One of your options to explore Corcovado is to hike in from the La Leona Ranger Station. It’s a 3.5 km hike down the beach from the pulperia and / or airstrip in Carate to the Station. If you’re not a Costa Rican National it’s $10 US for a pass into the park, payable directly at the ranger station. The trailhead is clearly marked and once in the park runs parallel to the ocean so it’s difficult to get lost. The trail is also well worn, but primitive, so it is easy to follow but feels non-invasive in the environment. You can do this hike on your own hire a guide to take you into the park. The advantage of taking a guide with you is they are trained to find wildlife so you are likely to see more. The hike is not strenuous. It is a relatively flat dirt path. If you are planning to hike in and out on the same day make sure you plan your departure from the park according to high tide or you will be getting wet on your trek back to Carate. Also hike in with your own food and water as there are no services past the La Leona Ranger Station until you reach the Sirena Ranger Station, 15 km away.
Luna Lodge has a couple well-worn hiking trails on the property if you’re in the mood to get out and explore the jungle. You can take a guide along, but most people opt to just explore the trails on their own. The waterfall trailhead is located just off the main staircase about halfway up the hill, below the yoga platform. The trailhead is clearly marked. As you head down the trail you will come to a fork in the path. The fork to the right leads downhill, I believe to the bottom of the big waterfall, although I am not certain because we did not explore this part of the trail. The fork to the left leads uphill a little way to the base of a small waterfall. The pool at the base of the waterfall is probably only about waist deep (during the dry season) and if you follow the riverbed down stream you will find several more pools to wade in. The hike and the pools are relatively private. If you time your hike right you won’t see another soul on the trail. The water is cool and all we saw birds and a baby snake while on the trail. Just be aware that the trail can get slightly steep, especially on the way back, but it’s not terribly strenuous. I think it’s an easy enough hike for just about anybody. From the trailhead to the little waterfall and pool is probably a 15 minute hike. If you’ve made the trek up to Luna Lodge definitely take advantage of this trail.
25 Reviews and Opinions
Playa Carate, Corcovado National Park 60702, Costa Rica
Good for: Couples
The Carate “Airport” is little more than a long, dirt landing strip running parallel to the Pacific Ocean. The only flights arriving and departing from here are charters. It is the airstrip that acts as the gateway to the La Leona Ranger Station, or southern entrance into Corcovado National Park. Flights into Carate can be made through your guesthouse or by arranging a flight directly with a charter company. The landing strip is located approximately 3.5 km from the entrance to Corcovado. The local pulperia is located directly across the street.
The cheapest way to get between Puerto Jimenez and Carate is definitely by taking the colectivo. It’s also a great way to feel like a local. The colectivo is basically a pickup truck with a tarp fashioned over the truck bed to act as a roof / sun protection. Two wooden planks are fixed to each side of the truck bed. It’s not the most comfortable seat in the world, but it’s a fun way to travel. And be aware that the roads are unpaved so expect a bumpy ride. If you’re taking the colectivo get there early to get the best seat (the ones nearest the truck cab). They squeeze in as many people as they can for the ride so prepared to be cozy. We had 4 people sitting on each plank and three standing up, hanging off the back, then another 2 adults and 2 children smooshed into the cab along with the driver. If the colectivo fills up many times they will call for another one to pick up the passengers they can’t fit, but that’s not always possible. They turned away passengers on our trip and denied them another colectivo, another reason to get there early. The ride between Puerto Jimenez and Carate takes about 2 hours and the driver will stop for a 5 minute break halfway through the ride. The cost is $7 US one way.
Leaves Puerto Jimenez for Carate: 6 am & 1:30 pm daily.
Leaves Carate for Puerto Jimenez: 8:30 am & 3:00 pm daily.
