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Epic 4 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Drake Bay & Corcovado

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Drake Bay, Costa Rica is an isolated gem of a seaside escape, bordered by jungle and the famous Corcovado National Park to the south. Life is centred around the small village of Agujitas, with affordable places to stay, wildlife at your door step and an ocean playground to explore along the coast. Our complete guide and 4 Day Costa Rica Itinerary focuses on Bahía Drake (Drake Bay) and Parque Nacional Corcovado (Corcovado National Park), and will give you everything you need to know.

Everything we wished we knew before our first trip.

The Osa Peninsula attracts backpackers, wildlife lovers, and families looking for adventure in the most biologically diverse section of rainforest in Central America.

It’s a great place to let go of the everyday stresses and escape into nature. Jungle teeming with wildlife, warm ocean waters to swim and snorkel. This remote village is an amazing family getaway. 

Drake Bay really is what I dreamed Costa Rica would be. It is well worth the extra effort to travel to this special place.

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View of Drake Bay, Costa Rica from hillside, with palm trees, and ferns tiered down the hill.
View of Drake Bay from the Hillside – Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

4 DAY TRIP TO COSTA RICAOSA PENINSULA

How many days do you need in Drake Bay?

Given the remoteness of this area you will need at least 3 nights, 4 days minimum to really see everything there is to see in Drake Bay, and get a taste for the jungle experience in Corcovado. Most lodges in the area sell 3 night packages, recognizing this. 

We stayed 4 nights, and found that worked out better for us, as we wanted to do so many things and 3 nights just didn’t give us enough time.

How to get there:

Getting to Drake Bay is all part of the fun and adventure! You can drive, boat, or fly into Drake Bay, one of the more remote places in Costa Rica. It’s located on the Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific side.

Can you drive to Drake Bay, Costa Rica? 

While you can drive to Drake Bay during certain times of year when the road is passable, it’s not recommended, especially in the rainy season. 

Not only is the road rough, unpaved, and with multiple river crossings, this area will likely not be covered under a car rental agreement.

If you do decide to drive, you will need a 4×4 vehicle and be comfortable driving in all terrains.

Luckily  everything is fairly accessible in town by walking the roads, jungle trail or beach.

By Boat: How to Get From Sierpe to Drake Bay

Taking a boat taxi  from the town of Sierpe  is the most common way to get to Drake Bay.

Climb aboard the small 200 foot covered boat, a great way to travel. You’ll motor through mangroves, out to the ocean and follow the coastline south till you reach your destination.

  • The cost used to be $15 for the am and $20 for the afternoon runs, but I’ve heard the price has gone up $5-$10 per trip due to fuel costs. Bring extra cash just in case.

  • The boat trip takes about an hour and leaves the docks in Sierpe twice daily, at 11:30 a.m and around 3:30/4pm.
  • Look for the big sign that says DONDE JORGE at the restaurant of Hotel Oleaje Sereno.
  • Double check timing at the restaurant. Some locals offer boat rides as well, if you miss your boat, or want to arrange another time.

Be sure to tell your boat captain which hotel you are going to, they will let you out along the way. Check with your lodge, they can usually help arrange and give you all the deets for the trip.

Return boats leave Drake Bay around 7:15 a.m and 2:30 p.m. But do check with your lodge, as pick up there may be a bit different. You can also ask your hotel if they can arrange a boat back for a different time as well.

Tips for traveling from Sierpe to Drake Bay by Boat

  • Catch the 11:30am boat if you can, as by the time you arrive on the later boat, you’ll only have about an hour to get settled in before dark.
  • You can’t make reservations for the boat ride, so arrive at least 1 hour early in high season.
  • You’ll need to pay cash to the boat captain before disembarking at your hotel. Bring extra as prices may be going up due to fuel costs, and there’s no banks or ATMs in Drake Bay. You’ll need extra for the boat back.
  • The boat taxi usually pulls up in the sand near your lodge, so be prepared for a “wet landing. ” You will need to wade in the water (ankle to knee deep). Wear sandals, and shorts or pants you can roll up.
  • Bring a kids life jacket if traveling with kids, as boats usually only have adult sizes. 

How to get to Sierpe

We ended up staying in Palmar Norte overnight, and then taking an early taxi to Sierpe to ensure we made the 11:30am boat. We wanted as much time as possible in Drake Bay area.

You can also take a bus,  private shuttle or van to Sierpe if not driving. 

