South Pacific Costa Rica is likely the greenest part of the country, and contains a number of national parks, such as the Chirripo National Park.
|Osa Peninsula |
|Pérez Zeledon |
- 1 San Isidro de El General – The capital and largest city of Pérez Zeledon canton. It is also the entrance city to the region if coming from San José through the Cerro de la Muerte mountain pass.
- 2 Dominical – A surfing destination with a small town and good nightlife scene in the north end of the South Pacific, but pricier than Uvita.
- 3 Drake Bay – A bay that is often regarded as a town. The village in Drake Bay is called Agutijas. The bay is named after Sir Francis Drake, the British pirate who, as the story goes, buried treasure on its beaches in 1579. Besides Agutijas, Drake Bay holds beautiful beaches and birds, along with expensive resorts and lodges.
- 4 Golfito – The gateway to Pavones for surfers, a destination for sport fishermen all year round, and for eco-lodges.
- 5 Pavones – A town known for its big, heavy waves at its famous point break, but also lighter waves for beginners.
- 6 Playa Hermosa (Osa) – The name says it all, but also home to the Playa Hermosa Reserva Biologica, a conservation project up in the steep hills and home to ancient tropical trees of over 1,000 years old.
- 7 Puerto Jiménez (PJ) – A funky old gold mine town, main town on the tip of the peninsula, and the only small town with restaurants, bank, ATM, gas station, shops, internet cafés, airstrip, car rentals, grocery stores and crazy night life. It offers easy access to the beach villages of Carate and Cabo Matapalo. You can also shop and see the local culture, and if you are lucky, you just might catch one of their many festivals. People here are friendly and helpful.
- 8 Sierpe – Entry gate to the Corcovado National Park.
- 9 Uvita – A small but rapidly growing village in the heart of the Ballena Marine National Park, popular for its whale tours and snorkelling.
- 1 Corcovado National Park – Possibly the most biodiverse place on earth, with not a few gorgeous tropical white sand beaches on the periphery. Reservations are necessary no more than 36 hr in advance and there is a daily limit of 50 people.
- 2 Península de Burica
All towns south of Puerto Jiménez (PJ) are on a bumpy, unpaved road with no bridges over rivers. Many rivers become unpassable during heavy rains. There are only a handful of places to stay north of Puerto Jimenez - mostly rental homes, on the grid, and easy to get to from town. There are lots of fun eco tours near Puerto Jimenez, zip lines, kayaking, quiet beaches, horse-back riding, swimming with dolphins, and chocolate tours. Between May and November, a 4x4 vehicle is recommended because of the road conditions.
Wildlife and rainforest is the attraction of the Osa and you are in for a surprise. Corcovado National Park headquarters is in PJ. The park is not the only place to see wildlife. There is lots of wildlife in the rainforest of the towns of Bambu, Sandalo, Agujas, Canaza - all about 10 min from Puerto Jiménez. There are easy 2-hr hikes up the rivers (take a guide) into Corcovado where most tourists never see - these areas are remote, pristine & teeming with wildlife. If you have a week or less on the Osa Peninsula consider staying at lodges or vacation home rentals north of PJ about 10–15 min, in towns such as Bambu, Sandalo, Agujas, Canaza.
While all beaches on the Osa are uncrowded, those north of town have no eco lodges, motel style or cabinas directly on the beach and so are completely private. You can easily take a day trip to surf Matapalo or go see real isolation in Carate.
- 10 Cabo Matapalo – Great for surfers: it gets three amazing surf breaks. Waves are inconsistent but big when swells hit. Pristine beaches. Secluded, yet close to Corcovado National Park and Isla del Caño.
- 11 Carate – It has a local airport with regular flights to San José. Surrounded by tropical rain forest on east end of Corcovado National Park. Nice accommodations. Largely unknown to tourists.
- 3 Chirripo National Park – Near San Isidro and Rivas, offers some serious, Nepal-like feel and adventure if you are a keen hiker, with the highest mountain in Costa Rica.
- Talamanca Páramo – A natural region of montane grassland and shrubland.
- Finca de Don Tavo – A family-owned estate (Spanish: finca) dedicated to providing a family friendly and open recreational area with a typical campestre (country or rural) atmosphere.
Further interesting towns and villages include:
- 12 Rivas – A village significant for its archaeological findings and hot springs.
