The Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula is considered to be Costa Rica’s last great wilderness frontier and contains one of the largest remaining lowland rainforests in the world. This remote corner of the country harbors 2.5% of the biodiversity of the entire planet in less than a millionth of a percent of its total surface area. The peninsula is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Golfo Dulce to the East, and its coastal waters are a rich haven for marine life. The largest town in the peninsula is Puerto Jiménez, which is found to the South East at the end of the route 245 highway on the Golfo Dulce coast, and an unsealed road continues South and West to Matapalo and eventually Carate and La Leona. Drake Bay is located in the North West on the Pacific coast at the end of an unsealed road beginning at Rincón de Osa. Traditionally set up for high-end adventure travel, with various expensive lodges among the most established hotels in the area, Drake Bay is developing rapidly and has recently become more accessible to budget travelers. The region is now the main tourism destination in the Osa Peninsula and boasts unrivaled access to the three main protect areas in the peninsula. It is also the only remaining region along the Pacific coast where ‘eco-tourism’ is still the predominant model.
Corcovado National Park
Widely considered to be the crown jewel of the country’s national park system, the Corcovado National Park covers one third of the land mass of the Osa Peninsula – an area of 425 km² – and protects a number of endemic species. Famously referred to by National Geographic as ‘the most biologically intense place on Earth’, the park is home to all four Costa Rican monkey species, jaguars, pumas and ocelots, Baird’s tapir, crocodiles, spectacled caimans, bull sharks, two-toed and three-toed sloths, agoutis, giant anteaters, great curassows, black hawks, spectacled owls, the harpy eagle, hummingbirds, golden orb spiders, otters, raccoons, collared and white-lipped peccary, northern tamandua, silky anteaters, poison dart frogs, several species of snake (including the venomous fer-de-lance and bushmaster), and over 8000 insect species, including at least 220 species of butterflies. Four species of sea turtle (olive ridley, pacific green, hawksbill, and leatherback) also nest on the beaches of the park. The protected region features at least 13 different vegetation types, including montane forest, cloud forest, prairie forest, alluvial plains forest, swamp forest, palm swamp, freshwater herbaceous swamp and mangrove, harboring over 2000 plant species, including over 500 different types of tree. The park may be accessed via three ranger station entrances, San Pedrillo in the North West, Los Patos in the North East, and La Leona in the South East, whereas the remote coastal Sirena Ranger Station at the heart of the park may be accessed on foot or by boat from Drake Bay (1 hour 10 mins).
Isla del Caño
Once home to indigenous tribes in pre-Colombian times, and later used as a refuge for pirates, Isla del Caño it is best known for its spectacular offshore diving and snorkeling. Situated around 20km off the coast, this 3.3 km² island is a designated marine reserve accessed by boat from Drake Bay (45 mins). Excellent visibility, extensive coral and underwater rock formations, and an enormous number of marine species make it the premier scuba diving spot in the entire country. Beneath the water you may be able to spot giant manta rays, tuna, needlefish, barracuda, snapper, hammerhead sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, three species of sea turtles, moray eels, dolphins, and both humpback and pilot whales, among much other marine life.
This protected National Wetlands area covers 307 km² and features the largest continuous expanse of mangrove forest in the Pacific coast of Central America. The wetland reserve is a major nature tour attraction and hosts an important habitat of many species of birds, fish, shellfish, mammals and reptiles. Resident and migratory bird species often found in Térraba-Sierpe include herons, egrets, cotingas, and osprey. Common mammals include agouti and river otters; and reptiles include caimans, crocodiles and tree boas. Many of these species depend on this ecosystem for their complete life cycle; reproduction, growth and feeding. The reserve may be explored by boat from Drake Bay (45 mins).
The largest of the villages in the region and home to most of the hotels and tourist operators in Drake Bay, Agujitas boasts a handful of restaurants, bars and shops, several schools and churches, and offers a number of tourist services and attractions, including a small spa, a butterfly garden and a fine river for kayaking and swimming. Agujitas is a relatively busy place and its beach is probably the least beautiful of those nearby, but it does feature a wonderful nature trail that heads South along the coast – all the way to the Corcovado National Park – passing many superior and secluded beaches along the way, such as playas Cocolito and Caletas and playas San Josecito and Rincón.
