El Dorado Trail  

Permits                Expeditions


Immortalized in the novel “Gold Walker,” the Piedras Blancas River, the left fork of the Tigre River, bounds Corcovado National Park for much of its upper drainage and is steeped in Osa history as one of the more productive gold rivers during the Gold Rush of the 1980’s.  The trail that connects the modern day tourism mecca of Dos Brazos with the Pacific coastal communities of Carate and Rio Oro was used for foot traffic from Corcovado and Carate before the highway was even built.  To this day a few hand miners operate along the Piedras Blancas as well as along the Carate Rivers.

Our three and two days personalized expeditions along this route are ideal for visitors unable to secure permits inside the park due to capacity restrictions.  With the Sirena dorm under remodeling and only camping spaces left, Sirena has lowered its occupancy from 50 to 20 daily overnighters, making overnight park space very competitive.

The El Dorado Trail expedition is an experience that rivals a hike through Corcovado and in many way exceeds the classic Corcovado experience owing to the wider range of natural and cultural environments highlighted on expedition options that Osa Corcovado Tour and Travel alone provide visiting travelers.

The trailhead is a twenty minute drive by private ground transfer from Puerto Jimenez outside the former mining hamlet of Dos Brazos, now one of the ecotourism epicenters of the peninsula.  On Day One of the expedition, parties have the option of either hiking up the Piedras Blancas River or by taking the ridge road by horseback, with a full casado pack lunch along the way.  In either case, our first night is spent at a rustic household high in the Piedras Blancas watershed, where our guides prepare the first night’s meal over a wood-fed hearth and rustic lodging ensures bedding and basic amenities.

The second day is the most rigorous.  After the alarm clock of howler monkeys in nearby trees and a hearty breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs, and fruit, trekkers top off water bottles from the spring water onsite and hike up the headwaters of the Piedras Blancas right along the Corcovado National Park boundary.  This watershed is forested in old-growth primary forest and is contiguous.  Unlike the Los Patos park trail which is almost entirely through secondary forest without extensive wildlife until descending into the Corcovado Lagoon, the El Dorado Trail passes through a rich and diverse ecosystem that was never logged.  Here, hardened hand miners eke out their livings using traditional gold panning and sluice box methods, encamped in black plastic tents.  As the mighty Piedras Blancas flow grows slight moving upward toward the headwater spring feed zone of the river, we reach the Carate trailhead mid-morning and leave the stream to hike up the shallow remaining incline to the pass across the ridgeline peninsular spine, to admire the vast Pacific from the top, a seeming stone’s throw away.  The descent down the Carate River ridgelines and tributaries is rugged and very steep, and we move slowly down through the jungle to reach the roaring Carate River.  From there the going is easy along the Luna Lodge access road.  At Carate, mid-afternoon, it’s time to cool your heals at the notorious Carate Pulperia.  You can buy soft drinks and candy, beer even, if you want as the final stretch is three kilometers of beach hike to reach La Leona Lodge.

The second night is spent in the lap of luxury with gourmet cuisine and the tickling offshore winds that buffet the spectacular Pacific coast enclave of La Leona Lodge, located just a few hundred meters from the La Leona gateway to Corcovado National Park.  Lodging is in luxurious tent camps on the beach plain.  This is the perfect opportunity for advanced hammock training beneath the shade of coconut palms and umbrella drink samplers, sore dogs soothed by the invigorating breeze.  For those not ready to relax, there are plenty of self-guiding trails inside the La Leona private reserve trail network, plus the option of beach time.  The surf here tends to be rough and currents make this a dangerous place to swim, even for strong swimmers, so be sure to pay attention to your guide, who will know if it is too dangerous to get in the water or not.

After a full hot breakfast buffet, we spend the third day with an extensive day hike exploring the La Leona sector of Corcovado National Park.  Our ambition for this final day’s hiking excursion depends on you.  We can hike in toward Sirena as far as Salsipuedes Point, though often the wildlife viewing is so good that our groups often make it only as far as the Madrigal River before doubling back.  A pack lunch from the lodge is included, plus the opportunity to leave the packs behind, or lighten them for the Corcovado hike to collect our things on our passage back through for the three km hike back to Carate, where private conveyance is waiting to shuttle your party back in the late afternoon to Puerto Jimenez.

The tour features an extraordinary range of experiences that are unique to this particular expedition.  Firstly, the environs of Dos Brazos remain among the most diverse birding lands of any part of the forest, and you can expect to see songbirds, raptors, wading birds, and likely such local icons as toucans, macaws, trogons, and others.  Day two offers a passage through stunning mountain highland ecosystem and the unique experience of learning hand mining techniques from the gold miners, a chance to try your hand at the famously unique Osa gold pan, and depending on local inventory the opportunity to buy small nuggets.  You wouldn’t know it looking out from the pass around noon, but the near offshore was the site of one of only two marine gold-dredging operations ongoing at the outbreak of World War II, the other in Sierra Leone.  And the Carate River itself was one of the peninsula’s richest, commercially mined during the seventies and early eighties by a Canadian gold operation.

Day three includes the spectacular seascapes and remarkable wildlife of the remote La Leona sector and an opportunity to see a large cross-section of wildlife, including potentially the tapirs that commonly are bedded down during the day along the banks of the Madrigal River or beneath the shade of sea grapes on the warm sand.

Unlike Corcovado tours, which must follow trails and have restrictive rules that prohibit night walks and any deviation from trails and concentrate travelers at Sirena for overnight, OCTT’s El Dorado Trail expedition is wide open to customized adjustments.  Our variations include the Day 1 option of either hiking the river or going along the highlands on horseback.  Though our favored option descends to Carate along its eponymous river, a trail branch near the pass allows us to descend to the Pacific at Rio Oro.  This is an alternative for two day tours as our private conveyance can meet us upstream to shuttle back to Jimenez.  Alternately, we have a three day option from the Rio Oro route that depends on overnighting at the more modestly anointed Bijagual Cabinas and a range of third day activities including cultural tours, horseback in the local highlands, turtle hatching tours in the season along the beaches, mangrove exploration, and of course miles and miles of unspoiled and unpopulated Pacific beaches.

All Rates are per Person

The A option includes horseback riding

The B option is hiking trougth the forest

Tour 2 pax 3 pax 4 pax
3 Days A $560 $500 $460
3 Days B $520 $470 $420
2 Days A $380 $310 $280
3 Days B $350 $280 $250


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