- 13 General Viejo
- 14 Pejibaye – An emerging eco-tourism village between La Marta Wildlife Refuge and the Tapantí National Park.
South Pacific Costa Rica is made up of two cantons. First there is the Osa Peninsula, a wondrous, magical, and untouched place for nature-lovers and adventurers. It’s a 5-hr drive from San José vs. the usual trek over the mountains and through raging rivers. Navigating pot holes the size of Hollywood swimming pools are now cherished memories. The days are over when you just abandoned your rental car along the side of the pothole-riddled road and hitchhiked your way to Puerto Jimenez. New asphalt, bridges, painted yellow lines, passing lanes, guard rails and bus stops in each town. You could certainly sneak under the radar and land a small plane just like the old days. Puerto Jimenez was a dusty old gold mine town in its heyday, built completely in support of eager and persistent gold miners.
Dirt roads came to the Osa when Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias was President of Costa Rica in the early 1980s and he signed a deal with Ronald Reagan. The Roads for Peace project was born and the US Army Corps of Engineers began building roads, bridges and schools. USA could keep a close eye on all of the Ollie North and Noriega activity in the mountains high above the city of David, Panama. Costa Rica and Taiwan were the only two countries that benefited from the short-lived Roads for Peace program. Also, PJ is starting to catch up with the rest of the world. With the new road and improved infrastructure, Osa could be ready to join the ranks of Tamarindo and Jacó.
And there is the Pérez Zeledón canton, which covers an area of 1,905 km² (736 sq mi), the seventh largest of the 81 cantons in the country. It has a population of about 135,000 (2011). In the middle of the canton, the Río General, from which the canton's capital city takes its name, runs north to south through a beautiful valley. It is very oriented toward tourism, with a sizeable selection of hotels, restaurants, stores, and other activities, like tours. The city is generally considered a stop-over destination for tourists heading toward Costa Rica's deep south or to the South Pacific coast, or to the nation's highest mountain, Chirripó.
The Osa Peninsula is separated from mainland Costa Rica by the Golfo Dulce, which is unique as one of only four tropical fjords in the world.
You can fly to Puerto Jiménez or cross the Golfo Dulce from Golfito in a launch (ferryboat) to reach the Osa Peninsula. Golfito is directly across from Puerto Jiménez, the main city near the tip of the Osa Peninsula. You will need a passport and money, but no vaccinations are required.
Aerobell Airlines, Sansa and Skyway Airlines[dead link] offer daily flights to Puerto Jiménez and Drake Bay from San Jose International Airport. Flight time to both destinations is about 40 minutes and the tickets start at US$46 per person per way.
The "Costanera Sur" (a southern coastal road) is paved all the way from border to border. Coming from the Central Valley, you can choose between the coastal route and the Panamerican Highway (which passes Pérez Zeledón and goes into Cartago).
On the main roads between Pérez Zeledón and Paso Canoas, TRACOPA runs several buses which also connect to San José and the Central Valley.
Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park can be reached by charter planes from Pavas and San José. A boat trip with a duration of 1½ hr from the Sierpe River is another possible method of reaching these destinations. In Puerto Jiménez, taxis are readily available, and you can also rent a car there. To reach Cabo Matapalo, fly to Puerto Jiménez and drive (45 min) to the village. Bumpy travel by bus is possible throughout the peninsula.
Osa Peninsula, where you will find Costa Rica’s jewel of the National Park System, Corcovado National Park. Osa continues to provide adventure travellers with great photos of monkeys, tapirs, cats, dolphins, whales and exotic birds. On Route 245, it’s a 5-hr drive from San José.
Osa Peninsula, where you will find Costa Rica’s jewel of the National Park System, Corcovado National Park. Osa continues to provide adventure travelers with great photos of monkeys, tapirs, cats, dolphins, whales and exotic birds.
Besides the highest mountain in Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripó, the canton offers hot springs (Rivas), caves, wonderful waterfalls and rivers, bird watching.
- 1 Stone Spheres. These mysterious stone spheres in pre-columbian chiefdom settlements made by unknown people have been discovered in the Valle de Diquis area around Sierpe. The settlements with the spheres are officially a UNESCO World Heritage site. See them first-hand to develop your own theory about their history. US$6, US$4 for foreign students, ₡1,000 for nationals.
