The Drake Bay and Sierpe area used to be a biologist-only playground, where scientists would come from around the world to study its immense biodiversity. Today, our Sierpe and Drake Bay travel guide helps you plan your escape to what has become Costa Rica’s ultimate escape destination for nature lovers – an escape of white sand beaches, tropical lowland forests, waterfalls and wildlife, not to mention the stunning ocean views and spectacular scuba diving locations.
- Area: South Pacific
- Average Temperature: 71-93º F (22-34º C)
- Closest Airport: Drake Bay Airport (flight time from San José to Drake is 45 minutes) Both local airlines offer daily flights) Palmar Sur (40-minute flight from San José)
- Can’t-Miss Attractions: Caño Island Marine reserve (Best snorkeling and diving location in Costa Rica, also an archeological site), Playa San Josesito (great hiking experience and also a sweet spot for snorkeling), the Mangrove forest of the Sierpe-Terraba delta (one of the largest mangrove forest in the world)
- Hot Activities:: Diving, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, zip lining, Mangrove tours, whale watching tours, nature tours
- Great for: Adventurers, biologists, scuba divers and simply getting away from it all
The Southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica is known for its vast biodiversity and unspoiled and mostly deserted beaches. Sierpe and Drake Bay are one of the last frontiers in Costa Rica, although amenities are available it still has that unconquered feel to it.
The tranquil fishing village of Sierpe sprawls along the river of the same name and it would be easily missed were it not for the fact that it is the entry point to Drake Bay. Sierpe is home to the Sierpe – Terraba Mangrove forest, the largest in Central America and a boat ride through it, is simply a trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life. If you have the time, try going to Drake by way of Sierpe so you can see this magnificent forest.
“Drake Bay is as remote as you can get while still having running water and electricity. Perfect for nature lovers who wish to unplug and reconnect with Mother Nature. This amazing destination heals and rejuvenates the mind and soul”
Although it is an extremely relaxing place, Drake Bay is an adventure seeker’s paradise, there is so much to do, you may need to schedule a few more days to experience it all. You can go hiking through the jungle, where you will encounter several waterfalls and take a little dip to cool down, there are also bird watching tours, and the area around Drake Bay and mainly Caño Island offer some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the country. You can take a coastline tour in kayak or see the world from above in the canopy tour, take a romantic walk on the beach, or venture out to sea to watch the dolphins and whale pods frolicking in the sea.
Our Corcovado, Sierpe and Drake Bay travel guide takes you there – to the most unforgettable things to do, the can’t-miss attractions, and Drake Bay’s best hotels, restaurants, and bars.
What to do in Drake Bay and Sierpe
Aside from taking in all the beauty of the landscape and the wildlife here, which would be enough, Drake Bay offers a lot of fun activities suitable for everyone regardless of age.
“Important travel tip, there are no banks or ATMs in Drake Bay, most hotels accept credit cards but there are some places that don’t and most local businesses won’t accept them either. So, make sure to have plenty of cash on hand so you can pay for tours and dinner”
The biological marine reserve of Caño island lies some 12 miles from the shore of Drake Bay, it is also a Pre-Columbian archeological site, and is considered as the best diving spot in the country.
The waters surrounding the island are home to a stunning variety of marine life including an amazing colorful coral reef. The clarity of the waters offer fantastic underwater visibility, you can expect to swim alongside sea turtles, dolphins, barracudas, stingrays, giant pacific manta rays, moray eels, parrot and puffer fish. Several shark species also dwell in these waters, divers can expect to see white-tipped reef sharks, silky sharks and the occasional bull shark has also been spotted. During the months of July – November, humpback and pilot whales can be seen and, of course, the lovely dolphins will most likely accompany you on the boat ride to Caño Island.
There’s not that much wildlife on land, but the island lies in the migratory path of several bird species and birds like black hawks, osprey, cattle egret and the phalarope can easily be spotted.
