Planning Your Time
- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Many visitors come to visit Corcovado National Park—the main draw—or Drake Bay, and fly out after a brief two- or three-day stay. You’ll shortchange yourself with such a strict regimen. Allow at least a week.
Scheduled air service is offered to Ciudad Neily, Drake Bay, Palmar, and Puerto Jiménez (you can also charter flights to Corcovado), and Jeep-taxis and local tour operators offer connecting service to almost anywhere you may then wish to journey.
If you’re driving yourself, a 4WD vehicle is mandatory to negotiate the at-times-appalling dirt roads of the Osa and Burica Peninsulas. In wet season, the road to Corcovado National Park can prove impassable to even the largest 4WD vehicles.
Accommodations tend to cater to nature lovers: take your pick from safari-style tent-camps to deluxe eco-lodges. Dozens of nature lodges line the western shores of the Osa Peninsula and the contiguous Piedras Blancas, while beach options that primarily draw surfers and the student crowd tend toward the budget end of spectrum.
Highway 2 (the Pan-American Highway) cuts a more or less ruler-straight line along the base of the Fila Costeña mountains, connecting the towns of Palmar (to the north) with Ciudad Neily and Paso Canoas (to the south), on the border with Panamá. The towns offer no interest to travelers, other than as way-stops in times of need.
Sierpe, a port hamlet in the midst of banana plantations north of the Osa Peninsula, is the starting point for boat forays into the Térraba-Sierpe Wetland Reserve and to Drake Bay, the only community on the western side of the Osa Peninsula. Drake Bay has some splendid accommodations for every budget and particularly caters to sportfishers and divers. If you’re planning on visiting Caño Island, you’ll typically do so from here.
A coast trail grants access to Corcovado National Park, which offers some of the finest wildlife-viewing in Costa Rica (local lodges also ferry guests to Corcovado by boat). Tapirs are relatively easily seen, and jaguar sightings—while rare—are as likely here as anywhere else in the country.
The main gateway to Corcovado is Puerto Jiménez, which caters to the surfing and backpacking crowd, but is broadening its appeal with sportfishing lodges and accommodations at nearby Playa Platanares. This beach has an enviable setting adjacent to a mangrove ecosystem harboring crocodiles and all manner of wildlife.
Centrally located Puerto Jiménez makes an ideal base for exploring the region; water-taxis connect with the laid-back surfers’ beach communities of Zancudo and Pavones, and the otherwise hard-to-reach beaches of Golfo Dulce, where the Casa Orquídeas and Osa Wildlife Sanctuary are must-visits.
Though it is pulling itself up by its bootstraps, Golfito, the only town of any size, can be given a wide berth; this port town holds little attraction except as a gateway to the little-visited Golfito National Wildlife Refuge (there are better places to spot wildlife) and as a base for sportfishing forays and journeys by dive-boat to Isla del Cocos, famous as a world-class dive site.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition