The four Ranger Stations of Corcovado National Park are located in different geographical locations along the perimeter of the park.
San Pedrillo Ranger Station
San Pedrillo Ranger Station is located on the Pacific Coast at the far northwestern border of Corcovado National Park. San Pedrillo is located 17 km southwest of the town of Agujitas, often referred to colloquially as Drake, taken from the Drake Bay place name of the bay upon which Agujitas is located. Access to San Pedrillo is by either horseback or foot along the coastal trail that links Agujitas with San Pedrillo. Unlike many parts of the Corcovado coastline that are difficult to reach by boat because of high surf, boats are able to reach San Pedrillo without problem, and there is daily boat traffic from Drake area lodges and San Pedrillo. Usually, individuals can find room on these boats and pay a transit fee or around $30 each way. Still, all visitors to the Park must be accompanied by guides, who usually coordinate transport.
The trail connecting San Pedrillo to Sirena is 28 km in length and takes twelve hours to hike. However, this trail is technically treacherous due to river crossings and extensive beach sections and limited potable water. For this reason the trail was closed several years ago and is not open to the public for hiking. Arrangements can be made with Agujitas based private boats to carry passengers from San Pedrillo to Sirena ranger station. However, such arrangements must be made in advance.
Camping is not allowed at San Pedrillo, and there is no food service, nor are the use of camp stoves allowed. The rangers at the San Pedrillo ranger station will inspect the permits and passes of all visitors. Every visitor of the park needs prior arrangements and a pre-paid reservation. The daily use permit fee is $15 for foreign nationals and ¢1600 for Costa Rican citizens.
There are a number of trails in the San Pedrillo area, and full-day tours of this part of the park are a staple of Drake area lodge tour offerings. These tours depart from Agujitas beach or from private lodges at 7:00 a.m. and return in the mid-afternoon with conveyance by motorboat. Boat captain, mate, and naturalist bilingual tour guides lead the tours, and snacks and pack lunch are included. Mostly, individual lodges have their own tour guides and boats, and normally, visitors seeking a day trip to the park that are not staying at a lodge that sponsors such tours can arrange to join a group with another lodge. The 2017-2018 fee for the full-day San Pedrillo area Corcovado guided tour is $85 at nearly all the lodges.
The San Pedrillo staff ranges from 2 - 4, where job duties in addition to providing support for visiting guests, includes protection of the forest and enforcement of laws against hunting, collecting wildlife, mining gold, and similar forbidden activities.
Los Patos Ranger Station
Los Patos Ranger Station is located near the eastern boundary of Corcovado National Park. It occupies a highland position along a ridge that is located between the Rincon and Pavon River drainages. Los Patos can be reached by foot from three different directions. The main Los Patos park entrance trail arrives at the ranger station from the Rincon River valley. At the park boundary, the trail ascends sharply along a trail that includes steps that make the hike much easier, especially during rainy weather. Horses can be hired in Guadalupe, near La Palma for the six-kilometer route along the Rincon River that must be hiked to reach the Los Patos trailhead. However, no horses are allowed inside the park, so they must be left at the boundary. When the Rincon River is low, 4WD ground transfers are possible right to the Los Patos trailhead. It is a 45-minute hike from the Park boundary to Los Patos Ranger Station. For those planning on hiking to Sirena, park rangers will not permit hikers that arrive after 11:00 a.m. from continuing with their hike, so it is wise to get an early start. Los Patos can also be reached from Sirena Ranger station by way of the 21-kilometer maintained park trail connecting the two ranger stations.
The station offers bathrooms, showers, and potable water is available for drinking and to refill canteens...
The Park staff stationed at Los Patos includes administrative staff to support guests and check permits and passes as well as law enforcement personnel to control illegal hunting, logging, drug trafficking, poaching, and other proscribed activities.
