Nature Escape to Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula

Advisor - Carmen Candal
Curated By

Carmen Candal

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  • International Travel

  • Costa Rica

  • Adventure Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Hidden Gems

  • Wildlife

  • Slow Travel

Rocky beach next to ocean during daytime
Curator’s statement

The secret’s out: Costa Rica has it all. With pristine beaches, staggering volcanoes, abundant wildlife and that rich "Pura Vida" culture. It’s no wonder travelers continue to flock to this slice of paradise. The most-visited spots of Costa Rica include Monteverde, Arenal Volcano, Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo. However, in the south lies the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica's hidden gem you don't want to miss. Home to 1.5% of the world's biodiversity, this is the best spot for wildlife viewing. And whether you stay for a few days or a few months (as I did), you'll realize the Osa has so much more to offer.

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Where to stay in Costa Rica

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Lapa Rios Lodge

Picturesque all-inclusive ecolodge set in a tropical rainforest reserve overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Finca Exotica Eco Lodge

Relaxed eco lodge with private beach access close to Corcovado National Park.

Bosque del Cabo

Cliff top lodge on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula offering unparalleled views of the Pacific.

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Things to do in Costa Rica

Beach next to ocean and mountains during daytime

Wildlife Activities in Costa Rica

1. Parque Nacional Corcovado
Coined "the crown jewel of the Osa," even National Geographic refers to Corcovado as “the most biologically intense place on Earth.” Did you know all four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica can only be found in the Osa? Due to the vastness of the park, you must hire a local guide to enter the park (which your travel advisor will gladly help you with). There are "glamp" sites in the park, where you will want to stay to fully immerse yourself in nature. It’s a given to spot monkeys, sloths, coati and countless bird species. But if you’re lucky, you may also spot a tapir, puma or jaguar. Corcovado is a must if you are visiting Costa Rica.

2. Whale & Dolphin Tours in Golfo Dulce
I fell in love with the Osa the first time I saw a humpback whale in the Golfo Dulce. More than 25 species of whales either migrate through or live permanently in this “Sweet Gulf.” Pods of dolphins are frequently spotted, and speaking of spots, whale sharks also occasionally pass through. Combine your whale and dolphin tour with snorkeling or a visit to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary for a full day of wildlife adventure.

3. Sea Turtle Tours
Costa Rica has a strong commitment to conserving its native wildlife, including threatened and endangered sea turtle species whose eggs have been harvested as a food source for many years. As a result, there are several conservation organizations offering volunteer opportunities or tours to witness a magical event that only happens at night: a mother sea turtle climbing on land to lay her nest. Always be respectful of wildlife if you choose to partake in these kinds of activities.

4. Diving
For top-tier, world-class diving, you can take a 7-10 day chartered tour to Cocos Island, located about 300 miles offshore. This uninhabited island boasts huge schools of hammerhead sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, whales, manta rays, dolphins and hundreds of fish species. For day-trip options closer to shore, Caño Island is another top-rated dive site, and Golfo Dulce has several wrecks and reefs to discover.

Adventure Activities in Costa Rica

5. Horseback riding
The terrain can be a bit rough outside the towns in the Osa, so horseback riding is perfect for exploring the beaches, waterfalls and jungles of the Osa.

6. Surfing
Cabo Matapalo is an ideal for its secluded, off-the-beaten-path surf spots. Surf lessons are offered for those new to surfing with easy, beginner-level waves. There are also plenty of spots for more seasoned professionals if that’s your speed.

7. Canopy tours, tree climbing and waterfall rappelling, oh my!
For the adrenaline junkies whose style isn’t “relaxing on the beach.”

Culture & Wellness Activities in Costa Rica

8. Cacao Farm Tour
If you don’t know by now, Central America is known worldwide for its coffee and its chocolate. Tour a local cacao farm to learn how chocolate is made, and (even better) taste the process at every step.

9. Indulge at a wellness center
Something about tropical ’scapes and yoga just go together. Treat yourself to a yoga session or spa day and leave feeling completely rejuvenated (or don’t leave at all). For a full-service yoga retreat, check out Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa.

10. Travel slowly, and interact with the locals
There’s a reason the motto of Costa Rica is “Pura Vida.” And in the Osa, you often hear the word “tranquila.” Overtourism of Costa Rica has not affected the Osa Peninsula, and locals want to keep it that way. Therefore, locals are still very hospitable towards visitors. Support local businesses, and exchange stories with the locals. Cultural experience is the reason we travel and the best way to make sure you are leaving a positive impact on the destinations you visit.

Places to eat & drink in Costa Rica

Bananas and watermelon at a fruit stand during daytime

1. Marisquería Corcovado
Gaze at the glassy surface of the Golfo Dulce while enjoying patacones the size of your face at Marisquería Corcovado. Once you have these, you may never want to go back to french fries.

2. Los Delfines
Right next to La Marisquería, Delfines is a great place to stick your toes in the sand while having a casual meal or drinks. The seafood is fresh, and it’s a local favorite.

3. El Rinconcito Sabroso
A quick, value option (that does not hold out on the portion size or quality). Don’t miss the gallo pinto, a rice-and-beans staple in Costa Rica that is eaten at every meal.

4. La Terraza Restaurant & Bar
A second-floor terrace to catch a breeze and people-watch on the main street. Known for its drinks and atmosphere, La Terraza is perfect for grabbing a cold drink after a long day exploring.

5. Agua Dulce Restaurant
Agua Dulce is located a few miles from the main town of Puerto Jimenez on Playa Platanares, the best beach close to town. Agua Dulce’s restaurant, located on the terrace above the hotel’s lobby, has unbeatable views of the Golfo Dulce. This Italian restaurant (owned by an Italian so you know it’s authentic) also serves Costa Rican cuisine. The frozen drinks and smoothies are a perfect refresher for a day on the beach.

6. Kalaluna Bistro
If Bahía Drake is in your itinerary, do not miss Kalaluna Bistro, rated Trip Advisor’s Best of the Best 2022. Chef Claudio and his wife Shirley offer elevated Italian dishes with as much detail in the design as the flavor, not to mention their top-notch service and Bay views.

Advisor - Carmen Candal

Travel Advisor

Carmen Candal

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Costa Rica. Looking for more adventure travel inspiration? Check out this guide by Fora Advsior Artlette Diederiks: Best Diving Destinations Around the World by Month.