A small village situated 6km North East of Agujitas, El Progreso is home to Drake Bay Backpackers and the Corcovado Foundation, and is the center of community-based tourism in the region. The village contains three grocery stores (pulperías), two small restaurants (sodas), a school, two churches, a bar, a community center and soccer field, and Drake Bay Airport. It is also home to the largest of the beaches in Drake Bay, playa Drake, a large river system home to myriad species of bird, and several uninhabited patches of jungle to explore. At the hostel, it is possible to watch howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, toucans, aracari, scarlet macaws and much more, all from the comfort of your hammock. El Progreso is also home to one of our community-based tours, Madre Selva, and is just a 30 walk from the remote and spectacular playa Ganado.
This fine village is located around 10km East of El Progreso in a picturesque valley, and is home to five of our community-based tours.
A picturesque village around 5km South of Agujitas, Los Planes features a canopy tour and a number of spectacular viewpoints overlooking playa Rincón.
This tiny village has no amenities, apart from the obligatory soccer field, but it is home to two our community-based tours, Cinta Blanca and Descubre la Naturaleza.
A wild and often deserted 3.6km curved beach with several distinct zones and the finest sunset view of Isla del Caño, playa Drake features a swimmable river, nature trails, and forests filled with monkeys, birds and even ocelots. Swimming in the sea here is normally safe, but best avoided when there are big swells. This is the closest beach to the hostel.
The best-kept secret of Drake Bay, playa Ganado is a remote wilderness that involves a little swim across an small estuary to reach, but those adventurous enough to make the effort will be rewarded by having a stunning 3km beach all to themselves. The jungle at the beach is full of birds, reptiles and mammals, including monkeys, ocelots and pumas, and a Jaguar is even rumored to live up in the adjacent mountains! The best bit though is the view from the top of the hill as you arrive at Ganado – certainly the finest view in Drake Bay. It is important to take into consideration the tide when crossing the estuary; please ask hostel personnel for advice before crossing. Swimming in the sea here is normally safe, but avoid the area near the estuary mouth when the tide is going out.
Playa de Amor
This cute little beach sits beside the coastal road from El Progreso to Agujitas, but once you drop down the trail onto the sand you could be forgiven for feeling that you are in your own little secluded paradise. Indeed, it’s seems to have this effect on the locals too as it is rumored that many of them were conceived on this beach! The swimming here is excellent; a perfect spot for a picnic.
Pleasant for an evening stroll during a night out in Agujitas or a quick sunbathe during the day, but otherwise there are much better beaches around. Swimming here is fine… but what are you doing here?
Playas Cocolito and Caletas
Around 30 mins and 1 hour away from Aguijtas on foot, respectively, these two groups of beaches are wild and beautiful and well worth making a day-trip out of. There are a bunch of mini-beaches dotted around this area, so it is easy to find one to have all to yourself. To reach them just follow the beautiful coastal trail heading South from Agujitas and follow signs. You are likely to see scarlet macaws and white-faced capuchins en route, and possibly even more wildlife. The swimming here is excellent.
Playas San Josecito and Rincón
Located West of Los Planes, not far from the San Pedrillo entrance to the Corcovado National Park, these two spectacular beaches are among the very best that Drake Bay has to offer. Playa San Josecito is a small horseshoe-shaped bay that features a natural rocky wave-breaking barrier, making it one of the safest and calmest beaches in the area in which to swim. Unfortunately the boat captains know this too, and so the beach is often full of tourists having their picnic lunches as part of their snorkeling tour to Isla del Caño. Fortunately there is more to be discovered by heading in either direction along the coastal path.
A 20 minute walk North over the headland (towards Agujitas) will bring you to the Punta Río Claro Wildlife Refuge, where it is possible to go on a kayak tour run by the hospitable and infamous ‘Clavito’, a local that has lived here for many years. Río Claro is one of the most picturesque rivers around, and is worth visiting just to take a dip in its crystal clear waters.
A 20 minute walk South over the headland (away from Agujitas) will bring you to the epic playa Rincón. At around 2km long with excellent views of Isla del Caño, playa Rincón is jaw-droppingly beautiful and is often quite empty. It is normally safe to swim here too.
These beaches can be reached by following coastal trail on foot heading South from Agujitas, but be sure to give yourself at least 2.5 hours each way. Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Los Planes and make your way down to playa Rincón on foot, or take a boat from Agujitas to playa San Josecito, or a combination of any of these forms of transportation. Ask hostel personnel to help you make all the reservations to put together an unforgettable day out.