerto Jiminez, drove to Carate and hiked to the La Leona Ranger Station to explore Corcovado National Park.
Hiking in Piro (Route marker #2 on the map) is very much an adventure. Piro borders Corcovado National Park but isn’t near as touristy. Since it is outside the National Park you can hire a guide or explore the area on your own. We decided to explore on our own. To reach Piro head down route 245 as if you are heading to Carate. Along the way there are many side roads leading off the main drag. Some have signs indicating they are private property well others have marked trails heading into the jungle. If you decide to explore on your own take note of which way you are going and where you came from. The jungle is dense and the trails are not well maintained so it is easy to get lost!
Matapalo Beach (Route marker #3 on the map) is very long and has a few areas that make for great stops. Playa Pan Dulce is the surfer’s paradise, Playa Carbonera is known for tide pools during low tide, and Gulfo Dulce is inhabited by sea turtles, whales, and dolphins during their migratory seasons. After passing Buena Esperanza, the turnoff to Matapalo is about a km passed that. The scenery on the drive is beautiful!
Lapa Rios Waterfall:
The Lapa Rios Waterfall (Route marker #4 on the map) is a small waterfall on the Lapa Rios Ecolodge that can be accessed by hiking up a creek from the main road. As you drive to Matapalo Beach there is a stream crossing you must go through with a small suspension bridge beside it. It you follow that creek upstream for about 30-45 minutes you will reach the Lapa Rios Waterfall. There is not a defined trail and the wet rocks can be slippery so you will likely get wet. Once you reach the waterfall there is a nice swimming hole at the bottom and some rocks to jump off.
Corcovado National Park:
Hiking in Corcovado National Park (Route marker #2 on the map) is the reason tourists are drawn to the Osa Peninsula. It is mandatory that you hire a guide to enter the National Park; there is no getting around it. Guides can be found for a reasonable rate in the town of Puerto Jiminez (Route marker #1 on the map). A good guide will enhance your experience by providing useful knowledge about the area, the animals and the environment they live in. Your guide will plan out your itinerary but prepare for an early start as that is when the animals are most active. Due to time constraints, we hiked from the La Leona Ranger Station (Route marker #6 on the map), if you have more time to spend in Corcovado you can go deeper into the national park and hike from the Sirena Ranger Station. Take food and lots of water, cash to tip your guide, and a camera because you are guaranteed to see some awesome animals.
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Have fun out there!