  • By Bus – The earliest bus from San Jose to Palmar Norte leaves at 5am from the Tracopa bus station (near Clinica Biblica). Buy your ticket at least one day in advance. You’ll arrive in Palmar Norte around 11am and then will need to take a taxi to Sierpe in order to make the boat taxi in time. Be prepared to wait around for the last boat of the day, if you miss the 11:30am boat, as that’s cutting it close.
  • By Car – Adobe Car Rentals will let you drop off or pick up a rental car in Sierpe for a fee. Choose the closest rental Uvita, and in the comment section mention you’d like to drop / pick up the car in Sierpe, and ask them to advise you of any fees, and pick up times. Car rentals in Costa Rica require credit cards and may require a $1000 or so deposit.
  • You can park your car rental for about $6 – $10/day in one of the secure parking lots near the dock in Sierpe (there’s an enclosed parking area adjacent to Hotel Oleaje Sereno, ask at the restaurant about a pass).
  • The drive from San Jose takes about 4 hours, along the coastal highway, the “Costenera”, Highway 34.

By Plane

Flying into the airport is the quickest way to Drake Bay. The flight is under an hour and leaves from San Jose a few times a day in high season, and a couple of morning flights in low season. A few local airlines offer regular schedules including Nature Air and Sansa.

Things To Know About Drake Bay

There are a few things to consider when traveling to the gorgeous Drake Bay & Corcovado:

  • There are no banks or ATMs in Bahia Drake, and smaller businesses won’t take credit cards, so make sure to bring enough cash.
  • While the official currency of Costa is the colón, US dollars are widely accepted, and often preferred. Get $20 bills and under, as many places won’t take larger denominations. You may get change back in colones.
  • September and October are the rainiest months, and many places and activities in Drake Bay and area close down for October.
  • This area is jungle, as in bugs, dirt, and humidity. If that’s not your families thing, then this isn’t the place for you!
  • Pack a flashlight, as the sun rises and sets early, and there aren’t a lot of lights after dark. The sun rises and sets pretty much the same time all year round in Costa Rica. Sunrise ~ 5:30 am daily and sunset is around 6:00 pm.
  • Pack sunscreen, bug repellant and light long pants. It’s a jungle out there.
Collage of 4 drake bay pictures of beach, and river with tropical foliage.
My views from Drake Bay Trail, Costa Rica. It was wayyyy sunnier than these pictures look.

Where to Stay in Drake Bay

The charm of Drake Bay are the comfortable, somewhat rustic, sustainable low-impact accommodations. You can find everything from boutique resorts, and eco-lodges to beachfront “tent camping” and even a jungle hostel. 

Accommodations are situated on the hills of Bahia Drake and scattered along the Jungle Trail. Some just minutes from Drake Bay, others like the Punta Marenco Lodge, are  a 3 hour hike away. You can arrange with your lodge for a private boat pick up in Drake Bay.

More budget friendly options are located closer to town and its restaurants and two very small grocery stores. Something to keep in mind, the further out you go, the more you will be relying solely on your lodge / resort for food and activities.

Where I stayed: When I traveled to Drake Bay I stayed at Finca Maresia for a couple of nights and Cabinas El Mirador  for a couple of nights. I absolutely loved my stay at both places. Such friendly people, great location and easy to book tours through them.

Hiking trail by cabins at Punta Marenco Lodge in tropical garden. Costa Rica.
Hiking Trail starting at Punta Marenco Lodge, Costa Rica
PRO TIP: Book in advance. This is not a place you want to just show up at. A lot of the lodges have a small number of rooms, and book up fast.  

Higher End

La Paloma Lodge as is a hillside lodge with 11 rooms tucked away in the rainforest with ocean views. Their two-story ranchos are available for families and groups. Excellent service and food with only a 20 minute walk to main beach and town. 3 day packages include meals, accommodations, and tours to Corcovado & Cano Island (snorkeling). 

Sunset Lodge is family owned with sweet ecologically-built wooden bungalows. Situated 5 minutes up the hill, you’ll have gorgeous ocean views surrounded by nature and macaws at your porch. Their friendly staff / owners can help arrange tours, guides and transportation.

Aguila de Osa is a small eco resort, nestled in the jungle near Aguijitas River. Only 10 min walk to town and beach.  Family style delicious food, clean rooms with fans, native wood. Plus steps away from the beach. Amazing staff. Tip – rooms higher on hill have better breeze. 

