One of our favorite things about Costa Rica is its abundance of wildlife. And while yes, we have had the occasional run in with the sloth crossing the road or the monkeys climbing across power lines, it's always much more enjoyable to spot these animals in their natural habitat away from human influence.
Enter Sierpe, a small and quiet village in southern Costa Rica, known for it’s abundance of wildlife that live along its 30,000-plus hectares of wetland forest reserve. The gateway to Corcovado National Park, Sierpe boasts much of the same wildlife you’ll see hiking through the park, but from a leisurely boat ride. Plus you get to experience the unique mangroves that don’t get nearly as much press as Costa Rica’s beaches and rainforest. It’s a must-do for any animal lovers traveling through southern Costa Rica!
How To Get To Sierpe
For travelers who are willing to brave driving in Latin America, we always recommend renting a car while in Costa Rica. It opens up a lot more options than the public transportation system, and taxis can quickly get pretty pricy.
Arriving at Sierpe is relatively easy by car, especially if you are already in the Southern zone. By car, you’ll simply take the Coastal Highway south until you reach Palmar Norte. Turn right to cross over the bridge. On the other side of the bridge is a right turn with a sign for Sierpe. Drive 17k, through the palm plantation and you’ll arrive in Sierpe town square. In the opposite corner of the square is where you’ll find the boat dock, where all of the tours on the river leave.
What To Expect
We recommend booking your tour in advance through the Uvita Tourism Center. For the same cost as other tour operators, they’ll streamline your reservation and quickly give you all the details you need to know for an adventure on the river.
When you first arrive at the dock in Sierpe, things will likely look chaotic. Don’t fret. Grab a coffee and ask for Don. He is the dockmaster and will be able to point you to your boat captain and guide.
Due to the intensity of the Costa Rican sun and unpredictable rainfall, all of the boats have canopies covering them to protect from the elements.
Most of the tours are private. We were a group of five, and enjoyed our own boat and naturalist guide. There are group tours that are potentially cheaper, but when given the choice of jockeying for the best photo position with ten strangers or having a more personal experience, we always opt for the latter. Tours typically last around three hours and travel from the town of Sierpe up the river and into its many tributaries.
What You Can See
As with any wildlife tour, nature is unpredictable. Don’t expect a zoo-like setting where animals are perched around every corner. However, on both of our boat trips along the Sierpe River, we saw loads of wildlife, including toucans, crocodiles, cayman, turtles, herons, owls, multiple other bird species, giant iguanas and capuchin monkeys. It’s also relatively common to see sloths. If you’re really lucky, you might spot a wild cat, though these sightings are extremely rare.
When To Go
While wildlife is always around, rain or shine, the most enjoyable time to spot animals is during the dry season which runs from December to April. Nature is also more active at dawn and dusk, so we recommend getting up and on the water as early as possible to make the most of your trip.
What to Bring
Even if rain isn’t on the forecast, we always recommend packing a light raincoat just in case.
Sunscreen and a hat are a must, even with the boat covering.
A camera with a zoom lens to capture wildlife from a distance is recommended. The boat captains are very experienced and do a great job of getting you close to the animals without disturbing them.
Water and a light snack are never a bad idea, although most tours provide complimentary bottled water or juice on the boat.
Have you ever explored Sierpe by boat? Leave your experience below!