Corcovado park is an amazing place but quite pricy if you want to visit it with a tour and guide but there is a place called Bolita that makes affordable, Corcovado park for backpackers. Corcovado park and Bolita hostel became the highlight of our month in Costa Rica and our Latin American journey in general. Bolita is an eco hostel located right at the border with Corcovado National park, on the top of the mountain. Due to its remote location, the nearest dirt road is 40 min. walk uphill. Staying in Bolita is like being in Jurassic park, just instead of T-rex and Pteradonon you have sloths and toucans. We absolutely loved this place and consider Bolita as the best hostel in the world!
If you are a comfort seeker and not very enthusiastic about being surrounded by wild nature, including frogs and insects, Bolita won’t sound like a paradise for you. But if you want to get away from modern world, experience the jungle life and see its inhabitants in their natural environment, Bolita is a perfect place.
Corcovado is considered the best National park in Costa Rica and it means a lot since there are many parks in the country. The park is located on Osa (Sp. bear) peninsula, it occupies 429km2 and is considered one of the most difficult parks to get in. It’s impossible to get there by car, there is no road. You options are by boat, riding a horse or walking. According to National Geographic Corcovado is one of the most bio-diverse parks in the world, it contains 2,5% of the planet biodiversity. Quite impressive for such a small area, isn’t it?
How to visit Corcovado National park
Like any other unique place a visit to the park is quite expensive and difficult venture. First of all you are won’t be able to visit it without a licensed guide. The entrance fee for foreigners 15$ not that much for what you get. BUT! The payment process isn’t easy, you need to pay in advance to book a day and time of your visit. All details of payment you can find HERE. Before you make a payment you need to arrange a guide through one of the agencies to make sure you can go on the booked day. A guide will cost you 65$ per person if your group is 5 or more people, if less price per person is higher. So the cheapest you can get is 80$ per person for a day visit.
80$ was too much for us but we really wanted to get there so we were trying to find other options and found! Our friends were a bit ahead of us and wrote us about this amazing place they stayed near Corcovado, Bolita hostel. We wrote to the owner, made a booking and went to Bolita!
How to get to Bolita?
Firs step; get by bus or plane (if you can afford) to town Puerto Jimenez, Osa peninsula. Buses to Puerto Jimenez leave from the capital twice a day at 8.00 am and 12.00 (midday), price 14$, takes about 8 hours to get there. You can get to Puerto Jimenez from other places in Costa Rica will just need to switch a bus at the split to Osa peninsula (ask the bus driver). Once in Puerto Jimenez take a local mini bus to Dos Brazos (4$), the drive takes 40 min. Bus leaves Mon-Fri at 11 am and 4 pm in front of hardware shop Grupo Materiales.
In Dos Rios find Bolita office (opened till 5 pm) where you register and get instructions for getting to the hostel. The way from the office to Bolita takes 30-40 min. depending on how much stuff you carry with. By the way you can leave some extra luggage at the office. Highly recommended to arrive at Dos Brazos before the dark, the way to Bolita is through the jungle and involves some river crossing, not the best trail to walk at night.
ATTENTION! Buses don’t go on weekends! To get to Dos Brazos on Sat and Sun you’ll need a taxi, they charge 20$. We didn’t check the schedule and arrive there on Sat. Luckily we found out about buses on the way and got off the bus before Puerto Jimenez, at the turn towards Dos Rios. After that we walked for about 10 km with all our luggage and bags full of food supplies to Dos Rios and 40 min. uphill to Bolita. By the time we arrived there we were half dead!
What do they have in Bolita?
There is everything you need; toilet, cold shower, kitchen with gas stove, pots, pans, dishes etc., dining area, hammocks and even some books. You can stay in 8 beds dorm for 12$ or double for 30$ (we paid 24$ because the rooms were not finished yet). All beds have mosquito nets no needs to worry about being eaten alive. No electricity at night but there is a solar panel so you can charge your devices during the day. We loved having dinner with candles’ light and jungle music, priceless experience! No Internet if you need you can ask the owner to connect to his phone to get some. In 5 days we spent there we didn’t want Internet once there was so much interesting around!
There is small food supply in the kitchen where you can buy some food e.g. spaghetti, cans (tuna, beans, corn), instant soups, cookies, tea/coffee, snacks. If you, like us, come for two days and decide to stay longer you won’t starve to death. If you are lucky with season (we were) you can get free mangoes, avocados, bananas, star fruit from nearby trees.
Things to do at Corcovado park for backpackers
As I mentioned before Bolita sits right at the border with Corcovado park so flora and fauna are exactly the same, in fact there is no real border or fence between. Bolita has 15 km of its own trails enough to keep you busy for a couple of days. All trails are regularly checked and cleaned it’s they are clear and easy to follow. Some trails go right to the park. Trails have different length and difficulty level from a short hike to the nearest view point to longer ones to the waterfalls or down the river.
Walking down the river was quite an adventure after heavy rains water level was quite high so sometimes we had to swim but most if the time walked in knee deep water. Down the river you’ll have a chance to meet some local gold washers, if you speak some Spanish they will be happy to show you how to wash gold.
Your day at Bolita starts very early with the sunrise and sounds of waking up jungles. Morning is a good time for spotting some toucans and macaws. And soon after dinner at 8-9 pm everybody is in beds, half asleep. Without electricity it’s easy to follow the rhythm of nature!
What can you see?
Let’s start from the most interesting (for me), mammals. Four types of monkeys; howler, Capuchin, spider and marmoset. We saw all of them. Specially impressive is howler monkey, a cat size animal that makes extremely loud roar, sounds like a lion or gorilla. Except for monkeys you’ll have a chance to see anteaters, tapirs, coaties, squirrels, ocelots and even jaguars. Out of all of them we saw many squirrels, one wet anteater and one dead ocelot on the road from the bus window. We saw some sloths as well one lives next to the hostel.
Birds, many birds. From very loud bright scarlet macaws and toucans to to tiny hummingbirds fluttering around. We saw many toucans in the mornings while eating breakfast in the kitchen area, very funny birds flying from tree to tree one by one. We were very lucky to spot on our last day a hummingbird nest with three babies in it. Of course other birds like eagles, vultures, pelicans etc. Real bird watchers paradise.
Reptiles and amphibians
My favorite was red eyed tree frog the cutest frog ever! It sleeps during the day and becomes active after dark, sits on a tree and sings. We found it sleeping on a leaf one day and got a chance to take photos. Many tiny poison dart frogs including some permanent residents in the shower, all different colors; black and red, green and orange, red and blue. We saw only one snake in the jungle but there are more watch your step. If you go down the river you’ll have a chance to see Jesus lizards running on the water, some of them were quite big.
Many insects, beetles, bags, some big bright colorful butterflies etc.
What to bring?
Torch, no electricity, even to find a toilet can become a challenge at night. Sunscreen, mosquito repellent, cap, towel, swimming costume. Food, you can buy some at Bolita but the choice is limited.
Why eco hostel?
The owner of Bolita, a Canadian guy, who has been living in Costa Rica for about 20 years. He’s very serious about recycling, using alternative energy and natural materials for construction. Minimum interruption and impact to the environment. All waste is sorted out very carefully, all empty cans and bottles have to be clean before being deposited in the trash, organic waste is used for composed etc.
If all these sounds interesting for you to volunteer in Bolita can be an option. The minimum period of staying 1 week. Your duties can be different; from meeting guests and showing them around to maintaining trails and helping to do some building. In exchange you get free accommodation and food and all the advantages of staying in such an amazing place!
Bolita is a highly recommended place to visit in Costa Rica and we are seriously considering come back one day and spend there couple of weeks.