One of the most beautiful national parks in Costa Rica is definitely the Corcovado National Park. As we researched the national park, it became increasingly clear that we had to go there. But we were put off by the horrendous prices of around 100 Euro per person per day. This is about the entrance fee plus a (mandatory) guide per person. We didn’t want to spend that much money. We also love to walk alone through the jungle of a national park. So we looked for an alternative to the Corcovado National Park.
Fortunately, I came across the Bolita Rainforest Hostel*, which is a perfect alternative to the Corcovado National Park. The hostel is located directly on the border of the Corcovado National Park and offers a total of 15 kilometers of hiking trails on its property, which can be walked free of charge and without a guide. The reviews showed that everything about flora and fauna is there, which we hoped for from our visit to the jungle and for only 30 Euro a night.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Facts about the Corcovado National Park
In the following a few hard facts about Corcovado National Park:
- The Corcovado National Park was founded in 1975
- It is with 429km² the biggest national park of Costa Rica
- There is not a single road leading directly to the park
- Corcovado National Park covers 70% of the land area of the Osa Peninsula
- In Corcovado National Park alone you will find 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity
- Corcovado National Park is the largest contiguous area of primary tropical rainforest north of the Amazon
Corcovado is the most biodiverse national park in Costa Rica and according to National Geographic even the “most biologically diverse place in the world”. Thousands and thousands of animal and plant species live in the thirteen different ecosystems of this humid green place. Rainforest, mangroves, swamps, untouched Pacific coast. A real highlight in the Pura Vida country Costa Rica.
Unfortunately it is also quite expensive to do a tour there. But it is not the entrance fee that makes these adventures so expensive, but the fact that since 2014 you need an ICT-certified guide to get into the park. In previous years, some tourists probably got lost forever, which is certainly not good for the image of the tourism industry in Costa Rica.
You have to pay about 90 USD per person for a guide. And that per day. That was too expensive for us. Besides we like to walk around on our own. And so we came to our alternative to Corcovado National Park. The Hostel Bolita is located practically in the direct neighbourhood of the park.
How to visit Corcovado National Park on a Budget?
Ron, the friendly Canadian owner, bought several hectares of land right next to Cocovado National Park almost 16 years ago and built his small but nice hostel there. The hostel is not like any other. It is quite unique, not only in its location, design and atmosphere, but also because there are no other hostels or hotels around. And that in kilometres! There is not even a road that leads there.
The next village is called Don Brazos and from there only a footpath is leading to the hostel in about 40 minutes. So all the other hotels that are nearby are in Don Brazos and have much less wildlife to offer because they are in a small village and of course the view is not so breathtaking. The Bolita is located on a hill with a view to the sea.
All these were reasons for us to visit this hostel and therewith also the Corcovado National Park. This hostel is the perfect – and cheap – alternative to Corcovado National Park.
Equipment of the Hostel
The interior of the hostel can be described as simple but good. There are 2 well equipped kitchens and sufficient, clean toilets and showers. There are also numerous hammocks and seating areas. You don’t go there for a luxury holiday, but if you want to relax completely in a wonderful natural setting, this is the place to be.
Rooms at the Bolita Rainforest Hostel
The rooms in the hostel are either double rooms or shared rooms in a separate building. However, the rooms or beds are not completely closed. You have a roof over your head, but you don’t really have walls around you. The double rooms for example have a door, but it cannot be locked.
But why? Because from the other side, the room is completely open and offers a wonderful view to the rain forest. At the left and the right side there is a thin wooden partition wall and/or further in front, this partition wall is only made of fabric. This means that of course one does not have so much privacy when the hostel is fully occupied.
Ron has put in several kilometers of hiking trails over many years of hard work, some of which extend to the border of the Corcovado National Park. You could also walk across the Corcovado National Park without realizing it, as the flora and fauna do not differ and there is no real limit.
We were lucky that during our 3 nights we were even partly completely alone in the hostel. A crazy feeling!
But although the rooms offer less privacy than we thought, the feeling of waking up to the sounds of the rain forest is not to describe. Birds, howler monkeys and thousands of insects wake you up in the morning and you don’t even have to open a window to observe the animals more closely. There are no windows at all.
The Hiking Trails
Ron has put up several kilometers of hiking trails over many years of hard work, some of which extend to the border of the Corcovado National Park. You could also walk across the Corcovado National Park without realizing it, as the flora and fauna do not differ from where the official park ends.
The hiking trails are superbly constructed and also marked at all intersections. So it is almost impossible to get lost. Some of the trails are only a few hundred meters long and can be done in 30 minutes, but the longest ones are several kilometers long and can keep you busy for 4-5 hours. So you can also stay in the Bolita for several days and not get bored during the hikes. On our 4 days we managed all the hiking trails, only some (partly necessarily) doubled. But of course we didn’t hike the whole time, but we also relaxed a lot in the hostel and watched hummingbirds, that are flying around the numerous colorful flowers directly in front of the hostel.
How to get to Bolita from San Jose
The journey from San José to the Bolita Rainforest Hostel is unfortunately not that easy and requires several switches between buses and a lot of time.
- Taking the Tracopa Bus at 7 am from San Jose to Golfito (12 Euro pP)
- From Golfito to Puerto Jimenez by ferry at 3 pm (5 Euro pP)
- Continue by taxi to the Bolita Rainforest Hostel Office in Don Brazos (22 Euro)
How to get to Bolita in detail
From San José we started at 7 am with the Tracopa bus in direction Golfito. We already bought the tickets the evening before at the counter of the bus station, but this is not really necessary. Currently you cannot buy the tickets online (status 05/2019). The tickets to Golfito cost up to 8.000 Colon pP (approx. 12 Euro).
The bus takes the way over the R2 across the surrounding mountains. On the way the green shines out to the right and left while the bus is struggling along the serpentines under the sound of the engine. After 1,5h the first short break takes place in Chicharronera. There are toilets and a small shop where you can buy food and drinks. A second and longer break was at lunchtime at a cheap restaurant.
We reached our destination, Golfito, around 2.30 pm. From the bus stop it is about 300 meters to the ferry port Servicio de Cabotaje Golfito-Puerto Jimenez (Google Maps Link). At the blue, roofed panel on the left side we bought our ferry tickets for 3.000 Colon per person (approx. 4,50 Euro). Punctually at 3 pm our small ferry started and reached Puerto Jimenez after about 30 minutes. Actually we thought we could get fresh fruit at the harbour or close to the harbor… but there is just nothing. Not a single shop where you could buy anything. So we took the taxi driver’s offer and got a ride for 15.000 Colon (almost 22 Euro) within 30 minutes to the Bolita Rainforest Hotel.
After about 1 kilometre drive there were some smaller shops and of course there is also a main street in Puerto Jimenez with several shops, but they are not within walking distance anymore. Good that we had already bought our food in San Jose
So we had made it in time. You have to be at the office of the Bolita Rainforest Hostel at 5 pm at the latest to check in. If you arrive later, they won’t let you pass, as it would be too dangerous to walk through the jungle in the darkness.
Background is the fact that you have to walk through the jungle for about 30-40 minutes to get to the actual hostel. This distance is hardly to manage in the dark.
In the office of the hostel you should also leave all things you don’t need up in the hostel. So we only packed some clothes, our food and our cameras and left the rest of our huge backpack in the office. It would also have been too exhausting to carry all this through the forest.
The track also took us close to our limits. After we got used to the climate of the dust-dry Atacama Desert, we suddenly walked through the rainy, green jungle with extremely high humidity. After a few minutes the sweat ran down our foreheads and with every section of the trail it got worse.
The crossing of the river, shortly after the start, offered a little cooling off. But we did not have much time. We were driven on by the rumbling thunder and the beginning twilight. Shortly after 5 pm we finally reached the Bolita Rainforest Hostel and were warmly welcomed by the Canadian owner Ron. As we looked very exhausted, Ron offered us a glass of fresh spring water and a short break until he showed us the hostel grounds and our room.
With the increasing darkness, big toads came out of their hiding places and placed themselves all over the place. Ron directly showed us several of them and a red-eyed little green frog. A great introduction to our jungle adventure.
What to bring to the Jungle?
The Bolita Rainforest Hotel is geared towards pure self-catering. This means that there is neither breakfast nor any other kind of catering. But you can buy some food (snacks, noodles, sauce, vegetables) to prepare it yourself in one of the two kitchens. There is also an infinite source of fresh drinking water in the hostel, which Ron himself taps from a spring in the mountains. So the water is super fresh, drinkable and free.
