On our most recent trip to Puerto Jimenez on Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, we found ourselves with very few options for day trips, especially hiking. The Herrera Botanical Gardens mentioned in our brand new Lonely Planet guide had been closed for four years, and treks into Corcovado National Park were either full-day or multi-day excursions. Some even required an expensive charter plane. Luckily, we kept digging and learned about a community project at Corcovado National Park’s new El Tigre entrance. In this post, we’ll share information about this amazing rural tourism organization and let you know about the numerous options for activities.
Location and Access
The El Tigre entrance of Corcovado National Park is located on the eastern side of the Osa Peninsula, about 25 minutes from the town of Puerto Jimenez. You can access this entrance from the village of Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre (translating to Two Branches of the Tiger River). While Dos Brazos isn’t located inside Corcovado National Park, it abuts it. One trail from town leads into the park and others get very close to park limits. Instead of a ranger station, tours and hikes can be organized through the Conservation Association of Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre located right in town (more info below).
For driving directions to the El Tigre entrance, see the bottom of this post.
Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre: A Community in Transition
Knowing some history about the small town of Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre will help you appreciate what a unique community it is. In fact, you would never know by looking at the few modest buildings that during a gold-mining boom in the 1970s-1980s, the town had over 2,000 residents. Today, there are less than 300.
During its heyday, families in Dos Brazos relied on gold mining to make a living. While much gold was found, over the years, rivers were stripped and most people struggled to make a living on gold alone. Residents looked for other ways to supplement their income, many turning to hunting. Unfortunately these practices sometimes crossed over into the protected areas of Corcovado National Park, where there was more gold and more animals.
Looking for ways to help people earn a living in a more sustainable way, the community banded together and recently formed the Conservation Association of Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre (Asociacion Conservacionista Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre). Like many other communities in Costa Rica, the residents of Dos Brazos wanted to bring eco-tourism dollars into town as an alternative way to earn money. Soon they successfully advocated for the opening of a new entrance to Corcovado National Park (the El Tigre entrance), and designed tours that would support the community while protecting the natural environment.
When we arrived in Dos Brazos, we were lucky enough to talk with Ermer Azofeifa, the president of the Association. We met him at the small building where they start tours and train community members. He proudly let us know about the efforts of the group and wanted to make sure to specifically mention one major accomplishment. In just one year since their opening, they have converted 25 community residents (many who were gold miners or hunters) into local guides. He went on to explain about the array of activities that were available through the Association.
Activities at Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre
We discovered when planning our visit to Puerto Jimenez that most tours near town were ocean-based and often very costly. There were few land-based activities or hikes. Fortunately, Dos Brazos offers a nice selection.
Note: We recommend contacting the Association through their website in advance to set up tours, but they were able to accommodate us even though we just showed up.
One Day Tour/Hike into Corcovado National Park
The main attraction in Dos Brazos is the Rio Tigre entrance to Corcovado National Park, which opened in February 2015. Corcovado National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most impressive parks because of its astounding biological diversity. There are over 375 species of birds, 124 mammals, and more than 8,000 different insects hidden among its thick jungle, not to mention the incredible diversity of plants. El Tigre Trail (Sendero El Tigre) starts at the edge of town and is a 5 mile (8 km) loop. This is a moderate-to-difficult hike, mostly because it is steep at the beginning, and takes about 7-8 hours.
Unlike other locations in Corcovado that require reservations months in advance, El Tigre does not require reservations through the SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion). Like we said, it’s a good idea to make reservations with the Association beforehand, but you can wait to do it when you arrive in Puerto Jimenez. As is the case with the rest of Corcovado, you do, however, need a registered guide to explore the trail. The price of the guide is included in the cost of the tour offered by the Association.
The El Tigre hiking tour is $150 for 2 people, $50 for each additional person.
Gold Mining Tour
We love hiking, but with a two-month old, we weren’t about to try a 7-8 hour trek into Corcovado. Ermer suggested we try a shorter, flatter hike, which included a gold-mining demonstration. Even this was a little long for Sam, at about 3-4 hours, but he was a trooper in his baby carrier.