“While on the island, try not to drop any food, as the beach is full of hermit crabs that come out by the thousands to grab a tasty morsel. The hermit crabs are harmless but it can cause quite an impression to see so many of them running towards you at the same time”
Diving and Snorkeling
For those who do not have a diving license but would like to experience this underwater marvel, the experienced diving instructors at Costa Rica Adventure Divers will be happy to conduct a “resort course” which will teach you the basics of diving. If you are an experienced diver, then you will get your choice of diving spots in the pristine waters of Caño Island.
The island is also the premier snorkeling location in the Southern Pacific coast. Waters around the island are teeming with marine life providing a great attraction for its visitors. Aside from Caño Island, Drake Bay offers other great snorkeling sites closer to shore, namely the nearby beach of San Josesito.
Night Tour with the Bug Lady
One of the most interesting tours to take on your visit to Drake Bay is the 2-hour night tour offered by Tracy and Gianfranco. Tracy is a biologist and a big fan of all things that are creepy-crawly and go bump in the night. Because of her scientific background, this tour is a lot more fun and interesting than you might expect, not only will she identify the creature you encounter, she will tell you it’s story; how it lives, what it eats, how it reproduces, etc. So, get ready to strap on a headlamp and go into the jungle.
Zip Lining Tours
Drake Bay is surrounded by some amazing hills, and it is here, at the convergence of the Agujitas and Claro rivers that the adventure begins. The park has 9 platforms with 6 cables and an 80-foot rappel. There is a 30-foot observation platform for those who aren’t brave enough to try the zip-lines; the park also has several Tarzan swings and hanging bridges to explore the exuberant canopy.
Exploring your surroundings with the use of a kayak is a great way to experience Drake Bay, the Agujitas River during high tide offers a great waterway for kayaking, you will encounter crocodiles but these tend to be small and mostly harmless, however, they are still wild animals and you should refrain from trying to interact with them. Another option is the Claro river, but this path requires a little more experience as the waters are rougher and the Crocks are certainly larger.
You can also opt to take your kayak out to sea, because Drake Bay is in a wide cove the waters are tranquil and apt even for beginners. You can paddle your way to several secluded beaches and inlets that are not accessible by land.
If you decide to come to Drake Bay via Sierpe, you can’t pass up the opportunity to take a river tour through the biggest Mangrove forest in Central America, which also happens to be one of the largest and tallest in the world.
The Sierpe – Terraba Mangrove forest is a unique ecosystem that can be toured by boat or kayak. The half or full day tours offer great birdwatching opportunities, other animals including 4 different species of monkeys as well as sloths and anteaters can also be spotted; the Jesus Christ Lizard is very common in this area, so be on the lookout to see them walking on water, a true miracle of nature!
Hiking to San Josesito
Tree Canopy View in San Josesito by CR-Art
San Josesito is a secluded beach close to the mouth of the Sierpe River, there is a trail that runs through the jungle from Drake, you won’t need a guide, just follow the signs. The hike is relatively easy, but it is long, it will take about 2.5 hours to get there and another 2.5 to get back, but it is totally worth it.
San Josesito has some spectacular snorkeling so make sure to bring a mask, along the way you will pass some deserted beaches and the jungle trail is filled with local wildlife, therefore, have your camera or phone handy at all times.
Because it is a long walk to and from, take plenty of water and food as you are likely to spend most of the day there. And just in case you are late returning, bring a flashlight to light your way through the jungle.
Drake Bay Travel Guide to Bars and Restaurants
Most hotels have their own bar and restaurant on site, this is especially true of the ones that are further way from the town center, depending on where you are staying, dining out may not be an option, but a nice lunch or cocktails in the middle of the afternoon are always welcome, right?
Most restaurants in Drake Bay are reasonably priced and very casual, the food is very good but most places have a limited menu.
Gringo Curt’s – This is a very popular tourist spot; the menu is very limited but everything on it is done superbly. A lot of their dishes are based on the catch of the day, so this gives it some variety, they also have some vegetarian options and pastas. Portions are generous and can often be shared, the fruit smoothies are to die for, they don’t serve beer or wine but you can ask for your smoothie to be spiked!
