An Insider's Guide to Discovering Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula | © James Anderson/Tartan Group
The Osa Peninsula | © James Anderson/Tartan Group
Photo of Jenn Parker
5 May 2017

The Osa Peninsula, located on the southwest coast of Costa Rica, was recently named “one of the most biologically intense places on earth,” by National Geographic. Its secluded location and multiple national parks and nature reserves have kept this zone protected, pristine and magical. Nature lovers, eco-luxury seekers and adventurous souls alike will find the Osa Peninsula to be a place like none other. There’s so much to see and do here, and this guide will help point you in the right direction.

Where to Stay

There is some fabulous accommodation on the Osa Peninsula. Many of the great places to stay are also very environmentally friendly and are going to wonderful lengths to minimize their ecological footprint. Here are three excellent choices, one for each of the three zones of the Osa Peninsula region: Pacific Side, west side of the Gulfo Dulce side, and east side of Gulfo Dulce.

Lapa Rios Ecolodge

Lapa Rios Ecolodge is made up of 17 private bungalows on a 1,00o-acre private nature reserve overlooking a point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Gulfo Dulce. The elevated bungalows provide guests with unmatched views of the lowland rainforest and the turquoise sea. The lodge was built using locally and sustainably harvested materials and with the aim of existing in harmony with nature. Lapa Rios has won multiple awards for its dedication to the environment and its guests.

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Aguilla de Osa Inn

Aguilla de Osa Inn is peacefully situated on the Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula. The elevated location gives guests panoramic views of Drake Bay. This is the ideal spot for those interested in both land and marine adventures and exploration. Some of the best driving is on this side of the Osa Peninsula and whale, dolphin, and manta ray sightings are frequent. The Corovado National Park and Cano Island Biological Reserve are easily accessible from this cozy eco-inn.

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Playa Cativo Lodge

Playa Cativo Lodge is located on the east side of the Gulfo Dulce in the Osa Peninsula region. It is a seven-room hideaway surrounded by the Piedras Blancas National Park. It is beachfront and on its own private rainforest reserve. This is the perfect place to stay to truly get away from it all. You can spend your time rainforest hiking, birdwatching, having unique animal encounters and relaxing. There is a fabulous on-site restaurant, a library, and a butterfly garden and a pool that overlooks the Gulfo Dulce.

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Pathway in paradise | © James Anderson/Tartan Group

Protected Areas

The Osa Peninsula is home to several national parks and nature reserves. This makes this region a very special place. Wildlife encounters are common and the plant life is spectacular. There are thousands of different species who reside on and around the Osa Peninsula, including vast numbers of birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians, fish and mammals.

Corcovado National Park is made up of 13 different ecosystems, including lowland rainforest, cloud forest, mountainous rainforest, mangrove forest, swamp land, and coastal and underwater marine habitats. All four types of monkeys that live in Costa Rica live in this park, all four sea turtle species nest on these beaches, and all six feline species roam these lands. There are also over 100 different types of butterflies fluttering through the foliage.

A resident tapir | © Miguel Vieira/Flickr

Piedras Blancas National Park is located near Golfito and is a thriving evergreen and tropical lowland rainforest reserve. Within this park there are twisting rivers, stunning beaches, healthy coral reefs, and an immense wildlife population, including 53 species of bats, and the elusive jaguar. This zone receives over 200 inches (508 centimeters) of rainfall annually, so just imagine the plant life! It’s a birdwatchers paradise too, as Scarlet macaws and toucans love making an appearance.

Macaws dominate the airwaves here | © Nina Hale/Flickr

Cano Island Biological Reserve is a small island 12 miles (20 kilometers) northwest of the Osa Peninsula. The island is encompassed by five platforms of coral reef. This protected area is home to dolphins, whale sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, moray eels and a wide variety of tropical fish. It is fast gaining a reputation amongst the diving community as a world-class spot, due to the abundance of coral and marine life. The rest of the island is dotted with small and secluded white sand beaches.

What to Do

There are so many beautiful things to see and experience while staying on the Osa Peninsula. This is a great place to vacation if you love spending time outdoors and in nature, because everything is outdoors and in nature here. Regardless of which side of the peninsula you choose to stay on, you can go rainforest exploring, kayaking, paddle boarding, horseback riding, snorkelling, waterfall hiking, scuba diving, surfing or birdwatching. If that all sounds too much, you can also take a yoga class or get a spa treatment, or even just relax in your beautiful eco-lodge. Just sitting outside in the Osa Peninsula is an activity in itself, where you are likely to see an assortment of birds and butterflies and maybe even some monkeys passing through.

A tranquil tour of the mangrove forests | © James Anderson/Tartar Group
Take a ride along the beach | © James Anderson/Tartar Group

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