Corcovado National Park

TWO DAY TOUR LOS PATOS, SIRENA, LA LEONA

Two Day Expedition Los Patos - Sirena - La Leona

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 Los Patos park boundary, or alternately to hire a four-wheel drive taxi from Jimenez or Guadalupe to ferry hikers to the Los Patos trailhead. If you come out from Los Patos, then such arrangements must be forecast and arranged in advance without any certainty of how long the hike itself will take. After a 19-km hike from Sirena to Losa Patos, there are another seven grueling kilometers and 29 river crossings before reaching Guadalupe, the earliest point that some form of transport can confidently be secured. By starting at Los Patos and ending at Carate, all these uncertainties are removed from consideration.

Formerly the Park allowed individuals to hike unguided. But since 2010, all visitors to the park must be accompanied by a certified and licensed Corcovado guide.

Ground transfers to begin this expedition include either 4WD transfer to the Los Patos ranger station ($90 from Puerto Jimenez) up the Rincon river watershed. This is a reliable option in the dry months of December – April and at other times when the river stage is not too high for vehicles. The best alternative is ground transfer to Guadalupe and horseback from Guadalupe to the Los Patos trailhead, a distance of 7 km that takes a bit less than 2 hours to travel by horse.

Start Early: The Park Service requires that hikers traveling to Sirena reach the Los Patos ranger station by 11:00 a.m. or they will not allow them to continue forward. In order to reach Los Patos by eleven requires that you be the park boundary by 10:00at the latest. Since it is two hours by horseback, this implies that eight a.m. is the latest safe departure time from Guadalupe. 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 6:30 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 20 minutes from La Palma to the trailhead and another 20 minutes’ drive between Puerto Jimenez and La Palma. We try to always start our multiple day expeditions at 5:00 a.m.

Carry plenty of water and refill at Los Patos.

Pack Light: 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 quickly 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 $10 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.

I 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 quickly. 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.

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 if you don’t have a hat.

Water: Did I mention bringing enough water? You don't want to run out of water. If you drink from streams you are subject to amoebic dysentery due to the ubiquity of the protozoan pathogen giardia lamblia, which is carried I in the gastro-intestinal tract of all warm-blooded animals and is a ubiquitous contaminant of surface water drainages worldwide. It is a naturally occurring pathogen and not the result of human contamination. There are hand-operated pump filters capable of purifying water to potable standards and also tablets that can be added to chemically sterilize stream water. The best approach is to simply keep your water bottle topped off at ranger stations.

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 around an hour from Sirena and about four-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 caimans, 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 around 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 collective 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, at least not without calling in a costly private taxi. While there are places to stay in Carate, these ecolodges are spread out, none of them particularly convenient, and all of them costly. 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.

You Have to Hire 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. Finally, you don’t have a choice since Park Rangers do not allow entry to any visitor that is not accompanied by a licensed professional guide. To inquire about a fully-outfitted all-inclusive two-day Corcovado tour, you may either write or fill out the questionnaire here. The outline pasted below is the approximate itinerary of our two-day Corcovado excursion.

Night Hikes: Night hikes are no longer allowed at Sirena. This is always a bit of a rub since the best animal viewing is typically at night. Guides are required to abide by park rules in order to maintain their certifications in good standing. The best way to skirt this rule is to plan hikes to depart very early, like 3:30 a.m. to capitalize on the couple of hours before dawn.


RATES:

Price US dolar - per person

2 PAX 3 PAX 4 PAX
2 Day - All Inclusive $ 450 $ 380 $ 340
2 Day - Budget $ 390 $ 325 $ 295

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TOUR ITINERARY:

Day One
5:00 Departure Jimenez in taxi.
6:00 Mount up on horses at Guadalupe and head for the mountains
8:00 Dismount at Corcovado Park boundary and climb to Los Patos Ranger Station
9:00 Pack lunch in the forest
11:30 Almuerzo en el bosque.
15:30 Arrival and check-in at Sirena Ranger Station: soft drinks, showers, laundry, lounging
17:45 Dinner, Sirena.
Day Two
6:30 Breakfast at Sirena
7:00 Departure (fill water bottles). Hike along the beach trail to the La Leona Ranger Station. Fill water bottles again.
15:00 Arrival at latest at Carate General Store (the Pulperia). Depending on time you can stop at La Leona Lodge forty minutes prior for cold drinks.
15:30 Departure by private taxi from the Carate Pulperia.
18:00 Back in Puerto Jimenez