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Parque Nacional Corcovado

Her words didn’t offer much reassurance. “Avoid crossing too far up the river because you may encounter crocodiles, and don’t cross too close to the mouth of the river because sharks like to feed there,” was the last thing the ranger told me at the La Leona station where we entered Parque Nacional Corcovado.

I neglected to pass on this sage advice to my father and his friend, who had flown in to join me roughly 24 hours before on this trek through Costa Rica’s most exquisite tropical preserve. It would be much more fun to tell them once we entered the river crossing. Timing is everything.

Our destination, the La Sirena ranger station, was about 15 km (nine miles) into the heart of Corcovado. As we made our way in and out of the living corridors of the tropical forest and along secluded coastal beaches, a revelation hit me like a shot of guaro. We had been walking more than three hours and hadn’t seen another living soul other than some scarlet macaws, several monkeys, and a group of coatamundis (that I suspected was following us).

I had lived in Costa Rica for a year, traveled from one end to the next, and would never have imagined there’s a place in this country where you can go more than one hundred paces without running into another gringo. Had I indeed found paradise? Parque Nacional Corcovado certainly sits apart from the rest.

It’s the largest of 13 national parks and resides on the Osa Peninsula in the southwest region of Costa Rica. To get to Corcovado, it’s just a short 10-hour bus ride from San José to Puerto Jiménez, then a 1.5-hour taxi ride to Carate, before you can hike one kilometer to the park entrance at La Leona. You have to want it, and that’s what makes Corcovado so difficult for those travelers without a great deal of time. But once you get there, the park’s majestic beauty is so invigorating that you’ll never want to leave.

With its pristine vistas and uncharted territories, Corcovado´s tranquility is only surpassed by its abundant bio-diversity. The park is home to roughly 140 different mammal species, 400 bird species, and 500 species of trees. As they say in Spanish, “increíble!” Four ranger stations are connected along a network of timeless trails providing sanctuary to nature lovers, hikers, and tourists alike.

After four days exploring the wonders of Parque Nacional Corcovado, my comrades and I were forced to leave this plush utopia due to an inescapable force of nature known as “work.” Nevertheless, I had found what I was looking for this entire time: a place without ongoing construction work that prohibits a highly anticipated mid-day siesta or loud discos blasting reggaeton until sunrise. I found a place that seemed to be surrounded by as much life as there were stars in the night sky. I had found paradise. And that ... is Pura Vida.

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