Published: March 12th 2011March 12th 2011
Off to the jungle we went for a week on the Osa Peninsula (March, 2011)! We flew into San Jose and then went off to Puerto Jimenez the next morning. The journey began with an eight and a half hour bus ride (approx. $12US) leaving from the Mexico Barrio early in the morning. We prepared ourselves for a long, hot, sticky ride but it wasn’t too bad except for a couple times when the bus came to a complete stop (we took the earlier bus so it was probably a bit cooler). The temperatures consistently hovered between about 89 – 92 degrees with heat indexes over 100 during our stay. If you take the bus you might consider picking up your own food/snacks. They do make a couple stops along the way though if you just want to buy something then. The scenery during the ride through the mountains is definitely worth some time staring out the windows.
We stayed at Cabinas Jiminez ($60US/night) while in Puerto Jiminez and we would highly recommend it if it fits your budget (rooms ranging from about $55 -$95). The location was great, being right on the bay . . . a great location
for the sunsets. The staff was helpful, they offered free kayaks and bikes, had a small swimming pool, offered drinking water, and had nice rooms with slightly warm showers and fridges. And just a further note on the “slightly warm” showers, the somewhat cooler water temperatures feel great and are refreshing after being in the hot sun. Captain John (owner) can take you out on one of his ½ day boat tours ($50). We really enjoyed this opportunity to skim across the bay and see some dolphins. And the highlight was probably when he dropped us off at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary that is only reached via boat. There, Carol might greet you with Sweetie (spider monkey) or other residents of the Center. You get an opportunity to walk through this beautiful setting and see animals such as monkeys, macaws, and peccaries in various stages of recovery.
The low down on Puerto Jiminez: The town (aka Port Jim) is a dusty outpost planted approximately 42km outside Corcovado National Rainforest. Essentially, you are in the jungle while in town as you see hordes of green parrots, beautiful scarlet macaws, while possibly even hearing howler monkeys in the trees. There is
one bank (ATM) and primary supermarket in town. A colectivo (truck transport) picks up people on one side of town and takes them to Matapalo and Carate (the gateway to Corcovado Park). There is one primary road through town that is very active with small shops, tour operators, and restaurants. As the sun is setting in late afternoon the soccer field becomes the local hub of activity with a game each night with upwards of 40 – 45 players on the field at once. If you want to see Scarlet Macaws you might keep an eye in the almond trees at the field or take a walk towards the airstrip in the neighborhood behind Jagua gift shop. If you want gifts we would recommend going to Jagua where Tom will fill you in on where all the items are made. Also, we found the prices here (particularly for traditional masks $45 - $85US) are about ½ the price as the store on the main street across from the market. Also, we found out about it too late but Tom owns a large tract of land on the edge of town that contains all sorts of wildlife (Herrera Gardens and Conservation
Project). For a nominal charge he opens it up for you to hike or jog on the trails (15km). His father originally bought the land to save it from development that would have polluted the town. For restaurants you have quite a few choices but we would recommend the PizzaMail.it for Italian and the Carolina Café for more general dishes. PizzaMail.it is run by a couple of Italians who will fix you up a pizza or pasta (approx. $7-8US). Carolina offers yummy Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice with spices) and also cold fruit drinks. We would recommend mora con leche (blackberry with milk). The Jade Luna ice cream (approx. $3.50US) that you will see around town tastes great in the afternoon (you might try the Oreo or Oreo Mint!).
So, the primary objective of our trip was to tackle the trail from La Leona to the Serena research station within Corcovado in order to spend some time at Serena taking in the wildlife. The journey to Serena is quite an adventure (or at least it was in our case). We started by catching the colectivo at 6am in Puerto Jiminez for a bumpy ride (2 hrs. and 20
min.) to Carate. We started hiking on the beach at Carate at 8:20am. This is supposed to be 3.5km to the La Leona ranger station at the edge of the Park but it was actually a little shorter. After checking in with our park passes we took off on the trail. If you are thinking of coming to the park you might need to plan ahead. You need a pass to get into the park that you can purchase in Puerto Jiminez or reserve on-line. However, you also need reservations in advance to stay in Serena if you want a room and meals. In order to do this we started by making a request to the park headquarters on-line but then needed the assistance of a local to provide payment. We had café.net El Sol on main street in Puerto Jiminez make our arrangements for us (approx. $30). We were able to contact them through their website, and sent payment via paypal.
