Introduction to the Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula is a wild, untouched natural wonderland, with pristine expanses of rainforest teeming with rare animals and tropical birds, as well as some stunning palm-backed Pacific beaches. Quite separated from the rest of the mainland, you reach the Osa Peninsula via a narrow neck of land in the far south of Costa Rica. This remoteness means the area has a wilder more far-flung feel than many of the country’s other jungle reserves.
The Corcovado National Park is hands-down one of the top places to see wildlife in Costa Rica. Approximately one tenth of all mammal species from the Americas are found here, including peccaries, coatis, agoutis, kinkajous, sloths, armadillos, anteaters, jaguars and other big cats. In the ancient forest you will also see all manner of tropical birds, including the largest colony of scarlet macaws in the country with some 1,200 of them, perched or squabbling along the beach palms. Of the 400+ bird species found in Osa, 20 are endemic and can only be found there. The harpy eagle for example, is a species which was thought to be extinct, but has recently been spotted once again in the Osa Peninsula’s forests. It cannot be overstated how precious this region of Costa Rica is, and we only work with eco-lodges where sustainability and the protection of this incredible natural habitat are first and foremost in everyone’s minds.
What not to miss in the Osa Peninsula
Corcovado National Park
The Corcovado National Park is acclaimed by National Geographic as being “the most biologically intense place on earth!” We like their wording, and it’s all true – for extreme wildlife spotting this park just cannot be beaten.
The Osa Peninsula is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity and its jungles are some of the most verdant in the world! While hiking through the jungle the silence of your surroundings is occasionally broken with the exotic sounds of howler monkeys and scarlet macaws.
Whale & Dolphin Watching
Whale and dolphin watching around the protected bays of Golfo Dulce and Bahia Drake is incredible. This is the only place in the world where humpback whales migrate from both hemispheres to mate and have their babies. This means that from July, right through to April these gentle giants can be seen in Osa’s warm waters.
Waterfall rappelling is an exciting way to see the rainforest from a different angle, giving you an intimate view of the lush, moss-covered river canyons and cascading jungle falls.
Snorkeling Caño Island
Isla del Caño is famous for its diversity of marine life and its clear underwater visibility making it perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. You’ll be able to swim alongside all types of marine life from sea turtles and barracuda to puffers, white tip reef sharks and rays.
What you need to know
When to go
The dry season is from January through to April and is the best time to visit with reliably sunny weather, however it’s also the most popular and expensive time to travel. For the best value, travel in the green season, from May through to September, when lodges drop their rates although afternoon showers are common. Roads sometimes flood and many lodges actually close in the rainiest months of October and November. Often, there is a two-or three-week period of dry weather, a mini-summer called el veranillo with brilliant sunshine in late June and into July. Try and avoid traveling to the Osa Peninsula during the Christmas and New Year holiday season when rates peak to their highest. Trekking in the Corcovado National Park is best during the dry season (late December through to March) and the best time for quetzal sightings is during the nesting season between February and May, which also coincides with the fruiting of the wild avocado, their favorite food!
How to get there
You can reach Drake Bay, Palmar Sur and Puerto Jimenez by flying with SANSA and Nature Air. SANSA flies Cessna planes and has the greatest number of flights to Golfito. Nature Air flies DeHavilland planes with larger windows that are great for seeing the incredible landscapes below. The company also prides itself on its sustainability, claiming to be the world’s first carbon-neutral airline.
Buses also go from the Osa Peninsula to San José with the fares being relatively inexpensive and will give you the opportunity to meet some of the locals. The buses in general are slow and often leave very early in the morning.
Where to stay
Most of the accommodation in the Osa Peninsula are small hotels and eco-lodges surrounded by unbelievable wildlife and nature. As a general rule, the further south the lodge, the more remote it is. Poor road conditions, lack of electricity and communications make accommodations more expensive than in other destinations although most of these places include meals, transport, guides, and unique locations.
The main form of local public transport in the region are buses (colectivos), departs one block south of the bus station in Jiménez. Journeys from Jimenez to Carate can be achingly bumpy and the colectivo will drop you off at any of the lodges along this route. There are also a number of local taxi drivers who have 4WD vehicles that can also take you to your lodge. The colectivo also heads to Bahía Drake although less frequently in the wet season. Due to the state of the roads and hazardous driving conditions, we don’t recommend driving in this region especially in the rainy season. If you have a rental car note that Puerto Jiménez has the only petrol station on the entire Osa Peninsula, so be sure to fill up before you leave.
Boats are the most common way to get to the jungle lodges in Osa and while in the lodge, all activities are located around the lodge.