The Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula is located on Costa Rica’s south Pacific Coast and is home to the spectacular Corcovado National Park, the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s extensive park system. It is the country’s largest protected area and spans some 424 square kilometers (164 sq. mi), or roughly two-thirds of the peninsula.
The majority of visitors to the peninsula come for the nature. Even outside the park, several ecolodges tote their own private nature reserves as part of conservation efforts associated with the country’s blossoming sustainability and eco-tourism movements. The incredible diversity of plant, animal, and marine species that live permanently or visit seasonally is mindblowing. From humpback whales, dolphin, and giant sea turtles, to tapir, sloth, jaguar, and endangered species like the Harpy Eagle – the peninsula is an ecological treasure chest.
The Osa Peninsula is almost entirely covered in rainforest, and it rains almost every day. For this reason alone, the best time to visit is during the dry season between December and April. Visitors traveling during Pacific rainy season will likely find challenging conditions, swollen rivers, muddy or impassable roads, and heavy rains.
When getting familiarized with what the Osa offers in terms of vacation options make sure to check out the town of Puerto Jimenez (gateway to the park) and the northern village of Drake Bay. Most eco-lodges and resorts are not in the direct vicinity of these town’s per se, but rather scattered within the coastal rainforest not far from the spectacular beaches.
Popular Osa Peninsula beach towns:
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park was hailed by the National Geographic Society to be “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity.” The park harbors 13 distinct ecosystems over elevations ranging from sea level to 745 meters (2,444 feet). This significant increase in altitude has resulted in the creation of diverse habitats. In fact, the park protects one of the last stretches of Pacific old-growth wet forests in Central America in addition to lowland rainforest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm swamp, mangroves, prairie-forest, coastal forests, and even marine habitats.
The park harbors 13 distinct ecosystems that cover elevations ranging from sea level to 745 meters(2,444 feet). Among them are lowland rainforest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm swamp, mangroves, prairie-forest, coastal forests, and even marine habitats.
This significant increase in altitude has resulted in the creation of diverse habitats. In fact, the park is home to 13 distinct ecosystems and protects one of the last stretches of Pacific old-growth wet forests in Central America. The Osa Peninsula is almost entirely covered in rainforest, meaning it rains almost every day. The best time to visit for this reason is during the dry season between December and April. Visitors traveling during Pacific rainy season will likely find challenging conditions, swollen rivers, muddy or impassable roads, and heavy rains.
Drake Bay renowned as a secret hiding place for the notorious Pirate Sir Francis Drake’s hidden treasure, this remote piece of paradise can only be reached by boat or small plane. The bay is located on the northwestern coast of the Osa Peninsula and is the gateway to the northern entrance to Corcovado National Park. Many of the high-end ecolodges in Drake have their own private nature reserves and beach access. Visitors will find a wide range of accommodations, from backpacker hostels to high-end ecolodges.
To get there by land is an adventure in itself, visitors must take a taxi boat from the town of Sierpe through the scenic mangroves and wetlands of the Sierpe River, then along the coastline to Drake Bay.
In addition to hiking the park, visitors also come here to snorkel or scuba dive at Cano Island. The uninhabited island is about 10 miles (16km) offshore and showcases coral reefs and a vast number of marine species, including mantas, reef sharks, and the occasional dolphin. Whales are frequently spotted in the vicinity.
**Weather. Costa Rica’s southwest region is largely covered in rain and cloud forests, meaning it rains a lot! The best time to travel here is in the heart of the Pacific’s dry season from December through May. Be prepared for rain nonetheless. In general, mornings are dry and sunny, with afternoon showers moving in towards the late afternoon, and clear evenings. During the rainy season from April to late November, this region can receive rain for days on end, especially during the heaviest months of September and October.
Puerto Jimenez and the Osa Peninsula: Puerto Jimenez and its wiley assortment of locals, ecologists, and wanders is akin to a town from the Old West. It is also the gateway to the Corcovado National Park–Costa Rica’s premier ecological treasure–and services the several eco-lodges and luxury resorts sprinkled along the coastline and in the surrounding forests.
Yoga/wellness retreat centers, turtle conservation camps, and other volunteer opportunities can be found down here. In addition to secluded beaches and plenty of water sports on the calm waters of the Golfo Dulce between the peninsula and the mainland. Sports fishing is popular, as is dolphin and whale watching, as the waters are literally brimming with marine life.
You can get to Puerto Jimenez three ways, taking a ferry boat over from Golfito (a bustling town on the mainland with a duty-free zone for shopping), flying (either to Golfito or Puerto Jimenez), or driving in on Highway 245 from Chacaritas and the Costanera Sur (Highway 34). The drive is a long one, about seven hours from San Jose, and road conditions can be rough once you’re on the peninsula, especially in the rainy season.