One of Costa Rica’s Most Remote Tourist Destinations
We drop our bags and check into Cabinas Manolo, a lovely, family-owned group of cabins just a short walk up from the beach and just down the hill from the ‘main’ part of town. The rooms are simple, as expected, but clean and spacious. It’s a nice home base from which to explore the entire region. We are in the tropics here – with bags full of humidity and lots of bugs (not my favorite!), and yet they are diligent at keeping the rooms extremely clean and creature-free. I love my bed and sheets, the shower is warm and large, and I enjoy sitting out front on our rocking chair. And they can even get you an unexpected in-room massage. You know I take advantage of this. At about $35…it would be a crime not to.
Electricity just came to this area about eight years ago. Before then, generators powered everything here, drowning out the peaceful sounds of the jungle and keeping it off-the-beaten path longer than many other parts of Costa Rica.
Still today, this is not your over-touristed, resort-hotel side of Costa Rica. Drake Bay is on the Osa Peninsula which is situated near the southern tip of this tiny country. It’s not the easiest area to reach, but once you get here (by boat or tiny plane), the rewards are great.
This is one of the last remaining low-land tropical rainforest areas on the Pacific coast. It takes its name from the Sir Francis Drake and is believed to be a port the British pirate used in the seventeenth century. There are miles and miles of beautiful coastline with rocky crags and sandy coves that extend from village of Drake, south all the way down to Corcovado National Park. Known as the last wild frontier in Costa Rica, the peninsula’s inaccessibility spared it for many years from development.
Corcovado National Park
We take a boat ride down to Corcovado National Park about an hour south of Drake Bay. It’s amazing and wonderful to see all this coast and no resorts, no hotels; nothing, but nature. The canopy of the rain forest – with the greatest tree species diversity in all of Central America — harbors not only the country’s largest population of scarlet macaws but also 52 species of nocturnal bats feeding on some 6,000 types of insects.
Large cats such as jaguar and puma share the forest with tapir and anteaters while howler monkeys chatter overhead. Our guide, Javier, is wonderful and still scampers around the forest like a little kid exploring it for the first time. He grew up right here and you can instantly tell, he loves what he does. This is not a man bored with his job. He is proud of his country and all it has to offer. On our hike through the rainforest we see toucans, bats, owls, macaws, and a golden orb spider.
Groovin’ through the Mangroves
It’s officially known as the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands and is home to the largest mangrove system in Central America, and one of the largest in the world.
Within its 79,000 acres, there are 370 species of birds, 67 types of amphibians and reptiles, 6 kids of cats, and 600 species of insects. It is also the home to some of Costa Rica’s most high-profile endangered species like the tapir, jaguar, and anteater. On our boat ride we encounter frigate birds, brown and red boobies, a grackle, egrets, a heron, brown pelicans, and several purple gallinule.
Back in Drake Bay
There are several spots to eat and drink in Drake, but we mostly eat at the restaurant at Cabinas Manolo. One night a few of us venture over to Gringo Curts and I’m so glad we did. The name may sound kind of ‘spring-breaky’ or kitschy, but the food here is probably the best I had my entire time in Costa Rica. There isn’t much of a menu…just the fresh fish of the day and local veggies. All grilled, moist, and so flavorful. No joke – try Gringo Curts.
Flying high on a Zipline
Many come down here for adventure – surfing, hiking, rafting, and of course it’s somewhat famous for it’s network of ziplines. I first ziplined in Costa Rica back in 2006 at Monteverde Cloud Forest. It’s always fun gliding across the caponies so I figured, I might as well doing it again. Besides loving the peaceful feeling of flying and gliding in the sky, the highlight was enjoying the ride with our fellow-passengers, Linda and Don, a fun and fearless couple in their mid 60s. I hope I am still exploring, traveling and flying high when I’m their age.
Disclosure: During my time in Costa Rica, I was a guest of Travel with Ann, as always, all writing and opinions are my own.