Mid-Range

Finca Maresia – hands down was my favourite place I stayed in Costa Rica during my trip. The food was amazing. You must try the family style dinner, at an extra cost. A fun way to meet other guests. Beautiful setting, comfortable beds, great view from the porch hammock. Just everything. And the owners were phenomenal. It is a bit of a hike (15 minutes) up the hill from the from the beach, but you can grab a local taxi, or take the path “short cut.” They’ll also drive you down to your activities.

Budget Friendly

Cabinas El Mirador – Located on the hill, these clean simple cabins are a great budget friendly choice for a small family or couple. Especially if you choose the breakfast & lunch option. The sunset from your deck is spectacular. The owners are super helpful, and can help you arrange tours.

Young woman looking over tropical foliage and hillside.
El Mirador – Back in time before I had kids and a good camera!

Casa el Tortuga – Gorgeous views from your spacious rooms and the onsite restaurant has excellent food. Sits by a small river, right in the jungle. Lots of wildlife to see. Colorado beach is a short walk away.

Where to eat in Drake Bay, Costa Rica:

Most people end up eating at their lodging, as it’s convenient (and delicious) after a long day of activities in the hot sun. If you are looking to branch out and try something different, there are a few great choices. Here a four must-try restaurants:

  • Kalaluna Bistro – gourmet food using fresh local ingredients, with flair. Unexpected delight. Look for it in Hotel Jinetes de Osa
  • Drake’s Kitchen This small family friendly restaurant rests in a scenic location by the river, and offers breakfast and meals with catch of the day, fried plantains, rice and more.
  • Heladeria Popis – Refreshing cold treat on a hot day…you just have to! This open air ice cream parlour offers milkshakes, coffee, frozen cappucino, tacos & burgers and quick food on the go.
  • Soda Mar y Bosque Restaurant – go for the comforting casado (fish, chicken pork, the best rice and beans with plantains and salad), and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Leave with a belly full of home cooked food.
Dirt road in small village with parked trucks, bikes, and cars.
Road through Drake Bay, Costa Rica, Osa Peninsula
Photo: ” lesniewski / depositphotos.com”

You may also like our Monteverde, Costa Rica Travel Guide

THINGS TO DO IN DRAKE BAY

Drake Bay really is the type of place you could spend your days lazily wandering the beach.  Or swinging in a hammock reading a book, listening to the howler monkeys in the not so far distance. The outdoor activities are not to miss. With Corcovado National Park close by, you are not going to want to miss visiting this special place. 

Last time we were there we did a guided tour out of Sirena Corcovado, a night walk  and a snorkeling / whale watching combo tour. 

During our 4 days in Bahia Drake, I got to see turtles, colorful fish, leaf cutter ants, trapdoor spiders, frogs, snakes, coatis, crocodiles, mammals of various types, many monkeys and so much more. It was the highlight of my Costa Rica trip, which is why I am planning a trip to bring my daughter there. 

How to Visit Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Corcovado is a must for seeing wildlife. It is one of the only places in Costa Rica where you can see all four types of monkeys, plus cool creatures like the Baird’ Tapir, sloths, coatis, and crocodiles, lizards, and snakes. Let’s not forget it’s a bird watchers paradise. Besides the monkeys, the scarlet macaws are always my favourite. 

While you can do a multi-day backpacking trip, most just go to the Sirena or San Pedrillo Ranger Stations for the day. A registered guide will take you on a tour, helping you to spot colorful birds, monkeys, insects and other jungle delights. You must take a guide to tour Corcovado now.

Squirrel monley peaking out of large shiny leaves.
Squirrel Monkey peeking out of the tree leaves – Corcovado National Park
Photo: “OndrejProsicky / depositphotos.com”

San Pedrilla vs Sirena Ranger Stations

Sirena Ranger Station is my top choice due to prime location in the jungle, giving better wildlife sighting options. It is the bigger of the two stations, and about an hour to 90 minute boat ride from Drake Bay. It’s a wet landing, so plan accordingly.

This is where most people end up camping or hiking to, as well as day trips. You can book an overnight stay, but will need to bring sleeping bags and gear. There are several easy trails that run in a loop around the Sirena Ranger Station. We got to wander off the trail with our guide who took us to see interesting creatures and sights.

This area is rich in diversity and it is not uncommon to see tapirs, coatis, anteaters, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, among many colorful birds and bats. Bring a good set of binoculars if you can.

If you are really lucky, you may even see larger cats like pumas, ocelots and snakes, turtles, or even a shark or two swimming in the inlet. You will be treated to a cacophony of sounds. What an incredibly special place.

If you stay overnight you are more likely to see jungle cats and larger mammals, as they are more active at dusk and the morning.