Pirate’s Kitchen (La Cocina del Pirata) – Located right in the heart of it all, it sits right on the beach and has amazing views of the bay. Great place to hang out and cool down with an ice-cold beer, it offers the typical Costa Rican Casado and a very good rice with shrimp, they also have some appetizers like burritos and nachos to munch on.
Café Delicias – One of the few restaurants that offer a wide variety of dishes. It opens super early in the morning (5:00 am) so this is the ideal place to grab breakfast before an early morning tour. They make some nice homemade bread, which is great to take during hikes.
Casa Tortuga – Probably the least casual restaurant in Drake Bay, its menu offers a lot to choose from, from seafood, meats, chicken, and pasta to the traditional Casado. Being a little more refined than the other restaurants in the area, it is a nice change.
Drake Bay Travel Guide to Hotels
As mentioned before, Drake Bay is quite remote, so, you won’t find huge resorts, most hotels only offer a handful of rooms and because of this, it is best if you have your lodging arrangements done in advance.
Aguila de Osa – High-end eco-resort set amidst the jungle, has spectacular ocean views, rooms come ceiling fans and balconies. The resort is 10 minutes out of town, so dining out is not convenient, but you don’t need to worry as they have an excellent restaurant on site.
Hotel Jinetes de Osa – This is a mid-range hotel that gives you a lot of the amenities of a high-end resort at a much better price. The hotel has only 9 rooms, some rooms come with A/C, others just have a ceiling fan – the superior rooms offer the best views. Conveniently located about 5-10 minutes from town, they have an onsite restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you are interested in a diving excursion to Isla del Caño, this is the best place to stay at, as they are associated with Costa Rica Adventure Divers. They also offer a lot of other sea and jungle activities, so make sure to inquire.
Las Cotingas – The best budget option, close to town but because it sits in a low hill it offers a lot of privacy. The owners are locals so you get the full Costa Rican hospitality experience. Las Cotingas only has 4 rooms, each comes with a nice deck but not all of them have ocean views. Meals are not included but since it is so close to town you can have your meals in one of the local restaurants.
Getting to Sierpe and Drake Bay
If you are visiting Sierpe the easiest and fastest way is to take one of the local flights with either Sansa or Nature Air into Palmar Sur and from there take the bus or a taxi to Sierpe. You can drive down to Sierpe, but it will take you around 7 hours to get there and you won’t be able to drive to Drake Bay.
From Sierpe, you will need to take the boat taxi to Drake Bay; I should mention that the waters get choppy at the mouth of the river, but you have nothing to worry about as the captains are extremely familiar with these waters.
If you are skipping Sierpe, then fly directly to Drake Bay with either airline, the flight offers spectacular views of the mountains and coastline, and takes about 45 minutes.
Driving to Drake Bay is possible but not recommended, you will need to traverse several rivers and this may not be possible during high tide, not to mention that there won’t be any road assistance if you get stuck and the car rental insurance won’t cover the damages, besides a car in Drake Bay will be of no use anyway.
Sierpe and Drake Bay are located in one of the most remote areas of Costa Rica, on the Northern side of the Peninsula de Osa, which is itself located on the Southern Pacific coast.
Sierpe is a river town surrounded by banana plantations on the edge of the coast, while Drake Bay lies in a wide cove right on the Pacific Ocean.
Average temperatures in this region range from 71° to 93°F; the Osa Peninsula gets an average of 190 inches of rainfall a year.
The best time to visit is during the dry season which spans between the months of December and April, as you are guaranteed sunny days and clear waters ideal for snorkeling or diving.
Visiting between the Months of May and July are good since the heavy rains have not yet arrived and hotels run specials so you can save some money, but you will get some cloudy days, and occasional rains or even a night storm. I do not recommend visiting during the months of August – November.
Visit Sierpe and Drake Bay
If you are looking to unplug and reconnect with life, Drake Bay is the ideal place to do so. Fantastic semi-deserted beaches, untamed nature, exciting adventures and friendly people are all found in this wonderful piece of heaven.