The ecosystem comprising the Los Patos Ranger station is montane tropical and cloud forest. The area is heavily forested in primary and teeming with wildlife. A number of trails exist in the area to allow visitors to explore Los Patos vicinity. In addition to wilderness viewing and hiking, there is a nearby waterfall and streams to swim in. La Tarde Ecolodge offers nearby private budget camping and lodging with meals. The nearby Guaymi Indian Reservation offers those with additional interest a side excursion to visit the Ngobe nation, where visitors will have the opportunity to purchase hand-made crafts made from forest materials, including woven purses and bags and well as beaded jewelry and hand-carved forest animals, figurines, and masks. The daily tour price to Ngobe village is $55.
All visitors to Los Patos ranger station should have advance reservations. Upon arrival visitors must produce documentation showing that they have permits to stay the day along the station trails or lodge in Sirena and have paid the lodging, meals, and day use fees. All park visitors must be accompanied by a certified guide. The day use fee is $15 for foreign nationals and ¢1600 for Costa Rican citizens.
La Leona Ranger Station
La Leona Ranger Station is located on the Pacific coastline on the far southeastern boundary of Corcovado. It is located on the northwest bank of the Quebrada La Leona on a beach terrace looking out over the Pacific Ocean. La Leona Ranger Station can be reached by walking along the beach three kilometers beyond the Carate pulperia. Before reaching the stream, you will pass La Leona Lodge, a delightful tent-platform eco-lodge nestled along the beach that offer wonderful amenities along this primal stretch of savage coastline. The same beach trail connects La Leona Ranger Station with Sirena Ranger station, located 17 kilometers to the northwest in what is also a beach trail with a portion of the trail that deviates from the beach into the forest and a bit of shade.
La Leona Ranger Station is open year-round and offers toilet and shower facilities. There are no dormitory lodging options, no camping facilities, no publicly supplied meals, and portable stoves are not allowed. Potable water is available free of charge to refill water bottles.
The small contingent of park officials stationed at La Leona provide administrative support to park visitors and law enforcement. Full time staff normally range from 3-5 park rangers and support staff.
Because of its proximity to Carate and reasonable accessibility from Puerto Jimenez, it is possible to do single-day exploration of the La Leona region. For those traveling from Puerto Jimenez, we do not recommend this highly as the drive is two hours one way, and the walk to the park entrance is another forty minutes. Since hikers must be back in Carate by 3:00 p.m. to catch the afternoon public transport (the colectivo), this leaves only two-three hours with which to explore the park, plainly inadequate for the task at hand. For those visitors that wish to explore the La Leona region we recommend staying in Carate 1-2 nights at one of the eco-lodges to provide a full day of hiking without having to worry about transport schedules. Along these lines, La Leona Lodge provides a great jumping-off point for the park, with the added benefit of ice and cold drinks after a day of tapir-watching at Madrigal, macaw madness sqawks and peering at pelicans with wingtips centimeters from the glassy curl of rolling breakers spawned from a Southern Ocean swell.
All visitors to La Leona ranger station must produce permits for single or multiple day use. Visitors without permits are not allowed into the Park, even for day use, and you cannot buy permits on site, only in advance. All park visitors must be accompanied by a certified guide, who typically takes care of the paperwork and details. Day use fees are $15 for foreign nationals and ¢1600 for Costa Rican citizens.
Sirena Ranger Station
Sirena Ranger Station is the central and most active ranger station. It is the only ranger station to offer overnight dorm-style lodging and hot meals to visitors, arrangements that must be made in advance. Sirena also has facilities that support academic research and park protection and enforcement, as well as administrative staff. It has an extensive support staff and shifting populations of resident and visiting academic researchers. Sirena Ranger Station has a 400-meter grass landing strip that provides charter air access. Boats with Drake-based tours moor daily offshore, 400 meters from Sirena Ranger Station to transport day tours that explore the Sirena loop trails. Sirena is accessed mostly by foot traffic along well-maintained trails to the Los Patos and La Leona ranger stations. The San Pedrillo trail was closed several years ago and is no longer open to the public. There are also a number of wildlife loop trails at Sirena that provide a variety of options of day excursions for visitors overnighting at Sirena. Sirena Ranger Station is located within the Corcovado Basin and boasts an unparalleled abundance of wildlife of all types. Unquestionably, Sirena Ranger Station is the best destination for maximizing wildlife viewing, particularly tapirs, white-lipped peccaries, and frequently, mountain lions, all wildlife having lost fear of humans. Below are descriptions of facilities that are hoped to provide prospective visitors with a full appreciation of what they may expect so that the best decisions can be made about whether to include this destination in travel plans and if so what to expect and what to bring to ensure that your stay is comfortable and enjoyable.