What to bring:
- Light, quick-drying clothing
- good hiking boots or hiking sandals
- Rain jacket
- Food to cook yourself
- Bottles to fill with water (free water is available on site)
But there are also things that you do not have to bring along or that are available on site. With some of them we would not have expected to find them up there.
What you get in the hostel:
- A selection of food you can buy (only a little more expensive than in the supermarket)
- A small selection of free food that falls from the trees in the area. These are mainly avocados and fruits (bananas, mangoes) that grow on the trees of the hostel.
- fresh water
- Wifi (which is only moderately good)
- partly mobile phone reception (but we only had mobile phone reception with the provider Kolbi. With Claro there was no reception on the whole peninsula)
- There are no real power sockets. You only have the possibility to charge USB devices. But this works very well.
Our Experience at Bolita Rainforest Hostel
Already with the first night we got used to the rhythm of the jungle. Although it was only around 7 p.m., it was already pitch black and with the beginning of the gentle drumming of the rain on the corrugated iron above our room we fell into an extensive sleep.
With the first sunrays of the morning around 5 o’clock I woke up. Through the mosquito net everything looked a little bit subdued while I watched the colourful play of the clouds. Although it was so early, the urge to get up was stronger and so I sat down on our small terrace, sucked the tender sunbeams into me and listened to the groaning, crows, singing and the bleating calls of the animal world of the jungle.
After a first breakfast, cooked in the outdoor kitchen, Ron quickly explained the different hiking trails to us and went us through the most suitable route for the day. Since it was a sunny morning and we were both fit, we took the longest route, which led to the Bonanza Waterfall.
While we still felt quite fit at the hostel, the high humidity became noticeable on the “Big Banana” trail after the first serpentine ascents. The sweat was running down in streams again. Also the first dark clouds came up slowly and in the distance we heard the first soft thunder. But it is called rain forest for a reason.
After a short break we continued our way through the green thicket and came to a first small clearing with a view to the valley below. A sea of green bushes and trees, from which again and again the most different bird voices could be heard. We were already excited.
After a few meters we had to cross a thick tree trunk on which an ant trail of leaf-cutting ants ran. For us this was the first perfect photo of our hike and so we tried to get the small, busy ants in front of the lens. However, this was not so easy due to the high walking speed of the nimble ants.
The further part of the hike went through the dense jungle and again and again we stopped, listened and looked around to discover more animals. Sometimes you had the feeling that the animals pose perfectly for our camera, sometimes you only notice the animals when they disappear into the bushes.
Exactely this is what happened with an approx. 1 meter large, black bird running around. Andreas suddenly pointed hectically forward and asked me to be quiet. Only briefly I caught sight of this extraordinary animal. Much too fast it had disappeared again in the green thicket.
On the further way we were accompanied mainly by butterflies and lizards… …and a not inconsiderable shower of rain. We had to hide under a tree for half an hour to avoid getting completely wet. Unfortunately we only had one rain jacket with us and so we had to hide under it from the really heavy rain.
After this break we continued uphill & downhill along the edge of the hills with a view of the valley to arrive at the river after some time. Here we stopped to cool off before we continued the hike to the waterfall.
The last meters along the river are lined with dark stone walls that lead you to your destination. The rushing and splashing got louder and louder until we finally saw the waterfall behind the last turn. Wow…the view was phenomenal and especially impressive within the natural scenery lined by green jungle.
I immediately jumped into the cool water, but could hardly stand under the waterfall, as the water was rushing down with very high force. Nevertheless, it was a great experience that inspired us for the way back. To be back at the Bolita before sunset we decided to start the way back without big interruptions.
On the way back we heard a loud fluttering, looked up and saw a large number of toucans. Wow, also the first time we saw these birds in freedom. At the top of the trees they were sitting and flying from tree to tree.
But not only birds sat in the tree. Suddenly branches fell down and we saw several movements in the treetops. Dark shadows flitted around, which turned out to be reddish brown monkeys the next moment. We discovered more and more monkeys, which attracted attention with their loud calls. Also more and more branches rushed down on ours.
