On the north side of the Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay, pronounced “DRA-kay” locally, lies between the mouth of the Río Sierpe and the vastness of Parque Nacional Corcovado. It is a good base for sportfishing and scuba diving, and for hikes into nearby wildlife refuges and the national park. The bay is named for English sea captain Francis Drake, who supposedly anchored the Golden Hind in the tranquil bay in March 1579.
There are four-day, three-night eco-camps and conservation camps for environmentally minded travelers.Most people fly in or take a boat from Sierpe. You can also drive from Rincón via a recently graded dirt road (which requires fording two rivers) via the community of Rancho Quemado.
Marine turtles come ashore to nest, and whales pass by close to shore. There’s good snorkeling at the southern end of the bay, where a coastal trail leads to the mouth of the Río Agujitas, good for exploring by canoe.
You can follow a coast trail south via Playa Cocalito (immediately south) and Playa Caletas, four kilometers (2.5 miles) along, and a series of golden-sand beaches, ending 13 kilometers (8 miles) farther at Playa Josecito on the edge of Parque Nacional Corcovado. There are lodgings along the route; however, hiking all the way is often impossible, as the Río Claro is sometimes impassable, especially in wet season.
The 500-hectare (1,200-acre) Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Punta Río Claro is a wildlife refuge that sits above and behind Playa Caletas and Punta Marenco. The reserve forms a buffer zone for Parque Nacional Corcovado and is home to all four local monkey species and other wildlife species common to Corcovado. The area’s 400-plus bird species include the scarlet macaw. Here, the Punta Marenco Lodge (tel. 506/8877-3535) serves as a center for scientific research and welcomes ecotourists. Resident biologists lead nature hikes ($35).
Farther south, Proyecto Campanario (tel. 506/2289-8694), bordering Parque Nacional Corcovado, protects 100 hectares (250 acres) of rainforest and has trails. The Campanario Biological Station operates principally as a “university in the field” and offers courses in neotropical ecology. There are four-day, three-night eco-camps and conservation camps for environmentally minded travelers. Accommodations are offered in a field station with bunkrooms and in a simple tent camp.
The Estación Biológica Tamandúa (Tamandúa Biological Station, tel. 506/2775-1456) at La Bijagua, two kilometers (1.2 miles) southeast of Agujitas on the dirt road to Los Planos, has rainforest trails as well as tours to Corcovado. You can camp here, and there are cabins. It’s run by the Arguijos family and is accessible only in dry season.
The Fundación Corcovado (Corcovado Foundation, tel. 506/2297-3013) strives to protect the Osa Peninsula.
Nighttime Insect Tour
Professional entomologist Tracie Stice—the “Bug Lady”—and Costa Rican naturalist Gianfranco Gomez run a marvelously educational nocturnal bug hunt, the Nighttime Insect Tour (tel. 506/8701-7356, 7:30pm daily, $35). The 2.5-hour tour is fascinating and fun, made more so by Tracie’s wit and enthralling anecdotes on such themes as six-legged sex and eight-eyed erotica. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made through individual lodges.
Costa Rica Adventure Divers (tel. 506/2231-5806, U.S. tel. 866-553-7070) is based at Jinetes de Osa hotel, at the southern edge of Agujitas, and has dive trips to Isla Caño. Pirate Cove (tel. 506/2234-6154 or 506/8393-9449) also specializes in diving. The Águila de Osa Inn (tel. 506/2296-2190), at the mouth of the Río Agujitas, specializes in sportfishing and also has scuba diving and mangrove tours, and can arrange dolphin-spotting tours, birding ($35), mountain biking ($35), and kayaking.
The Corcovado Canopy Tour (tel. 506/8810-8908), at Los Planos, a 20-minute drive from Agujitas, has 14 platforms and 12 zip-line cables.
The hot spot in Agujitas is La Jungla Bar (tel. 506/2775-0570, 2pm-2am daily). A rustically elegant bar is the yin to the yang of the adjoining cement-floor disco ($2-5), which sometimes has live music.
La Jungla has stolen the thunder from nearby Bar y Restaurante Jade Mar (tel. 506/8822-8595, 6am-1am daily), a modern open-air eatery with a large-screen TV. It hosts a weekend disco (but watch that slippery tile floor).
Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.