One of the most remote, secluded coastal areas in Costa Rica is the stunning and lush Osa Peninsula.
Costa Rica’s largest national park, the Corcovado National Park is also situated here, slicing the peninsula in two parts, as the national park has a long coastline as well, which provides the wildlife direct access to the ocean, and can only be accessed by officially organised tours. In fact, the whole area of the Corcovado National Park is only accessible by pre-booked tours led by rangers working for the national park. Guided tours with rangers are organised by and start from the surrounding villages, like Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez.
There are two ranger stations in the middle of the park, which offer limited overnight lodging (not cheap).
But you don’t actually have to enter the national park to see stunning wildlife and tropical jungles; the surrounding areas are also amazing and intact.
The Osa Peninsula has two main “centers” providing tourist facilities and from which the Corcovado National Park can be accessed, the north-western Drake Bay, and south-eastern Puerto Jimenez.
I chose to discover this spectacular area from Drake Bay, as I heard it is more untouched and less touristy, and can only be accessed by boat or plane – which made it sound even more adventurous.
It took a 40-minute speed boat ride from the town of Sierpe to get to Drake Bay – the public service’s boats leave twice a day, at 11am and at 3 pm and cost 10$ per person, but lodges and hotels sometimes operate their own boat service as well. The other option is flying with the local airlines – with small Cessna planes – which arrive/depart once or twice a day from/to San Jose.
The boat ride from the town of Sierpe to Drake Bay, on the Sierpe River, is a great adventure in itself.
The Sierpe River is a part of a large stunning tropical mangrove ecosystem, which is worth seeing. The captain also did a by-pass ride to a narrow distributary, so we were able to see some mangroves within reach.
Drake Bay – Bahia Drake – is named after the famous British privateer Sir Francis Drake, and was believed to be one of the location for his hidden treasures.
The bay and the surrounding areas are part of the lowland tropical rainforest ecosystem present across the peninsula, with exceptionally rich and abundant wildlife and staggering jungle scenery, an exceptional place where the jungle meets the ocean. The main town called “Downtown Drake Bay” is a small atmospheric village in the southern part of the bay with a few hundred inhabitants.
The most beautiful secluded beaches I ever saw in my life are along a narrow footpath called the Drake Bay Hiking Trail which starts from the town and leads all along the coast (south-east direction) until the edge of the National Park, and takes as long as four to five hours to reach – I actually couldn’t reach the edge of Corcovado, as I had to return before the sunset – as it can be dangerous at night, the area is home to large felines likes pumas and jaguars – as a matter of fact the jaguars, unlike the pumas, are not dangerous, and they usually migrate to the mountainous regions in the dry season (unfortunately, as I would have loved to see one) – and there are some venomous animals also present, so it’s better to see where you step.
The footpath leads through a small estuary where the Rio Claro river enters the ocean ( 8°40’43.6″N 83°42’42.4″W – the first part in the video above) which in the dry season at low tide is connected to the ocean only by a small stream, small enough to cross by foot, but in the rainy season or at high tide it can become deep and wide enough to make the crossing problematic.
It is not advised to swim through these places where fresh water enters the ocean as it can become a hunting ground for crocodiles and bull sharks – in the dry season the crocodiles are usually not around though, they bury themselves in the mud to sleep also both the crocs and the bull sharks are fish-eaters, but this doesn’t mean that the larger adults wouldn’t try to taste other meat.
Luckily there is a local service which provides boat crossing in case of high tide ( I am not sure about the rainy season). If you are coming from the direction of the town, you can blow a whistle, and someone will take you through the river with a small boat for two dollars – quite romantic.
This footpath can become really abandoned; it happened to me that I did not come across anyone for an hour – otherwise, some locals and tourists roam this little path, as there are a few tiny communities living along the coast here who use this footpath to get to the town. Otherwise, it is not really well-known by tourists.