It almost had the impression that the monkeys wanted to chase us away. When the branches were not enough to get rid of us, a monkey took harder measures. Suddenly it trickled or poured yellow down from the tree. Eww! Did the monkey really try to pee on us? We don’t know if he tried to pee on us or not. In any case it was enough for us, so we continued our way back to the hostel.
We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hostel until the birds’ song was replaced by the croaking of frogs by nightfall. So we went on to search for more animals in the dark and found some small beautiful specimens directly at the pond. After such a beautiful day full of great impressions we could go into a relaxed sleep early in the evening.
Day 2 we used a little more to relax. The day started with a view from the bed into the jungle, followed by the shower with view into the jungle and finally with breakfast, prepared in the outdoor kitchen, also with view into the jungle. Because in Bolita everything is open. There are no closed rooms and so you feel continuously integrated into nature and the rainforest.
For us, this is exactly what makes the Bolita Rainforest Hostel so special. For us it was a stay in a small paradise of peace and relaxation. A little bit this was also because we had the hostel completely to ourselves most of the time.
So after a rather relaxed day the highlight of the day should take place in the dark. After consultation with Ron we had planned a night hike for the evening… whereby night here meant 6 pm in the evening. In the twilight we followed the hiking trails up to the 400 m high viewpoint (“Gottogo”) on a small hill within 45 minutes. Here we took a break and waited for the darkness.
With the darkness the birds fell silent and the chirping of the crickets and the croaking of the frogs began again. The soundscape between day and night is very different. Just as different as the sounds are the animals that are active at night. So we hoped for some new animals during the almost 45 minutes walk back. So while we were walking or sliding down the path, we stopped again and again, waved the flashlights and listened. Then the shock… what was that noise right behind me. And now in front of me!
Out of the corner of my eye I could just make out the fluttering wings. They must be bats. Again and again they crossed our path and flew past directly in front or behind us. Only just before our heads they turned off, missing us only by inches. I held the flashlight in front of my face so that the animals would not miss us. Knowing full well that the masters of the night flight can “see” us much better with their echolocation than with their eyes.
The next animals we discovered were much smaller, but should scare me even more. At the tree trunks we saw spiders again and again, which were of a decent size. The biggest moment of horror with a following short panic attack was given to me (Sabrina) by a spider, which suddenly hung from a leaf right in front of my nose! Not to imagine, I would have run right into it!
In general the darkness, paired with the background noise, caused a paranoid basic attitude, which made me turn around again and again. Since there were only two of us, I was unprotected either in front or behind me. Both versions were kind of not ideal… but what can I say, I survived! Just kidding 😀 The night hike was an incredibly great experience for both of us. Even though we didn’t see that many animals, it was great to have the experience on our own.
The next day should already be our last full day in the beautiful Bolita Rainforest Hostel. For breakfast we had again a delicious porridge with mangos and star fruits we picked the day before on the Banana Trail. Afterwards we had a shower, from where we could watch the rising sun through the trees and bushes of the jungle.
Since it was very rainy, we only planned a hike in the afternoon. We wanted to walk the last hiking trail, which we did not know yet. The Valley Trail leads partly over a hill with a beautiful view of the valley below. There we finally saw the first macaw parrot that flew with its bright red feathers directly over our heads. Wow… the last few days we heard the cawing of the macaws again and again and now we had finally seen one. But this should not be the highlight of the hike.
We followed the way further and were already almost at the hostel when Andreas, who was walking in front of me, suddenly screamed with fright and made a step back. Next I only heard the word “SNAKE” and saw this almost 2 meter long and light green monster meandering directly over the path and into the bushes. With open mouths we stood there and could hardly believe it. Unfortunately the whole thing happened much too fast to reach for the camera in time. But you don’t always have to look at such moments through the camera lens. With this experience we had a perfect end for our last hike.
Our last Day
On the next morning the jungle bid us farewell with a beautiful sunrise under a bright blue sky. The 4 days at the Bolita Rainforest Hostel were a great experience in a small paradise in the middle of the jungle. We could have stayed there much longer, because what man needs a lot of luxury when he can be in the seclusion and peace of the forest? For us the stay at the Bolita Rainforest Hostel was one of the coolest of all our trips. And the location was certainly the best a hotel ever had. We definitely give a quadruple thumbs up here!
If you are also looking for the seclusion and tranquility in the middle of nature, this alternative to Corcovado National Park is just right for you.