When it comes to destinations in Costa Rica that are still fairly off the map and not overrun with tourists, Drake Bay climbs to the top of the list. Though it’s becoming more accessible due to the improvements on the main road, Bahia Drake maintain a magical feeling that greets every visitor who comes. They know they’re in for an experience like no other as they step into a bay rich in history and nature.
If you’re seeking some peace and quiet for your Costa Rica trip, somewhere where birds are your best friends and the ocean waves tell you good night, Drake Bay is where you should go. It’s surrounded by untouched forests that attracts nature lovers from every corner of the planet.
Here’s all you need to know about visiting the enchanting Bahia Drake.
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Location and Directions
By plane: This is the easiest but also the most expensive way to get to Drake Bay. You can take a local flight on Nature Air or Sansa to the local airport and the flight has amazing views of the Osa Peninsula and the coast. The 1 hour flight from SJO airport costs around $110 depending on the time of year and they have both direct and connecting flights from San Jose.
By boat: This is a convenient and fun way to travel. There is a taxi boat leaving from La Perla Restaurant in Sierpe that leaves twice a day: 11:30 AM and 4 PM. It costs $15 for 11:30 AM boat and $20 for the 4 PM boat per person. It takes around 1.5 hours and you get gorgeous views of the Sierpe mangrove and the coast. Read our complete guide to taking the boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay.
By bus: Though the cheapest, this isn’t the most efficient method of transportation. From San Jose, you can take a bus to Palmar Norte, then to Sierpe and then take the boat. If you want to take the bus all the way to Drake Bay, you can take a bus from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, get off at La Palma (Osa) and grab the local collective bus to Drake Bay at 4:45 PM.
By car: You absolutely have to have a 4X4 for this route. The road has cleaned up a bit but it’s still advised not to drive during rainy season (read more about rainy season here) because you have to cross 3 rivers which flood when it rains. Drive on Ruta 34 past Dominical and Uvita and continue on the road to Puerto Jimenez. You’ll see a turn for Drake Bay on the right (Rincon de Osa). Continue on this road past the Rancho Quemado village and you’ll come upon Drake Bay.
Sir Francis Drake is believed to have used this bay as a port (hence the name) and hid one of his treasures in the area in the late 16th century, giving the area a vibrant history. The main town in the Bay is Agujitas with about 1,000 residents and though tiny, it has several restaurants and shops.
However, there are no ATMs or banks in the bay so make sure you bring plenty of cash, as some businesses may not take credit cards.
Drake Bay’s remoteness and lush surroundings make this the perfect escape for those who aren’t interested in beach parties or lots of crowds. It’s also ideal for a short getaway, when all you want is to be one with nature and feel refreshed and whole again.
Keep that in mind as not all travelers are seeking that for their Costa Rica vacation. But if you come with an open mind and know that what makes Drake Bay special is the pristine nature and freedom of wildlife, then your time in the Bay will leave ever lasting memories for the rest of your life.
Where to Sleep
Most of the lodging options in Drake Bay are small, family run or boutique hotels. Despite how small the town is, you can find plenty of accommodation throughout the town or up in the hills. Additionally, there are options for every budget so you don’t have to be spending an arm and a leg to have an incredible time.
- Tranquilo Lodge: This recently renovated hotel up in the hills offers some of the best views of the bay. From the infinity pool, you get panoramic views of the entire Bay with Cano Island in the distance. They offer high end lodging with modern cabins, AC and Internet. It’s an all-inclusive hotel and prices include 3 meals a day and transportation. Read our review of Tranquilo Lodge here. Prices start at $120 per person per night
- Copa de Arbol: This eco-luxury resort is on 70 acres of rainforest with a private boat access location, so that you’ll really feel like you’re the only one there. Their cabinas have AC and are just steps away from the beach. It’s another all-inclusive hotel with 3 meals included, transportation and use of kayaks and sea equipment. They even have a spa and can put together a package. Prices start at $240. Click here for the latest rates at Copa de Arbol Beach & Rainforest Resort
- Pirate Cove: They offer mid-range lodging and they’re right on the beach near the central part of the bay. They have 10 rooms – cabins, deluxe cabins, bungalows and 3 rooms with AC and a nice pool that has a view of the ocean. They include 3 meals and they also offer PADI diving courses. Prices start at $90. Click here for the latest rates at Pirate Cove
- Drake Bay Backpackers: This non profit hostel is in El Progreso and provides a rustic setting for those who aren’t looking for luxury. The hostel has a lounge with hammocks, a communal kitchen, nature trails, a volleyball court and a library. They have dorms and private rooms. A bed in a dorm starts at $13 per person. Click here for the latest rates at Drake Bay Backpackers.
The more expensive hotels are generally located outside of town in the hills and offer meals. There are taxis they can call to get you to town when you need to. The cheaper places are closer to town and usually include breakfast.
Where to Eat
If you’re not staying a hotel that includes meals, there are a few good restaurants in and around town. You can find traditional Costa Rican food, seafood and a small variety.
- Los Coquitos: It’s a bit past the high school on the main road so it may be easy to miss. They serve traditional Costa Rican plus seafood.
- Restaurante Delicias: Best spot for vegetarians. They offer a variety of vegetarian food, beyond the typical veggie casado. It’s in the center of town so it’s in a convenient location.
- Claudio’s Grill: Claudio’s Grill has probably the best meat in town. The chef makes his own sauce and they serve prime cuts of meat. Definitely try the coconut mushroom one.
- :Drake’s Kitchen Enjoy the catch of the day with a side of patacones and a blended fruit smoothie at Drake’s Kitchen. They have local food and seafood.
- Gringo Curt’s Seafood: The menu is built around whatever the catch of the day is at Gringo Curt’s seafood. They give huge portions, with a couple of sides to accompany the fish.
What to Do
Once you’ve had enough lounging on the beach or by the pool, there are plenty of activities and adventures in and around Drake Bay to add some excitement to your trip.
- Cano Island: If you have your diving certification, go scuba diving at Cano Island, about a 45 minute boat ride from the Bay. If not, you can go snorkeling. This is considered the 2nd best place in Costa Rica to see abundant marine life with turtles, rays, dolphins and a huge variety of colorful tropical fish to be seen. Read about our experience snorkeling at Cano Island.
- Whale and dolphin watching: Drake Bay is one of the best spots to see humpback whales in not just Costa Rica, but the world. Both Northern and Southern humpback whales pass by the bay so you have an excellent chance of seeing these magnificent mammals out at sea.
- Corcovado National Park: Don’t miss your chance to visit Corcovado National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on earth when in Drake Bay. Take a day trip to San Pedrillo Station or Sirena Station to see wildlife such as tapirs, four different monkeys, birds and more.
- Rio Claro: You can hike to Rio Claro on your own or you can take a tour to visit this beautiful clear river. Tours vary from horseback riding, swimming in the river, waterfalls and snorkeling.
- Night Tour: The world is a different place when night falls and you can see wildlife that thrives at night on a tour. See spiders and insects with Tracie the bug lady or other animals on different night tours.
- Mangrove Tour: Venture into one of the biggest mangroves in Central America by boat or kayak. You’ll see wildlife such as caimans, monkeys, snakes and a variety of birds.
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When it comes to that one place in Costa Rica where you feel like you have it all to yourself, Drake Bay is it. Instead of having drinks at the swim up bar, you’ll be peering with binoculars to spot the flashy Scarlet Macaws and sleepy sloths. Instead of booze cruising with 80 other people, you’ll be watching dancing dolphins and playful whales with less than 10 others.
If you’re one who doesn’t care for Happy Hour on vacation and enjoys learning about nature, you’ll fall in love with Drake Bay.
Read more about activities in the South Pacific here!