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This small, laid-back town serves as the gateway to Corcovado National Park and is popular with the backpacking crowd and surfers. Locals have colorful tales to tell of gambling and general debauchery during the gold-boom days in the 1980s, when the town briefly flourished, prostitutes charged by the ounce, and miners bought bottles of whiskey just to throw at the walls.
A mangrove estuary lies northeast of town, fed by the Río Platanares. You stand a superb chance of seeing caimans, white-faced monkeys, freshwater turtles, rays, even river otters and crocodiles—and scarlet macaws can be seen and heard squawking in the treetops and flying overhead.
The mangroves extend east to Playa Platanares (aka Playa Preciosa), a gorgeous miles-long swath of sand about five kilometers east of town. A reef lies offshore in jade-colored waters, the forest behind the beach abounds with monkeys and other wildlife (even a jaguar has been sighted on the beach), and the views across the gulf are fantastic. Five species of marine turtles come ashore to lay eggs on the beach, notably May–December. There’s a turtle vivero (hatchery) at Playa Platanares; nocturnal turtle tours can be arranged (no flashlights are permitted).
A huge area around Platanares is being protected and reforested back to its natural state by philanthropist billionaire Paul Tudor-Jones (who even bought out local tuna- and shrimp-fishing rights to restore the gulf populations). Meanwhile, Paul’s neighbor and long-time local resident Tom “Kayak” Bolan welcomes visitors to his Herrera Gardens & Conservation Project (tel. 506/2735-5210 or 2735-5267, 6 A.M.–5 P.M. daily, $5 self-guided, $15 two-hour guided tours). This 103-hectare swatch of rainforest has five kilometers of gardens (plus 15 kilometers of forest trails) good for bird-watching and wildlife-spotting. The gardens are actually a mosaic, with individual sections given to specific botanical themes, such as heliconias and medicinal herbs. It even has some tree platforms. Tour operators in town arrange visits or visitors can call in; the entrance is opposite Crocodile Bay Lodge.
Backpackers gravitate to watch surf videos and play foosball and pool at the open-air bar at Cabinas Iguana Iguana (tel. 506/2735-5158, 4 P.M.–2 A.M. daily). Albeit rough around the edges, Juanita’s (tel. 506/735-5056), one block south of the soccer field, has a lively bar and a daily happy hour (4–6 P.M.), plus live music on Friday and Saturday.
The hot spot in town is La Disco (tel. 506/2735-6060), which revs into high gear on weekends. On Friday nights head out to Pearl of the Osa (tel. 506/8848-0752, www.iguanalodge.com), at the Iguana Lodge, at Playa Platanares. Bring your dance shoes for sexy salsa, merengue, and cumbia dancing, fueled by a live band—the Villalobos Brothers—and killer cocktails. Look out for The Bone Rollers, an eclectic group of musically gifted expats who crank out everything from punk rock to Santana.
Escondido Trex (tel./fax 506/2735-5210, www.escondidotrex.com), inside Soda Cantina, and Osa Travel (tel. 506/5014-1818, www.osatravel.com) offer active adventures: from snorkeling and sea kayaking, to waterfall rappelling and gold-mining trips, to a zip-line canopy tour. Aventuras Tropicales (tel. 506/2735-5195, www.aventurastropicales.com), on the road to Platanares, offers sea kayaking, canoeing, and jungle hikes. How about a Crocodile by Candlelight tour?
Many agencies sell into the adrenaline-charged Psycho Tours run by Everyday Adventures (tel. 506/8353-8619, www.psychotours.com), such as hikes ($45) that involve wading rivers. You can also thrill to a rope climb up a giant strangler fig ($55), then leap (if you choose!) from a platform 20 meters above the ground. The waterfall rappels will have your heart racing ($85).
Aventuras Bosque Mar (tel. 506/2735-5752), eight kilometers south of Puerto Jiménez, has a five-platform zip line.
Crocodile Bay Lodge (tel. 506/2735-5631, U.S. tel. 800/733-1115, www.crocodilebay.com), Osa Resort Club (tel. 506/2735-5920, in U.S. tel. 407/928-7002, www.osaresortclub.com), and La Islas Lodge (tel. 506/2735-5242, www.lasislaslodge.com) specialize in sportfishing, as does Mar Huron Sportfishing (tel. 506/2735-5889, www.marhuron.com).
There’s great surfing south of Puerto Jimínez. Pollo’s Surf School (tel. 506/8366-6559, rhoades_gretchen [at] hotmail [dot] com) offers two-hour lessons for $55.
Getting to Puerto Jiménez
SANSA and Nature Air have scheduled daily flights. Alfa Romeo Aero Taxi (tel. 506/2735-5353, aerocorcovado [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr) has an office at the airstrip.
Transportes Blanco buses (tel. 506/2257-4121 or 2771-4744) depart San José for Puerto Jiménez from Calle 14, Avenidas 9/11, at noon daily (8 hours, $10); from San Isidro de El General at 6:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. daily; and Transporte Térraba (tel. 506/2783-4293) buses depart Ciudad Neily at 6 A.M. and 2 P.M. daily ($4). Buses depart Puerto Jiménez daily for San José at 5 A.M.; for San Isidro at 5 A.M. and 1 P.M.; and for Ciudad Neily at 5:30 A.M. and 2 P.M.
Water-taxis, or lanchas, run daily from the muelle (dock) in Golfito at 6 A.M., 11 A.M. and 3 P.M., and return daily at 6 A.M., 8:45 A.M., 11 A.M., and 2 P.M. (tel. 506/2775-0472 or 506/8896-7519, $6, 90-minute journey). Private boats can be hired for the journey ($10).
Taxis await customers on the main street. Solid Car Rental (tel. 506/2735-5777) has an office by the airstrip.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition