When we plan our travel we often search for quiet, isolated areas where we can just disconnect and really escape the busy work-a-day world for a while. Research into our 2020 trip to Costa Rica (our last pre-pandemic international trip) led us to Bahía Drake - or Drake Bay.
Bahía Drake is a lush and wild escape, attracting devoted ecotourists. The small bay is situated along the remote Osa Peninsula on Costa Rica’s southwestern coast. It is named after the infamous pirate Sir Francis Drake, who purportedly used the bay as a port in the 16th century. It's even believed - perhaps not surprisingly - that he left hidden treasure there. Whether those stories are true of just apocryphal, Bahia Drake continues to attract adventurous hearts. If you choose to travel by car, the bay is accessible only at certain times of the year, and the trip requires three river crossings passable only by 4x4; and hours of traveling rough, unpaved roads. While we're adventurous, we're not the Land Rover types, so we've opted to fly into Drake Bay’s airstrip. Booking flights on our own proved a challenge, so we turned to Anywhere.com for help. They were incredible to work with! Most get to Drake Bay by water taxi from Sierpe (which is easily accessible from San Jose by bus or car). The water taxi from Sierpe to Drake Bay takes about an hour and a half.
One of the "Bridges" along the road to Drake Bay:
The sparsely populated area has towns and villages spread out among thriving rain forests and mangroves. Some describe the area as a veritable Lost World, where the cries of macaws and the wails of howler monkeys fill the air. From all accounts, if you’re not a nature enthusiast this might not be the right place for you. Infrastructure is limited, there are lots of bugs, and everything we read suggested nature will find you even if you don’t go looking for it. It can also rain heavily even during the dry season.
All that said, if you are passionate about the natural world, staying in Drake Bay provides easy access to Corcovado National Park, purportedly one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems in the world, and a wide range of nature activities. Of particular note are the large numbers of dolphins and whales off the coasts of Drake Bay. The area boasts the longest humpback whale season in the world, and several different species of dolphin and whale use the area as breeding grounds.
As for amenities, many of the rustic eco-lodges are accessible only by boat or jungle trail. The main town does have some restaurants and bars, a few grocery markets, and some cheaper accommodation options. There are no banks or ATM machines, and some places don’t accept credit cards, so it’s essential to come with plenty of cash. While the vibe here doesn’t cater to those seeking pampering or luxury, it can be expensive. Being so remote, and surrounded by wild rain forests, everything has to be brought into town by boat or plane. Of note, the town has a well-stocked and staffed public medical clinic and a 24/7 private clinic (something we like to note since Anyes broke her arm while navigating a waterfall in Thailand a few years ago).
For our part, and for what we suspect is likely only a first visit, we decided to pamper ourselves with a 6-night all-inclusive package (including tours every day) at the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort. We spent our week in the area hiking, kayaking, walking the beaches, eating (did we mention that we love food), and exploring the town when we can. We are most excited to share our experience and discoveries with fellow adventurers! With the arrival of Covid lockdown our world - like everyone's - got turned upside down so we have complete that detailed Drake Bay blog. But we're determined to get to it soon and hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed our trip!
While in the area make sure to stop into the Drake Bay Café to enjoy an amazing view with your dinner.
Two of the most popular places to stay
La Paloma Lodge - all inclusive
If you're looking for budget accommodations consider staying with a local family. They provide a rustic, clean private room and shared baths for $24/night: Casamariposa.yolasite.com
There's also the Drake Bay Backpacker's Hostel which has bunk room sand 3 private rooms for $43/night. They're located in a small village and give a real taste of Costa Rican rural life.