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Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is a green treasure-house of unspoiled rainforest. Swathed in green, jaguars and ocelots rule here, sharing their domain with scarlet macaws, toucans, howler monkeys, and ever-inquisitive squirrel monkeys. Osa Peninsula is a magical place where tapirs body surf on Encanta La Vida and a rugged coastline swathed in untouched forest reaches out to thriving marine habitats.
Protruding into the ocean at the southern tip of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, the Osa Peninsula shelters a vast rainforest and Costa Rica’s last jaguars and tapirs. Fringed by idyllic beaches and turquoise water, it is a laid-back spot for surfing, diving, whale and dolphin watching, and relaxing on a deserted beach. A trip to the Osa Peninsula makes for a great getaway to the most biologically intense place on earth.
1. Parque Nacional Corcovado
One of Costa Rica’s preeminent attractions, the Parque Nacional Corcovado covers nearly half of the Osa Peninsula. Deemed as one of the best places to visit on a trip to Costa Rica, the national park is home to an astonishingly diverse ecology for wildlife in the Osa Peninsula. This biodiversity includes Costa Rica’s big cats, the critically endangered tapir, giant anteater and harpy eagle. Access is possible by a challenging day hike along one of two primary jungle tracks, the coast-hugging La Leona to Sirena or the formidable rugged Sirena to Los Patos, or via a boat to experience the easier tracks around the Sirena and San Pedrillo ranger stations.
South on the Osa Peninsula lies Carate, a starting point for hikes in the Corcovado National Park. Reaching Carate involves a drive high into the jungle-shrouded mountains. When you arrive, an exotic tropical lagoon greets you with sublime sunsets straight off a picture postcard. Carate's deserted beach fringed by lush forest trees is a phenomenal backdrop for photography and the perfect spot to catch a wave, enjoy an invigorating swim or simply spread your towel out on the beach and relax in the sun.
3. Pan Dulce, Backwash, and Matapalo Beach
If surfing is your passion, the beaches in the Osa Peninsula are for you. Matapalo, a short 15-minute drive from Blue Osa is home to three gorgeous beaches. With a lush green jungle wall as their backdrop, these spectacular beaches are great spots to surf or simply chill out in the seductive sunshine. Their pristine turquoise waters are also home to countless dolphin pods.
4. Sitio Arqueológico Finca 6
Located halfway between Sierpe and the Costanera Sur, this museum safeguards the precious pre-Columbian stone spheres that are Costa Rica’s most intriguing archaeological finds. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, these stones are the scant traces left behind by the enigmatic Diquís civilization that once roamed the Diquís Delta between 300 BC and 1500 AD. The Diquís shaped perfectly spherical stone globes, the largest measuring in at 2.5 meters across and weighing a colossal 24 tons. Their purpose is as mysterious as ever. Some historians believe they were used as solar calendars or status symbols while others suspect they were ceremonial.
5. Isla del Caño
A pleasant forty-minute boat trip from Bahía Drake sees you arrive at the heart of one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular marine reserves, the Isla del Caño. Uninhabited, the island is a world-class diving destination populated by fan and brain corals, sea plumes, giant conchs and the endangered Panulirus lobster. Massive schools of tropical fish entice whales and dolphins into the area. At the Paraside dive site, you can see enchanting sea turtles and hammerhead sharks, while majestic manta rays, reef sharks and barracuda visit the Devil’s Pinnacle. Isla del Caño is only accessible by licensed dive tour operators such as Drake Divers and Osa Divers.
- Kayaking. Explore the Golfo Dulce’s blue-green waters with its backdrop of rainforest canopy, venture into a maze of mangroves, paddle along the coast spotting dolphins and wildlife, or test your skills against whitewater.
- Go horseback riding. Explore the lush biodiversity of the beach and the rainforest ecosystems on horseback leaving from the Rancho Tropical.
- Go snorkeling or scuba diving. Caños Island is surrounded by vibrant coral reefs making it Costa Rica’s most popular spots for water sport. You can also find the mysterious ancient stone spheres from a vanished civilization on the island.
- Surf at Cabo Matapalo and Pavones. Experience surfing Costa Rican style at Cabo Matapalo or Pavones. When they are “going off”, get ready for the ride of your life!
- Go birdwatching. Local guides will show you the best spots to watch the Osa Peninsula’s amazing range of local birdlife
The sublime Osa Peninsula is some 364 kilometers from Costa Rica’s capital San Jose. By car, the trip takes approximately eight hours.
You can fly into the quaint city of Puerto Jimenez, the main city on the Osa Peninsula and home to a small airport by domestic flights. Flights generally run once or twice a day from Costa Rica’s capital San Jose and take approximately 50 minutes. You can also opt for charter flights.
Alternatively, visitors can cross the Golfo Dulce from Golfito, Costa Rica’s most southerly port city by ferry to access the Osa Peninsula. Golfito is located directly across the river from Puerto Jimenez.
The Osa Peninsula offers a beguiling blend of luxury eco-resorts and delightfully affordable lodges. These 7 lodges offer an eco-friendly departure point for visitors looking to hike in the rainforest, go whale and dolphin watching or simply soak up the sun on the beach.
A great budget accommodation located just five minutes from the beach, Mohagine has a self-cook area, includes breakfast, and the lush tropical garden is surrounded by beautiful rainforest. Enjoy the hotel’s orchard and watch as monkeys visit to pick the ripe fruits. Mohagine Hotel provides different options of accommodation, including tents, wooden cottages and standard rooms.
- From: USD 27* per night
- Located in: Camino Aerodromo, Drake Bay
Lookout Inn Lodge
Set on the side of a hill, on the coast overlooking the Corcovado National Park and the Pacific Ocean, the comfortable amenities and eco-friendly accommodation of the Lookout Inn Lodge offer spectacular views of the enveloping rainforest, the dramatic coastline of the Osa Peninsula and the magnificent Pacific Ocean. The lodge is the primary jumping off point to the Corcovado National Park. Created from local tropical hardwood, the lodge has it’s own solar power system.
- From: USD 95* per night
- Located in: Carate
Mirador Las Contingas Lodge
This lodge is just a one-minute walk from the beach. Offering a furnished terrace with hammocks and wooden décor, private bathroom and free Wi-Fi in public areas. Mirador Las Cotingas Lodge is set on the hills at Drake Bay and 800 meters from the town center.
- From: USD 99* per night
- Located in: Camino de la Playa, Drake Bay
Copa De Arbol Beach and Rainforest Resort
The Copa De Arbol Beach and Rainforest Resort offer an intimate, beachfront eco-conscious stay amongst 70 acres of gloriously undisturbed rainforest reserve. Set among 70 acres of pristine rainforest reserve and Drake Bay, guests can immerse themselves in the daily rhythms of the ocean and the exotic wildlife that calls the rainforest home. Guests enjoy the option of getting away to a treasure-trove of sandy coves and deserted beaches, fresh-water lagoons and kilometers of hiking trails winding their way through the rainforest.
- From: USD 240* per night
- Located in: Drake Bay
Encanta La Vida Beach Jungle Lodge
Encanta La Vida is an engaging jungle lodge set in the heart of a lush rainforest on the bottom of the Osa Peninsula. From their beachside lodge, guests can venture into the untouched rainforest. Alternatively, guests can watch the Osa Peninsula’s abundant wildlife including sloths, agouti, coatimundi, monkeys, macaws and toucans, from the comfort of their own cabin or sunbathe on pristine beaches. The Encanta La Vida is 45 minutes by road from the iconic Corcovado National Park.
- From: USD 275* per night
- Located in: Playa Matapalo
Aguila de Osa Inn
Aguila de Osa Inn is a beautiful rainforest adventure lodge set on the Osa Peninsula. Surrounded by lush green rainforest jungle visitors staying at the hotel experience the ultimate luxury eco-tourism experience. From Aguila de Osa’s location on a rugged bluff, there are fabulous beautiful panoramic views of Drake Bay and the famous Corcovado National Park, while visitors can see delightful Caño Island in the distance. All meals included in your rate.
- From: USD 350* per night
- Located in: Drake Bay
Lapa Ríos Eco Lodge
Set some 350 feet above sea level on a sprawling private rainforest reserve of over 1,000 acres, visitors to the Lapa Ríos Eco Lodge can spend their mornings adventuring in the rainforest and their afternoons lazing on the spectacular beach. Located where the Golfo Dulce merges with the Pacific Ocean, Lapa Ríos Eco Lodge offers guests magnificent views as they gaze down over the lush verdant forest and out to sea.
Just 17 private bungalows create a peaceful sanctuary in harmony with its nearby stunning waterfalls and three exquisite beaches. Learn to surf, explore the beach on horseback or kayak through turquoise waters.
- From: USD 850* per night
- Located in: Playa Matapalo
Costa Rica emerged in the 1990’s as one of the world’s premier ecotourism destinations. Its verdant Osa Peninsula remains one of the planet’s most intact tracts of rainforest, a green paradise bursting with endangered species of brilliant birdlife, majestic animals and exotic plants.
Note: The prices listed are as of June 2019.*
Editor’s note: This travel article was originally published on 5th June, 2018, but has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.