This tour goes along the Tigre River and close to the border of Corcovado National Park. Even though we weren’t inside the actual park, we got a sense of just how wild the area really is and saw tons of birds and different plant life. Our guides were José and Alan, and they did an excellent job introducing us to the town, explaining about its gold-mining operations (past and present), as well as teaching us about the local flora and fauna. We even got to try panning for gold ourselves and found some very small flecks in the riverbank.
The gold-mining tour is $30 per person. For more information, read our post A Gold Mining Tour: Hunting for Treasure on the Osa.
Bird Watching Tour
During our gold-mining tour, we have to admit that we were somewhat distracted by the amazing variety of birds flying around. Luckily, our guides also happened to be birding experts and once they noticed our interest, helped us spot almost 30 different species. Some of the highlights were the White Hawk, Blue-throated Goldentail, Ringed Kingfisher, Orange-collared Manakin, Purple Gallinule, and of course, the several pairs of Scarlet Macaw Parrots we saw in town. To further entice you, we learned that during a Christmas count in 2014, the community identified over 100 species in just one day! Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre is a unique hotspot for birds because of its diversity of habitats. There are primary and secondary rainforests, fields, rivers, and lots of small ponds and swampy areas that were created by prior mining operations.
Birding tours are $30 per person and include an expert guide for about three hours. They suggest an early morning or afternoon tour to see the most.
The Association is constantly adding new tours, but some of the others that we learned about are:
El Salto Tour: Called the El Salto (the Jump) tour, this hike brings you through the forest, crossing the river several times, to a small waterfall and swimming hole. $20 per person.
Night Hike/Walk: A 2-hour walk through the forest, this tour will show you a lot of wildlife that remains hidden during the day. Night hikes are really fun because you never know what you’ll see. Common creatures are frogs, snakes, sleeping birds, and sometimes the glowing eyes of different mammals. $30 per person.
Horseback Riding: The horseback riding tour takes you through the rainforest and along the river in several spots. You’ll likely see locals panning for gold and get to see the jungle from a different vantage point, atop a horse. $75 per person.
Directions to Dos Brazos and El Tigre Entrance of Corcovado National Park
From Puerto Jimenez: Take the main road (Route 245) northwest for about 2.5 miles (4 km) and turn left after crossing the Rio Tigre Bridge. Look for signs for Dos Brazos and Parque Nacional Corcovado El Tigre. This road is not paved but is flat so you do not need a 4×4 vehicle. Continue to the town of Gallardo (about 2 miles/3 km) and look for a sign for Parque Nacional Corcovado. At the sign, take a right. Continue for a couple hundred meters and take the next road on the left. At this left there was no sign for Corcovado, but several signs for lodges (Los Mineros Guesthouse, Casa Aire Libre, Casa Los Suenos, etc.). After taking a left at those signs, follow the road straight (about 3 miles/5 km) until you reach Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre. You will see the rustic building for the tourism office on the right before you get to town. Parking is just after the building.
We were really happy to have discovered the community of Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre. All of the people we met in town and our guides were so friendly and helpful. After our tour, we ate a delicious and hearty meal at a small local restaurant, and it felt great to know that our tourism dollars were helping the community as a whole. If you are visiting Puerto Jimenez and looking for things to do a short distance from town, we highly recommend an activity through this dedicated community association.
Have a question about visiting Corcovado National Park’s new El Tigre entrance? Ask it in the comments below (email subscribers click here to post online).
Looking for more information to help you plan your trip? Check out these posts:
- Packing for Costa Rica – Heading to a remote place like Puerto Jimenez? Check out our packing post for ideas on what to bring. Includes tips for rainy season travel.
- Corcovado National Park – Read this post for a general overview of Corcovado National Park and the different ways to access it.
- Bird Photography: How to Get That Perfect Shot – Capturing images of birds and other wildlife in the rainforest can be a challenge. Learn some techniques in this post from our friend Jeff—he’s a pro!