Your lodge / accommodations can usually help you book a guided tour, as about it before you arrive. Or you can book a a day tour into Corcovado ahead of time yourself. It is popular, so don’t expect a wild solo adventure out in the jungle with no one around. That however did not diminish our experience.

You can also stay overnight in Sirena, which requires reservations in advance. For more info on Sirena click here.

San Pedrilla Station is the smaller of the two stations and only a 30 minute boat ride. Here you are more likely to see a variety of birds, monkeys, and sloths, but less likely to see larger mammals. Keep an eye out for the Black-cheeked Ant Tanager, hawks, trogons, macaws and more.

A tour to San Pedrilla also may include a visit and swim to the nearby waterfall.

If you are looking to get away from it all, and be only 5 minutes from the park, the Casa Corcovado Lodge is a great place to stay. There’s even a trail that runs from the lodge to the San Pedrilla Ranger Station.

Visit Corcovado for it's wildlife; anteater walking down a log, white face capuchin monkey hanging over a branch, wild baird's tapir facing head on, and big tree with large roots.
Corcovado National Park wildlife and flora and fauna; Anteater, Wild Baird’s Tapir & White Face Capuchin monkey

Jungle Night Walk

Pretty much everything we did in the Bahia Drake & Corcovado area was the highlight of my Costa Rica trip. Drake Bay is one of the best places to wander around in the dark (with a guide & flashlight of course), to see and learn all about the nocturnal creatures that live in Costa Rica. 

We did a tour with Tracie the Bug Lady, and can’t say enough good things about our experience, and her passion for the area. She’s been living there and running this tour with her husband Gian for over 10 years. A biologist who is passionate about insects and spiders, you will learn interesting facts through stories about these creatures.

You’ll likely find bats (there are over 110 different species in Costa Rica), beetles, spiders, tree snakes, scorpions, frogs, and nocturnal mammals. She is popular, so make advance reservations. Minimum age is 4 years old. 

Funny enough, I remember the cool trapdoor spider the most. 

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Hike the Jungle Trail (Drake Bay Trail)

The Jungle Trail follows the coastline,  meandering along secluded beaches, and through forested jungle full of macaws calling loudly to each other on one side and crashing waves on the other. 

It is a hot, humid trail, so bring a hat, snacks and lots of water. Start the trail at the south end of town (look out for the signs). 

Walk as far as you are comfortable, but remember you will have to walk back. A popular spot to snorkel is Playa San Josecito, usually just over a 2.5 hour hike EACH way. This will require crossing the Rio Claro by wading or small boat / canoe (by donation), but is well worth it. 

  • Rio Claro is approximately 2.5 hours away, aim to get here by 9am
  • At Rio Claro you’ll find Ricardo’s sea turtle conservation project & a place for coffee, snacks and to rent kayaks by the hour
  • Pack lots of water, dry bags for electronics, sandals, lunch, swimsuit, snorkel equipment, & sunscreen / hat etc.
  • Can ask a boat tour captain for a ride back to Drake Bay, if you don’t want to walk. They usually stop here around 1pm for lunch.

You could also hike the 11 km to the start of Corcovado, or the full 16 kms (at least 6 hours) to San Pedrillo but that is a full day trip, that would require gear. Note cell service is spotty along the trail.

Sandy and rocky ocean shore along the Drake Bay Trail in Costa Rica.
Drake Bay Trail, Costa Rica – Lots of secluded beaches to explore
Photo: “markobln / depositphotos.com”

Snorkeling at Isla del Caño

Isla del Caño is a gorgeous spot to do some snorkellling or scuba diving. It’s also rated the 2nd best place for snorkeling/scuba diving in Costa Rica.

Taking a day tour to snorkel at Isla del Caño is a bucket list activity you won’t want to miss, if your kids are old enough.

If you want a chance to swim with turtles, then this is the spot. No guarantees of course, but we did get to see turtles and reef sharks, as well as numerous tropical fish when we took the tour.

As you arrive, peer down into the brilliant blue water to see schools of colorful fish swimming around. Think snorkeling in a wild aquarium.

Things to know about Isla del Caño

  • It’s about a 45 minute to an hour boat ride from Drake Bay. You may even see dolphins and humpback whales
  • Located in the Pacific Ocean it is about 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the Marino Bellena National Park
  • Water is usually clear, with a chance to see turtles, reef sharks, and various fish types (angel fish, parrot fish, Bigeye Jacks, eagle rays and more)
  • Take anti-nausea meds like gravol, if you get sea sick easily. I found the rolling waves caused me a lot of nausea that I wasn’t prepared for.
  • Bring a waterproof or underwater camera for some cool shots
  • ***Use a reef safe sunscreen and wear a rash guard, super easy to get sun burnt out there.

Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour

Humpback whales travel thousands of miles each year to visit the waters off Drake Bay in August and September to birth their calves. Plus several species of dolphins make this area home, making this an amazing spot to do some dolphin and whale watching.

If you’ve always wanted to take a family friendly Dolphin & Humpback Whale watching tour, now is your chance. Listen to the sounds of marine life singing underwater, and learn interesting information on ocean conservation and marine biology from your guide.

Suspended rope and wodden bridge over river along Drake Bay Trail.  Surrounded by jungle.
Bridge over river, along the Drake Bay Trail, Costa Rica
Photo: ” lesniewski / depositphotos.com”

4 Day Costa Rica Itinerary to Drake Bay & Corcovado

Day 1 – Arrival

Arrive in Drake Bay. Hopefully you were able to take the early boat from Sierpe. The one hour boat ride will take you along the river of Térraba-Sierpe mangrove forest park and then follows the coastline. Keep an eye out for crocodiles, dolphins, and marine birds along the way.

It will likely take you awhile to get situated at your lodge, and check in. If there is still day light take a walk around the small town, and your lodgings.

Day 2 – Corcovado Day Trip

The star of the show. Day two is a half day trip to Corcovado National Park.

Most trips leave super early in the morning (around 6-7am) and return by mid afternoon, so be prepared for an early start. Ask your lodgings if they can prepare you an early breakfast, or give you something to go. Lunch is usually included in your guided tour which may run 5 to 7 hours.

After being out in the heat and humidity, you ‘ll want some down time at your lodgings, or a cool drink at one the local restaurants. For ice cream or a frozen cappucino head to Heladeria Popis.

Evening

If you have energy in the evening I highly recommend taking a jungle night tour with Tracie the Bug Lady. Super cool and interesting to see what comes out at night. Another highlight of my Costa Rica trip.

Day 3 – Snorkeling or Dolphin & Whale Watching

Day three in Drake Bay, you’ll need to make some decisions, based on family preferences. Are your kids of an age to snorkel? Do you prefer hanging out on a boat, or getting in water? Choose either a Snorkeling or Dolphin & Whale Watching adventure.

If you can only do one, there are often opportunities to see dolphins while heading out on a day tour to snorkel around Isla del Caño.

Make sure to slather on the sunscreen regularly and wear a rashguard for extra sun protection. You don’t want to end up as a lobster, or sick due to the strong sun. It’s also a good idea to check in with the tour operator to be sure your kids are an appropriate age and/or swimming ability for the tour.

Evening

Being out on the water all day can be tiring. If you have energy left enjoy a lovely gourmet dinner with local ingredients at the Kalaluna Bistro in Hotel Jinetes de Osa.

Day 4 – Walk Along Jungle Trail & Return to Sierpe

Take a leisurely morninng walk along the Drake Bay Trail following the coastline,  and meandering to gorgeous secluded beaches. Leave early in the morning (between 5am -6am to have the best chance at seeing wildlife.

A beach morning at Cocalito Beach (Playa Cocalito) is wonderful way to end your trip to Drake Bay. It’s about a 20 minute hike from the centre of Drake Bay. It’s best to visit early morning, as the sand gets extremely hot in the afternoon.

If you aren’t leaving today, you can do the full 2.5 hour hike to  San Josecito Beach. Just remember it’s a long, hot walk back, unless you grab a ride back on a tour boat. If you took a snorkeling trip the day before, you likely will have already stopped at this beach.

Pro Tip: If you do the full hike to San Josecito Beach you can usually grab a boat ride back. Often the Isla del Caño tours will stop at San Josecito Beach for lunch, around 1pm before heading back to Drake Bay. Ask if they’ll give you a ride back. They’ll often charge around $10/ person. Or ask your lodgings if they can arrange a boat ride back if you only want to walk one way.

Catch the boat from Drake Bay to Sierpe, Costa Rica

Now it is time to leave. Sigh…….

Catch the boat back to Sierpe, and take with you memories of a lifetime. The sounds, smells and tastes of this magical place in Costa Rica place etched in your soul forever.

Costa Rica 4 Day Itinerary to Corcovado & Drake Bay

Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? I hope you found everything in our Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park Guide that you need to start planning an amazing trip.

More family travel tips and destinations:

Epic 4 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Drake Bay & Corcovado


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