If you are longing for a Costa Rica adventure that is less like a Club Med vacation and more like an Indiana Jones excursion into a deep, unexplored jungle, Costa Rica’s Osa peninsula may be just what you are after. Some of the finest eco-tourism in Costa Rica is found here, but getting there is no easy matter.
The biggest attraction on the Osa Peninsula is Corcovado National Park, the largest, wildest expanse of rain forest in Central America. Corcovado National Park can only be reached on foot or by boat from the remote city of Drake Bay, which is just north of the rainforest. Most people take a small plane right into Drake Bay from San Jose. The trip is about six hours by plane. Because Drake Bay is small and insolated, everything should be reserved and ready in advance.
Getting to the hotels near the park is not easy, and it rains most of the time in this area. (There is a reason this is called ‘the rain forest’.) Just showing up and hoping to find accommodations is a bad idea. Driving from San Jose is another bad idea. Arrange to be transported and work with one of the major hotels.
Most hotels provide transport from Drake Bay as a standard part of a total package, so ask in advance for all of these details. The Osa Pensinsula is a wild place where the heat and humidity can quickly become too intense for most tourists. Only the most dedicated and adventurous travelers are drawn to this place. The Osa Peninsula attracts an odd mixture of eco-adventurers, celebrities who want to be away from the limelight, gold-prospectors, sport fisherman, and scientists.
Most accommodations are pricey but most are also all-inclusive, and offer tours of Corcovado National Park, excursions to Cano Island Biological Reserve, canopy tours, and all meals and transport to and from the hotel as part of a package. Even luxury hotels have no phones in the rooms, and mosquito nets are standard. Still, for those brave enough to set out for this wild place, the views are breathtaking and the rewards are many.
La Paloma Lodge is set right into a steep hillside overlooking the ocean and offers packages that start around $1200 for five days and four nights. At the other end of the budget spectrum, the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort offers clean rooms and excursions into the park starting at $65 per night for a shared room.
The Osa Peninsula is home to 140 species of mammals, 370 species of birds, and 170 species of reptiles and amphibians. Any of the hotels or tent cabins in the area put visitors directly in the middle of nature, and although sightings of large animals don’t happen on a daily basis, colorful parrots, birds, monkeys, and other creatures are easy to see even from a hotel veranda.
Tours of Corcovado National Park are strenuous and exploring the park alone or without a guide if you are unfamiliar with rainforests is not recommended.
Cano Island Biological Reserve, located about 12 miles offshore from Drake Bay, is a bit less daunting than Corcovado National Park and the dense rainforest hikes. Cano Island offers fabulous snorkeling and sport fishing, and the trip to the island itself is one of the more popular excursions on the Osa Peninsula.
The Osa Peninsula isn’t for everyone, but if what you want is adventure, some time ‘away from it all’, and a possible celebrity sighting tossed in for good measure, it might just be for you. Just make sure you plan everything in advance, and you’re assured the Costa Rican adventure of a lifetime.