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This lovely bay (pronounced “DRA-cay” locally), on the north side of the Osa Peninsula, lies between the mouth of the river Sierpe and the vastness of Corcovado National Park. It is a good base for sportfishing and scuba diving, and for hikes into several wildlife refuges plus the national park.
The bay is named for Sir Francis Drake, who supposedly anchored the Golden Hind in the tranquil bay in March 1579.
Most people fly in, or take a boat from Sierpe. You can also drive via a challenging dirt road requiring three river crossings that begins about one kilometer south of Rincón and leads via the community of Rancho Quemado.
The Laguna Chocuarco, near Rancho Quemado, is good for spotting crocodiles and tapirs (the Corcovado Agroecotourism Association, on the western side of Rancho Quemado, offers canoe trips).
Hotels concentrate around Agujitas, a hamlet at the southern end of the bay. Caño Island dominates the view out to sea.
Marine turtles come ashore to nest, and whales pass by close to shore. There’s good snorkeling at the southern end of the bay, where a coastal trail leads to the mouth of the Río Agujitas, good for exploration by canoe. You can follow a coast trail south via Playa Cocalito (immediately south) and Playa Caletas (4 km), and a paternoster of golden-sand beaches, ending at Playa Josecito on the edge of Corcovado National Park (13 kilometers).
There are lodgings along the route; however, hiking all the way is often impossible, as the Río Claro is sometimes impassable, especially in wet season.
The Corcovado Foundation (Fundación Corcovado, tel. 506/2297-3013, www.corcovadofoundation.org) strives to protect the Osa Peninsula. Three eminent and environmentally conscious local hoteliers serve as board members: Steven Lil (Casa Corcovado Lodge), Bradd Johnson (Águila de Osa Inn), and Mike Kalmbach (La Paloma Lodge). Donations are requested.
The 500-hectare Punta Río Claro National Wildlife Refuge sits above and behind Playa Caletas and Punta Marenco. The reserve forms a buffer zone for Corcovado National Park and is home to all four monkey species and other wildlife species common to Corcovado. The area’s 400-plus bird species include the scarlet macaw. The Punta Marenco Lodge (tel. 506/8877-3535, www.puntamarenco.com) serves as a center for scientific research and welcomes ecotourists. Resident biologists lead nature hikes ($35).
Farther south, Proyecto Campanario (tel. 506/2258-5778, www.campanario.org), bordering Parque Nacional Corcovado, protects 100 hectares of rainforest and has trails. The Campanario Biological Station operates principally as a “university in the field” and offers courses in neotropical ecology and has four-day/three-night eco-camps and conservation camps for environmentally minded travelers. Accommodations are offered in a field station with bunkrooms and in a simple tent camp. There’s only ephemeral electricity. Access is by boat or hiking in.
The Tamandua Biological Station (tel. 506/2775-1456, www.tamanduacostarica.com) at La Bijagua (two km southeast of Agujitas on the dirt road to Los Planos) opened in 2010. Still a work in progress, it has rainforest trails, plus tours to Corcovado. You can camp here, and there are cabins. It’s run by the Arguijos family and is accessible only in dry season.
Nighttime Insect Tour
Professional entomologist Tracie Stice—the “Bug Lady”—and Costa Rican naturalist Gianfranco Gomez run a marvelously educational nocturnal bug-hunt (tel. 506/8867-6143, www.thenighttour.com, 7:30 P.M. nightly, $35). The 2.5-hour tour is fascinating and fun, made more so by Tracie’s wit and enthralling anecdotes on such themes as six-legged sex and eight-eyed erotica. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made through individual lodges.
Águila de Osa (tel. 506/2296-2190 or 8840-2929, www.aguiladeosainn.com) lodge also offers a nighttime insect tour.
The hot spot in Agujitas is La Jungla Bar (tel. 506/2775-0570, 2 P.M.–2 A.M. daily). A rustically elegant bar is the yin to the yang of the adjoining cement-floor disco ($2–5), which sometimes has live music.
La Jungla has stolen the thunder from nearby Bar y Restaurante Jade Mar (tel. 506/8822-8595, 6 A.M.–1 A.M. daily), a modern open-air eatery with a large-screen TV. It hosts a weekend disco (but watch that slippery tile floor).
Costa Rica Adventure Divers (tel. 506/2231-5806, U.S. tel. 866/553-7070, www.costaricadiving.com) is based at Jinetes de Osa hotel and has dive trips to Isla Caño. Pirate Cove (tel. 506/2234-6154 or 506/8393-9449, www.piratecovecostarica.com) and Osa Divers (tel. 506/8994-9309, osadivers [at] gmail [dot] com) also specialize in diving.
The Águila de Osa Inn (tel. 506/2296-2190) specializes in sportfishing, also has scuba diving, mangrove tours, and can arrange dolphin-spotting tours, mountain biking, and kayaking.
The Corcovado Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2775-0459, www.corcovadocanopytour.com), at Los Planos, a 20-minute drive from Agujitas, has 14 platforms and 12 zip-line cables.
Getting to Drake Bay
Both SANSA and Nature Air provide scheduled air service to Agujitas.
A bus for Agujitas departs Rincón at 11 A.M. daily, and from Agujitas for Rincón at 3:45 A.M. daily. The Shuttle Sierpe (tel. 506/8844-6320) minivan offers twice-daily service to/from Agujitas and Quepos, Dominical, Uvita, and Sierpe.
A water-taxi departs Sierpe for Drake Bay at about 11:30 A.M. daily, and from Agujitas for Sierpe at 7:15 A.M. daily. The trip takes one hour down the jungle-draped Río Sierpe ($15 pp). Lodges arrange transfers for guests.
Driving, you will begin to get a first sense of the cathedral-like immensity of the rainforests of the Osa Peninsula. The dirt road from Rincón to Agujitas requires three river fordings; a 4WD vehicle is essential, not least to tackle the steep and muddy sections in wet season, when you’ll want a high-ground-clearance vehicle. You’d be wise to wade the rivers to check the depth and shallowest route across, especially the wide Río Drake.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition