One of the most magical places in Costa Rica is the Osa Peninsula. Famous for housing the largest national park in the country, a lush rain forest and incredible coastlines, the Peninsula de Osa contains so much biodiversity within its jungles that renown biologists and scientists visit specifically to study the flora and fauna.
However, one must keep in mind that it is the jungle, a wild, unruly jungle that hasn’t seen too much human impact. If you don’t like bugs, humid weather or getting down and dirty, then the Osa might not be for you.
But if strange insects in your hotel room or foregoing deodorant for a few days doesn’t bother you, then a visit to the Osa Peninsula is just what you need. You never know what kind of experience you’ll have in the rugged jungle. You may run into a puma napping, a tapir strolling on the beach or a mom and baby humpback whale breaching.
If you’re planning a trip to the Osa Peninsula, travel information be a bit scarce as it is still fairly undeveloped. So in this post I’m going to go over the main towns and villages, the type of lodging available, how to get there to and the best things to do and see make it easy to plan your Osa Peninsula trip.
Osa Peninsula Travel Guide
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Location and Directions
This is the Osa Peninsula with the Pacific Ocean to the west and Golfo Dulce to the east.
To get to the Osa Peninsula from San Jose, it is easiest to take the highway to Jaco and then go all the way south on the Costanera Sur past Palmar Norte and Sierpe. At the main intersection where you can continue onto Golfito, take a right down towards Puerto Jimenez. From that road you can then turn to Drake Bay or continue to Puerto Jimenez.
Since most of the Osa Peninsula is Corcovado National Park, there are few towns and villages scattered throughout.
The biggest town is Puerto Jimenez (see what the town looks like here) and this is usually where people stay if they plan to do the long hike from Leona Ranger Station to Sirena in the national park since the town is very close.
You can find pretty much everything in Puerto Jimenez: bank, ATM, supermarket, pharmacy, local airport, hostels and hotels. Many visitors choose Puerto Jimenez as their home base in Osa Peninsula since it has those conveniences.
Get in: Drive on the Costanera Sur from San Jose about 4.5 hours. It’s just one long road with plenty of signs for Puerto Jimenez. Then turn right at the huge intersection instead of going straight to Paso Canoas, the Panama Costa Rica border.
This road is completely paved and becomes unpaved once you reach town.
You can also fly to Puerto Jimenez, there is a local airport. It is a 50 minute flight from San Jose.
See what the Puerto Jimenez and Playa Platanares area looks like in this video.
Where to stay:
Puerto Jimenez has a decent amount of hostels, mid range hotels and upscale lodges to choose from. Most of the upscale hotels are on the beach and the hostels and budget places in town.
- Crocodile Bay Resort: Love fishing? The Crocodile Bay Resort focuses on sport fishing and eco tours. They have all inclusive options and air conditioned rooms on a huge beach front property.
- Corcovado Wild Hostel: They have dorms and private rooms, located at the edge of Puerto Jimenez. Great hostel and budget option. A bed in a shared room is a bit more than Oro Verde hostel at $18 compared to $10.
- Cabinas Tropicales: They have double, triple and family rooms at mid-range/budget prices. Close to town and the beach.
- Casa Manglar: This is a great option for families or big group as it is a house with 4 bedrooms, AC and WiFi. They are in town so close to everything.
There are also many lodges and hotels on the outskirts of Puerto Jimenez. It is best to rent a car if staying at one of these places or arrange for transportation beforehand.
- Danta Corcovado Lodge: This is one of the most unique hotels in Costa Rica with bedrock inspired designed cabinas (you feel like you’re in the Flintstones). Good for a jungle getaway. About 30 minutes north of Puerto Jimenez.
- Iguana Lodge: This is an upscale boutique eco-lodge on Playa Platanares, about a 15 minute drive from Puerto Jimenez. They’re right on the beach, they have a restaurant and can arrange tours. No AC.
If you aren’t planning on renting a car and are on a budget, I recommend staying at one of the places in town. That way you’ll be close to all the conveniences, it’s cheap and you can book tours with your hotel. For those who need a place to sleep before heading off into the national park, hostels are an excellent cheap option.
For those who don’t mind splurging and are interested in day trips, the upscale hotels on the beach are the way to go. They normally offer an all-inclusive option or have a restaurant. This is more for people who aren’t planning on hiking overnight in the national park and want a home base to explore the Peninsula. You will spend quite a bit on food however, since it is normal for hotels to increase restaurant prices.
Caba Matapalo is a village on the outermost point of the Peninsula. Most people who stay in Matapalo, as known by locals, are surfers. There are beaches with waves ranging from beginner to expert and are usually fairly empty due to its remote location. Also a great place for birdwatchers.
Get in: From Puerto Jimenez, continue on the very bumpy road (route 245) for about 45 minutes until you reach the small town of Matapalo.
You won’t find too many hostels or budget options in Matapalo. Some hotels are on the road to Matapalo from Puerto Jimenez, some are beach front in the village.
- Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa: Yoga lover? Join a yoga retreat at Blue Osa or go for your yoga teacher training. It’s not very close to Puerto Jimenez but they provide food. It’s on the beach so you can do your yoga exercises with a great view and they also have a yoga studio. Arguably one of the best yoga retreats in Costa Rica.
- Lapa Rios Eco Lodge: This lodge is on a 1000 acre private reserve and is famous for their eco-tourism. No AC, Internet or TV so it’s for those who want to unplug from the world and enjoy the Costa Rican rain forest. They include all the meals in their price.
- Bosque del Cabo: An excellent option for families with a private pool, simple trails and easy wildlife watching from the cabinas.
If you’re driving, we do recommend a 4×4 as the road is in rough shape.
The tiny town of Carate is another stop over town for travelers who are hiking Leona Station in Corcovado National Park. It’s about a 45 minute walk to the ranger station.
Get in: From Puerto Jimenez, continue on the route 245 road (same to Matapalo) for about 1.5 hours. This is a very bumpy road so a 4×4 is required. You can see what driving this route is like in our Youtube video.
Carate also has its own airport but routes are not frequent. Majority of people fly in from Puerto Jimenez and get a shuttle to Carate.
In rainy season, you need to check the tides before driving to Carate since you need to cross about 5 rivers. During high tide, the rivers can get so full cars cannot cross.
See what the road from Puerto Jimenez to Carate is like in this video!
Since it’s so small, there aren’t a ton of lodging options in Carate and nothing budget. Whether you decide to stay in Carate before starting the long Corcovado National Park hike or use it as a home base, it’s best to research carefully if you want to stay in Carate or not. You’ll notice a common theme among Carate hotels: remoteness, no AC, limited electricity and expensive meals.
- La Leona Lodge: From Carate, you need to walk about 30 minutes on the beach to reach La Leona Lodge. They have beach front or jungle view glamping tents without electricity or Wi-Fi for the ultimate jungle experience. The closest hotel to Corcovado National Park on this side at only a 10 minute walk to the Leona station.
- La Luna Lodge: This sustainable lodge has a yoga deck, hot water and Wi-Fi. They have bungalows, tents and standard rooms. A short walk to the beach.
- Lookout Inn: Only 80 meters from Carate beach, the Lookout Inn has a yoga deck, solarium and bungalows along with standard rooms. They offer mid-range prices.
- Finca Exotica Lodge: Bungalows have jungle or sea views, has a yoga studio and spa and close to the beach.
The highlight of staying in Carate is its location, there aren’t too many other places in Costa Rica as remote. This is a side of Costa Rica not many people experience so it can be exactly what you’re looking for.
Sitting on the west coast of the Osa Peninsula is Drake Bay which has a rich history as it was believed to be a port used by Sir Francis Drake, hiding treasure long lost.
It has its own airport, doesn’t have ATMs and is close to the Corcovado National Park. You can find a few hostels, budget hotels and luxury all inclusive lodges.
We’ve written an in-depth guide to Drake Bay which you will find information for how to get there, hotels, restaurants, activities and more. Read our Drake Bay guide here.
A hotel all on its own
On the west coast of the Osa Peninsula lies a lodge so remote, it takes a 2.5 hour boat ride from Sierpe to get there. There is no road access and the entire lodge runs on hydro and solar power. They have their own trail to San Pedrillo Station in Corcovado National Park where tapirs are commonly seen strolling on the very same path. If you want the ultimate adventure, beach and jungle experience, Casa Corcovado Lodge offers just that.
Best Things to Do
There are many tours out of Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez, but Drake Bay is closer to attractions such as Sierpe Mangrove and Isla del Cano on the west side.
- Hiking Corcovado: The ultimate activity in the Osa Peninsula is hike Corcovado National Park. You can hike overnight or do a one day hike. The most popular ranger stations to visit are San Pedrillo and Sirena and the overnight hike is from Leona to Sirena.
- Snorkeling/Scuba diving Isla del Cano: For those staying on the west side of the peninsula, this is a must do. The island is considered the 2nd best place for snorkeling/scuba diving in Costa Rica so if you want to swim with turtles, definitely do this! We did this and it was amazing! Read about our experience snorkeling.
- Humpback whale/dolphin tour: During certain months of the year, particularly August and September, the humpback whales pass through the Osa Peninsula. You can take a whale/dolphin watching tour out of Drake Bay. If you’re in Puerto Jimenez, you can see dolphins in Golfo Dulce.
- Sierpe Mangrove: If you’re in Drake Bay, visit Sierpe Mangrove to see wildlife on a leisurely boat ride or kayak your way through the water. You can see snakes, birds, monkeys and more.
- Fishing: Deep sea fishing is incredible at the Osa Peninsula. Catch huge rooster fish, snappers, groupers and more.
- Surfing Playa Matapalo: If you’re a surfer, head to Matapalo to catch waves, the best spot on the Osa Peninsula.
Tips for Visiting Osa Peninsula
- If you’re renting a car, a 4×4 is a must. The road to Puerto Jimenez is paved but that’s it. Drake Bay is in rough shape, Carate and Matapalo are equally as bumpy with rivers to cross. Get our car rental discount here.
- Make sure to check road conditions with your hotel during rainy season months of August/September/October and November, especially if you’re going to Carate and Drake Bay.
- This area is incredibly humid. Here are our packing tips:
- We highly recommend bringing clothes that dry fast like Nike Dri Fit.
- Bring waterproof equipment in rainy season, especially if you have expensive cameras and equipment. We used our Aqua Quest waterproof backpacks which saved our cameras.
- A microfiber towel will be super helpful when hiking in the national park since it’s so humid.
- An insulated water bottle to always have cold water.
- Mosquito repellent is an absolute must.
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