The hike on the La Leona trail was very hot as the heat index hovered around 100 degrees. On the colectivo ride we met Tamara and Max from Austria and Hugo from France and hiked with them
on and off during the day. The trail runs very near the coast and alternates from the beach to trails just within the trees. Also, the path that you take can vary depending on the tides during the day. We found that the trail wasn’t marked very well in the later half of the hike. In one instance we ran out of beach to walk on and needed to make a vertical ascent up a hill to navigate our way back onto the trail. We didn’t see much wildlife along the way with the exception of some spider monkeys at the beginning. Some of the beach views were stunning. And we found a couple very nice conch shells along the way. We hiked steadily but not at a breakneck pace. We arrived at the Rio Claro at 3pm as the trail opened up to a wide waterway. The Claro is just about ½ hour walk from Serena. The ranger had tried to explain in broken English that we would be fine if we arrived at Claro before 3:14pm (high tide). However, we could find no place to cross. The five of us were now together and eventually Max found us
the narrowest location to cross at the mouth of the river alongside the ocean. The crossing was approximately 25 meters wide and Hugo took off first but he disappeared for a moment underwater about halfway across with only his bag visible. Somehow he navigated his way across then and then we worked as a team getting people and bags across after that. Guides told us later that we should have crossed at the wider part of the river (given the possibility of bull sharks and crocodiles) but I’m still not sure that we had any good options. After this we had a story to tell but also some wet clothes for the next couple days.
At Serena we chose the option to go guideless and explore the trails on our own. I think either way you choose you will be fine. I would highly recommend staying 2 nights at Serena so that you can have some time to take in all the trails and also to relax a little before hiking on to your next destination. We were glad that we bought the dinners ($20US) even though they were a bit expensive. The food and cold juice tasted great
after the long day. A good strategy would probably be to bring in food for breakfast and lunch and just pay for the camp dinners. The rooms at Serena are very basic with just plastic mattresses and shared bathrooms. The showers consist of a cold-water hose coming from the wall. Make sure to bring some sheets, bug spray (although the bugs weren’t nearly as bad as advertised), headlamps, and ziplock bags. Tamara, Max, and Hugo brought their own tents Given its location just sitting on the front porch of the station can present you with the opportunity to see many animals. While there we saw all four types of resident monkeys (spider, squirrel, howler, & white-faced), macaws, toucans, sloths, a coati, agouti, and a tapir running through the bush. We were disappointed that we didn’t see the puma that nearly everyone in camp saw along the Rio Claro trail. Apparently many have been spotted this month in the area around Serena. A good schedule for hiking at Serena would be to take off early in the morning and explore until late morning and then to set out again for the last couple hours of light in the afternoon. We had
planned to hike back out of Corcovado but took the opportunity to fly back to Carate with Hugo ($50/person).
We ended our trip with a couple relaxing days around Puerto Jiminez that included some nice sunsets. Another little highlight was our trip back to San Jose on our last day. We booked a flight on Sansa (approx. $115US) and had the plane all to ourselves. The views of the country from above were incredible and sure beat taking the 8 and ½ bus back to the city.
So, go to the Osa Peninsula for some good sun and wildlife. Puerto Jiminez is a great base from which to just unwind or be active if you choose. I would also recommend staying at a tentcamp on the other side of Corcovado if you have more time. On a previous trip I was able to hike on Drake Bay side of the Park and get out to Cano Island and that was spectacular! Pura Vida!
There are more photos below