There are several ways to get to the “town” of Carate, the southern gateway to Corcovado National Park. Taking a taxi from the city of Puerto Jimenez, might not be the most economical or fastest way, but it is very easy. Most, if not all, of the hotels, lodges and tent camps on the road to Carate will arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the airport and transport you directly door-to-door. The advantage of a taxi is they’re usually air conditioned and you have your own, comfy seat. Also you can ask the driver to stop along the way if you desire to take a picture or what have you. We hired a driver on the way into Carate (because the only transportation alternatives we were given by our lodge were private taxi and charter plane so we chose the cheaper option) but know that if you’re on a budget you can also take the Collectivo. Our driver was friendly, and punctual (he was waiting for us when our plane landed) and he even took the time to stop and point out wildlife to us along the road. We were aware that the trip between Puerto Jimenez and Carate takes on average 2 to 2.5 hours in the dry season, but our ride really only took 1.5 hours. We didn’t need to worry about having cash on hand either, as the payment to our driver was made by our hotel and just put on our bill. Taking a taxi isn’t cheap. It’s $80 US one way (but can seat 4 passengers comfortably so if you can split the cost, do). But the roads are unpaved and rough on cars (you also have to cross several rivers on the journey) and it’s not likely that your driver will be able to pick up a return fare so the price is justified. You may be able to find a taxi cheaper if you arrange it yourself, but ours was arranged by our hotel. It’s more expensive than driving yourself or riding the Collectivo but cheaper than chartering a plane.
The town of Carate consists of a dirt air strip, a couple tent camps / lodges and a pulperia. The Pulperia is the heart of town. For those that don’t know (because I had never heard the term before I got to Costa Rica) “pulperia” is a little neighborhood “mini-mart”. They sell snacks, sodas, water, beer, etc. It’s also the location where the colectivo picks up and drops off. The pulperia in Carate is located directly across the street from the beach and airstrip at the end of the main road leading into “town” from Puerto Jimenez. There are a couple tables and chairs set up under some palm trees and a clean bathroom for public use (for a small fee).
What to buy: Snacks, beer, soda, etc.
The main draw for Carate is, of course, Corcovado National Park, but you don’t need to be in the park to see wildlife. The Osa Peninsula is teeming with creatures. A great way to see nature firsthand is to take a kayaking tour. We booked a kayaking trip through the Luna Lodge, included was transportation to the lagoon, kayaks and a private guide. We were the only people on the lagoon and had the opportunity to see spider monkeys frolicking in the trees and a variety of birds. Being on the water allowed us to get very close to many of the birds without scaring them off. Halfway through our trip we pulled the kayaks onto the shore and walked over to the beach for a break before finishing our circle around the lagoon. Kayaking is not only great exercise, it’s a good way to spend a peaceful morning getting close to nature. I highly recommend scheduling your trip for the morning, in fact the earlier the better. This is when the animals are more active so you will have a better chance at spotting wildlife and it’s cooler. It’s hot out on the lagoon and there is no protection from the sun so make sure you wear plenty of sunblock and a hat to protect yourself. Also wear a swimsuit if you want to wade in the Pacific. Kayak tours through the Luna Lode run $45 US per person for a 3 to 4 hour tour.
Equipment: The Luna Lodge provides all the equipment and transportation.
One of the perks of staying at Luna Lodge are the yoga classes. Their yoga “studio” is an open air, hardwood platform overlooking the jungle. The view from the yoga platform is spectacular and it adds to the experience of taking a yoga class there. Our instructor kept telling the class to put our heads down, but with a view like that and scarlet macaws flying past us it was difficult not to stare!
Most of the classes are taught by Lana, the owner of the lodge. She will organize either group classes, including other visitors to the lodge, or private classes if you prefer. Our “group” class consisted of us and one other couple. Also, occasionally outside yoga groups come here for a retreat, as was the case when we were there. The leader of the retreat was kind enough to let us join in on their classes for $15 US a person.
Private yoga with Lana is $20 US and group classes are $12 US.
Equipment: Luna Lodge provides all yoga mats, blocks, blankets, straps, etc. so there is no need to bring your own gear.