Sirena is the only ranger station that offers overnight lodging. It’s dorm-style, with shared bathrooms, showers, and sinks for laundering. Mattress, bed linens, and a mosquito net round out the amenities, and it’s all solar powered, lights out at eight. The dorm capacity at Sirena Ranger Station is 70 individual beds divided among 3 rooms. To ensure availability it is always best to reserve in advance.
Sirena Ranger Station has a fully equipped kitchen and staff that is responsible for the preparation of three meals per day for the MINAE employees stationed at the park, visiting researchers, and the visiting public, with a capacity of 70 people. Meals are typical Costa Rican casados for lunch and dinner and gallo pinto for breakfast. Portions are hearty, and the fare is simple but appetizing. Meals are served with cold water and cold fruit drinks and coffee. Lunch and dinner typically includes: rice, beans, salad, some type of meat, fried bananas, and a fricasee-ed palmito or potato dish or else stir-fried mixed vegetables. Breakfast includes gallo pinto with eggs, cheese or ham, two types of fruit, toast and fried sweet bananas. Meal prices are as follows: breakfast: $20; lunch: $25; dinner: $25. Meals must be reserved in advance.
Laundry, Showers, and Water:
The Sirena infrastructure includes extensive facilities for hand-washing laundry, and there are plenty of showers. Perhaps at peak occupancy the facilities become congested, but commonly there is plenty of room and sinks and showers for everybody to take care of their laundering and showering requirements without having to stand in line or wait. The water at the facility is all potable, so water bottles can be filled without concern for filtration or supplemental water purification tablets.
Sirena has lockers that you can rent to store documents and belongings during your day tours in the area.
Sirena Ranger Station has both an array of solar panels as well as a generator. Power is turned on facility wide from 5:30 to around 8:30 in the evening to provide guests with access to lighting in the early evening hours. After lights out, visitors must rely on their own flashlights and lighting facilities for reading or getting ready for bed. No electrical outlets are provided for small appliances or the charging of batteries, so visitors should bring fully charged cameras and other tech gadgets and spare batteries for flashlights.
Sirena Ranger Station does enjoy cell phone communications with the outside world, thanks to an antenna that provides signal and Wi-Fi to a portion of Costa Rica that is not covered by existing cell tower coverage.
In Sirena Ranger Station you can buy souvenirs, snacks, cold drinks, water and many more. This because know the Corcovado National Park works in a project called PROLOS (Productos Producidos por Productores Locales) local products made in local hands, to support small business of the region.
Sirena Ranger Station is actually a fully equipped and reasonably comfortable destination. However, it is not a lodge and does not cater to its guests. Visitors must be prepared for the facilities that exist. For those that are accustomed to greater creature comforts, it is very important to ask yourself up front if you want to subject yourself to the challenges that Corcovado hiking and a stay at Sirena may imply. However, for those that realize that Sirena is not a lodge but a spectacular overnight station in the middle of one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife and biodiversity on the planet, then your visit may be accordingly enjoyed in the context of what you are doing. In truth, Sirena has everything needed to be comfortable: shelter, food, clean water, rest room, laundering, bathing facilities, as well as staff that are well-versed in local wildlife and conditions and are eager to provide support and information about the park and the vicinity. Finally, since it has both cell communications with the outside world and is served by boat access and a landing strip, it is well-equipped to respond to a medical emergency or simply to accommodate the needs of those that decide after hiking in that they would rather be transported out than to return to civilization on foot.
Alcohol is not permitted at Sirena Ranger Station or anywhere in Corcovado National Park.