The National Parks of Costa Rica
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Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
Parque Nacional Corcovado--the Amazon of Costa Rica--is the largest stronghold of primary forest on a Pacific coastline that has been all but destroyed from Mexico to South America. Its 41,788 hectares encompass eight habitats, from mangrove swamp and jolillo palm grove to montane forest. The park protects more than 400 species of birds (20 are endemic), 116 of amphibians and reptiles, and 139 of mammals--representing 10 percent of the mammals in the Americas--on only 0.000101777 percent of the landmass. Its healthy population of scarlet macaws (about 1,200 birds) is the largest concentration in Central America. You can expect to see large flocks of macaws in flight or feeding on almond trees by the shoreline.

Corcovado is a good place to spot the red-eyed tree frog (listen for his single-note mating "cluck"), the glass frog with its transparent skin, and enamel-bright poison-arrow frogs. And you can watch fishing bats doing just that over rivers at night. You can even try your own hand for snook inside the mouths of the coastal rivers on incoming tides. They strike plugs all year and during the fall become very aggressive.

Corcovado is one of only two places in the country that harbor squirrel monkeys (the other is Manuel Antonio). It's also one of the last stands in the world for the harpy eagle, although it hasn't been seen here in the last several years and may now be extinct in Costa Rica. As recently as the 1970s, tapirs were so numerous around Lago Corcovado that squatters were killing them just for fun. Four species of sea turtles--green, Pacific ridley, hawksbill, and leatherback--nest on the park's beaches. And the park supports a healthy population of big cats and crocodiles, which like to hang around the periphery of the Corcovado Lagoon. Jaguar paw prints are commonly seen in the mud trails, and the cats are often sighted.

The Osa Peninsula bears the brunt of torrential rains from April to December. It receives up to 400 cm per year. The driest months, January-April, are the best times to visit.

The park has three entry points: La Leona, on the southeast corner near Carate; Los Patos, on the northern perimeter; and San Pedrillo, at the northwest corner, 18 km south of Drake Bay. You can hike or fly into the park headquarters at Sirena, a large research station set back from the beach, midway between La Leona and San Pedrillo (it has an airstrip). There's also a remote ranger station at Los Planes, on the northern border midway between San Pedrillo and Los Patos. All are linked by trails.

The park is administered through the Osa Conservation Area headquarters in Puerto Jiménez (see the Tourist Information section under Puerto Jiménez, above).

This is an small excerpt from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica. CentralAmerica.Com highly recommends that you enhance your vacation by taking a copy of Moon's comprehensive Handbook with you. For more information visit the Moon Handbooks page on this site.

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