- Gold nuggets were discovered on Isla Violin of the Sierpe River. Go to see where a gold rush began.
- 1 Finca Sonador. A small village 30 km south of Pérez Zeledón which offers rural community tourism. It is a refugee project founded in 1979. Nowadays 400 families live in the community, growing mainly coffee and sugar cane besides the food they consume on their own. Tourism is still a supplementary income here and money goes straight into the families you stay with.
- 2 Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary, San Isidro, ☏ +506 2738-2070, +506 8659-2228. M-Sa 7AM-4PM, Su 7AM-1PM. The home of Alexander Skutch, the famous birder, botanist and naturalist. He bought the land and named after the fiery-billed aracari. Btw. the region offers many more such birding opportunities. US$10 adult, US$2 child.
- 3 Mountain Hiking. The mountains near San Isidro de General are probably the most alpine mountains all over Costa Rica. If you are a keen hiker interested in a Nepal-like feel, head here for some serious adventure. Check out Chirripo National Park for more information.
- Mirador Valle de El General. In the Talamanca mountain range 1,600 m above sea level. Offers canopy tours, nature trails through a cloud forest, great bird-watching opportunities, other activities, and a view of the entire El General Valley.
- San Buenas (Golf), Dominical (on the Southern Coastal Road (Coastanera) at km 186, 15 km south of Uvita), ☏ +506 6040 1363, email@example.com. A course that has 9 holes - Par 37, over 3,700 yards long from the tips.
There are plenty of things to do on the Osa Peninsula, from birdwatching to horseback rides through the jungle. The sea, of course, offers various activities such as snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, and fishing.
The Osa Peninsula is partly covered by the Corcovado National Park, which offers an exciting day-trip for travelers. The land of the peninsula is covered in white sand beaches and virgin tropical rain forest. With four species of monkeys, exotic birds, and countless amphibians and reptiles, the Osa Peninsula is also an ideal place for nature-watching, Rappelling, (waterfall or otherwise), mountain biking, surfing, hiking, and kayaking.
Events and holidays
These fun and religious holidays are celebrated uniquely in Costa Rica and should be watched for in this region.
- Fiesta de Los Diablitos
- Festival/Carnival del Mar
- Fiesta Palmares
- Fiesta Santa Cruz
- Día de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas
- Dia de los Boyeros
- Dia de San Jose
- Semana Santa
- Dia de Juan Santamaria
- Dia de los Trabajadores
- Fiestas Patronales Trinidad de Moravia, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Leon Cortes, and San Jeronimo
- Fiesta San Juan de Tibas
Animals are the main thing to see. The Osa Peninsula is home to at least half of all of the species that live in Costa Rica. Costa Rican wildlife includes: Scarlet Macaws, Tayras, Peccaries, monkeys, Blue Morpho butterflies, frogs, snakes, anteaters, armadillos, bats, wild cats, crocodiles, deer, manatees, fish, exotic squirrels, exotic raccoons, Agoutis, Coatis, Sloths, Tapirs, and exotic weasels.
There lots of sodas (small food places, normally owned and run by local families
There are many eco-lodges around the coast, and budget options in Puerto Jiménez. See the local city articles for listings.
Most of the lodges and eco-resorts on the Osa Peninsula are off the grid, so adequate power, hot water and the 5-star amenities our civilization has grown to expect are a hit and miss.
It may seem obvious, but many people forget: wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn and skin cancer! Make sure that has a high SPF (Sun Protectant Factor) and blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Many want to stay on the beach when visiting Southern Costa Rica, but what they don’t know about Costa Rica, is that beaches are unbelievably hot, full of purajas (sand fleas) black sand and open to the public, so you don’t get the privacy you deserve while you're on vacation.
The South Pac Coast is a relatively safe area, and Costa Rica is much more stable than the surrounding Central American countries. However, it is recommended that you watch your pockets to make sure your wallet and passport do not get picked out. Also, lock your valuables in a hotel safe or lockable closet if possible. Do not wear flashy jewelry or fancy clothes, as they attract attention and may allow criminals to target you as a wealthy tourist. No matter who you are, do not travel alone at night—it is dangerous.
Do not allow small children to swim in the ocean alone, as always.
Most people visiting the Osa Peninsula usually plan a week or two vacation, and that can get expensive while staying at beach lodges and resorts, especially if you are traveling as a family.