Drake Bay is a magical place - huge swaths of jungle sprawl across the land, teeming with wildlife. There is so much nature here, because there are few people. One of the reasons there are few people, is because Drake Bay isn't an easy place to get to.
On our first visit to Costa Rica's wildlife paradise, we opted to fly in.
On our second trip to Drake Bay we opted to book a private shuttle to the town of Sierpe, and from there take a boat down the river and into the village of Agujitas on Drake Bay. The Covid pandemic was starting to tail off, but it was still a concern. Even though we were both double vaccinated, we wanted to avoid the close-quarters of the small planes that fly into Drake Bay. Even the idea of risking having mild, cold-like symptoms seemed an unpleasant way to spend our vacation. We also didn’t want to repeat having to wait for delayed baggage to arrive over a day after arriving at our resort <<link to explanation of baggage weighing>>. Unlike our first trip, where we had helpful resort staff, this time we were renting a casita and would be relying on our own devices for the most part. Arriving with all our belongings was definitely high on our priority list.
During our very first visit to Drake Bay we went on a bug tour with Gian and Tracy (two of the nicest, smartest people you’re likely to meet) two experts in the field of Costa Rica’s smallest wildlife. We stayed in touch with them through Instagram after our first trip, and turned to them for advice on how to reach Drake Bay by car. They put us in touch with Pedro at the Alvarez Shuttle through What’s App. Pedro didn’t speak English, and we have a very limited Spanish vocabulary, but we managed to communicate comfortably through What’s App with the help of Google Translate.
Pedro proved to be amazingly accommodating. He agreed to purchase a SIM chip for our phone, already activated with a small balance to get us started. He also offered to put in an order of fresh produce and a few other staple groceries at the nearest town, so we could pick things up on our drive into Drake Bay. We supplied him a list to get us through the first week.
He arrived at our hotel ahead of schedule, we could see him desanitizing the inside of the van from the window where we sat down for breakfast. The van was in very good condition, with enough seating for 9, though we had booked a private trip. That left plenty of space for our bags, and we could sprawl in our comfortable leather seats. We found him to be a very conscientious driver while still making good time. We managed to exchange a few sentences of conversation, using our Google Translate app, and listening carefully to Pedro, who cheerfully and patiently repeated himself until we caught enough familiar words to get the gist of what he was saying.
The drive itself proved to be entertaining. There are a lot of winding roads, so those prone to carsickness might want to take some medication to prevent nausea - fortunately this is not a condition we suffer from. Stunning jungle valleys and rivers quickly appeared and disappeared through the lush greenery hemming in the well paved roads. There were stretches of rural towns and roadside markets that made for pleasant window gazing. As you get farther along keep your eye out for the massive ocean waves that come crashing toward the land and the surfers who love them. We saw swaths of palm tree plantations with a dark grey breed of cattle grazing amongst them, as well as numerous Iguana Crossing signs; no iguanas though!
Halfway through our road trip we stopped to re-fuel, which was a great chance to use the clean washrooms, and stock up on some snacks and drinks. Pedro took us to the boat dock and introduced us to the captain. The dock is located at the foot of a restaurant and understanding what was going on took a few minutes and felt chaotic, but we paid attention to where our bags were loaded and just hovered near the boat. The ride was paid in cash as the captain went around collecting everything.
The boat ride is a blast, but if you’re prone to being sea sick it might be worth taking some meds in advance. We travelled down the Sierpe River, with thick jungle blanketing the land and mangrove trees digging their roots deep into the water. This part of the boat ride is rather calm, but that changed where the river met the ocean at Drake Bay. Calm river waters turned into big swells that rocked our boat. The captain ordered two more people to move to the front of the boat, intending on weighing down the front as waves playfully tossed it into the air. The most challenging part seemed to be getting past the mouth of the river and into the bay - this point of convergence tossed up particularly large waves. It was a very different experience during the rainy season (September) than our previous visit during the dry season (December) when we cruised through without issue and had dolphins playing in the boat’s wake. This time the captain had to put his skills to work, attempting to switch back across the waves to make a more gradual entry into the bay. When he realized we weren’t making progress, he took on a more direct approach. We were lifted off our seats by an inch a few times when we crested the worst of the waves, everyone shrieking in delight at the unexpected rollercoaster ride. Once in Drake Bay proper we approached the town of Agujitas without a problem.
Getting off the boat was another matter. The waters seemed particularly choppy and three men fought to keep the boat steady near the shore. Passengers had to wait until there was a moment of calm and quickly disembark, while those still on the boat had to wait as the waves came back and tossed the boat around. The captain and his hands certainly earned their wages and we gave him a big tip for the hard work.
Transporters Alvarez Shuttle
We booked multiple destination shuttle service with this company. Booked in the month of September, 2021.
Cost: $1,300 CDN ($1,000 USD)
5 hour drive from San Jose to Sierpe. A return trip two weeks later.
Picking us up in Sierpe and taking us to Puerto Viejo. A return trip 4 weeks later from Puerto Viejo to San Jose.
Picking up an activated SIM chip loaded with a small amount. Also helping us load 20,000 Colones ($45 CDN) onto the SIM at the supermarket in Palmar Norte.
Placing an order for groceries and picking them up before we went to Drake Bay.
Picking up rubber boots in advance.
Arranging for our boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay.