Without a doubt, Drake Bay should be on everybody’s Costa Rican itinerary.
The wildlife in Corcovado National Park is the main reason why most visitors come to Drake Bay, but you can’t help but fall in love with the town at the same time. Most visitors will arrive by boat, meaning you’ll get to see it in its full glory.
Your first glimpse of Drake Bay will be kilometers of dark golden sand stretching along the coastline, backed by palm trees and quaint lodges on the hillside.
It’s hard to describe why, but as soon as you step off the boat, you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere special.
Corcovado National Park
Drake Bay is the gateway to one of the most biologically diverse places in the world: Corcovado National Park.
In Corcovado, you’ll get the chance to see an array of Costa Rica’s incredible and rare wildlife like tapirs, scarlet macaws, toucans, monkeys and if you’re really, really lucky – jaguars.
Many people decide to just stay for one night. If it were up to us, we’d recommend staying longer. There’s a whole host of other things you can do, including snorkelling or diving at Caño Island Biological Reserve.
#1 Spot an array of wildlife in Corcovado National Park
National Geographic named Corcovado as ‘the most biologically intense place on earth’. Do we still need to go on?
If you’re a wildlife fanatic – or just interested in seeing amazing animals and plants – then make sure you head to Corcovado National Park.
The park is virtually untouched, meaning it’s thriving with wildlife. If you’re lucky you can spot sloths, jaguars, howler monkeys, tapirs, toucans and crocodiles, to just name a few.
How to visit Corcovado
Take note that you’ll need a licensed guide to visit Corcovado – and you’ll be glad that this is a rule. The guide will tell you lots of interesting facts about the park and wildlife, making the visit 10 times more interesting. Plus, most important of all: the guides know where the animals tend to be.
The day starts at 06:00 and lasts for around 8 hours. It takes 1-hour by boat to reach Corcovado, where you’ll then spend several hours hiking and looking for animals.
A visit to Corcovado National Park will cost at least $95. This includes the boat ride, a guide, the entrance fee plus snacks and lunch when you return.
Although the entrance fee is just $15, this doesn’t include a guide (which is mandatory) and transportation. Therefore, expect to pay at least $95 to visit Corcovado. Better yet, pay a little bit more to be assured of an experienced guide and well-organised trip if you book online (prices start from $105).
If the day tour of Corcovado National Park isn’t enough for you, then you can actually spend the night at the ranger’s station within the park.
Instead of just one hike through the park, with the overnight tour, you’ll get to go on three hikes.
As the sun sets, you’ll get to see another side of the park as the nocturnal creatures awake. Enjoy the evening sitting on the station’s deck, watching and listening to the jungle around you.
The sleeping arrangements are very modest – open-air bunk beds with mosquito nets. If you don’t get much sleep, remember it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The 2-day tour costs $335 per person, including all of your meals. You can send a reservation request to Pacheco Tours to book the overnight stay at the Sirena Station.
#3 Go snorkelling or diving at Caño Island Biological Reserve
Corcovado National Park is clearly the highlight of staying in Drake Bay. However, it would be a shame if you miss out on the other great activities the area has to offer.
Let’s start with one of the best underwater spots in the whole of Costa Rica.
Caño island is a biological reserve located 20 km off the coast of the Osa peninsula. It’s rated as being one of the best underwater spots in the whole of Costa Rica due to its visibility and diverse marine life.
The coral reefs surrounding the island are home to many different species of fish e.g. parrot fish, Moorish Idol, Pufferfish and lots more. There’s also a high chance of spotting other aquatic animals, such as turtles, sting rays, morays and white-tip reef sharks.
You’ll have a guide whilst in the water pointing out things for you to see, and once back on the boat, you’ll be able to learn more about what you saw.
Whether you’re snorkelling or scuba diving, both will offer an unforgettable experience.
Similar to Corcovado, all of the places in Drake Bay charge the same price. It’s $85 for snorkelling and $140 for diving. The tour lasts for 6-7 hours and also includes snacks and lunch when you get back.
#4 Explore hidden beaches on the coastal walk and spot some monkeys along the way
If you want a break from tours, then the coastal walk from Drake Bay to San Josecito Beach is the perfect way to spend the day. You’ll be able to spot wildlife yourself and go at your own pace and it’s free!
Along the way, you’re treated to a number of intimate and secluded bays, as well as the chance to see some Capuchin monkeys.
The Drake Bay coastal trail to San Josecito Beach is 10 km long, starting at the end of Drake Bay beach to the left. The walk will take you around 2.5 hours.
PRO TIP: If you don’t fancy walking back from San Josecito beach, then you can arrange to get on one of the boats returning to Drake Bay. They run between 12:00 and 14:00 and you’ll need to pay $10 per person.
#5 Go on a dolphin and whale-watching tour
Drake Bay is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see whales and dolphins.
Between mid-July and October, Drake Bay becomes a Humpback Whale playground. During these months, the whales migrate to Drake Bay to breed and give birth in the warm, tropical waters.
You could even get lucky and witness a heat run that involves a large group of males chasing a female in order to breed with them.
Spotting dolphins in Drake Bay
The same period as the whale watching season is also one of the best times to see dolphins. A variety of dolphin species grace the water there, including bottlenose, common, spotted and rough tooth.
A dolphin and whale-watching tour will certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Drake Bay!
#6 Float down the river in Rio Claro all the way to the beach
The floating tour has become a popular thing to do in Drake Bay. You essentially put on a life jacket, sit back and just let the river current take you all the way down to the ocean. It’s extremely peaceful and incredibly fun to do as a group.
Besides it being a really fun activity, you will also have a chance to spot a variety of wildlife like sloths, lizards, monkeys and birds.
The floating tour with Pacheco Tours lasts for approximately 5-6 hours and costs $65.
The day includes:
A 1.5-hour hike through the primary forest to a waterfall
Swimming in the waterfall
1.5 hours of floating down the river to Rio Claro beach
Lunch in Drake Bay
#7 Kayak along Rio Agujitas and spot crocodiles
Rio Aguitas is the perfect river to go kayaking on. Its calm waters allow you to fully take in the surrounding jungle and just listen to the sound of the wildlife around you.
If you go on this kayaking adventure, make sure to go during high tide. Otherwise, the river becomes too shallow and your kayak will just drag along the bottom. Not very fun!
The river eventually opens up to a bay on the sea, giving you the opportunity to also do some sea kayaking.
Most of the hotels around Rio Agujitas will have kayaks for rent and will be able to inform you of the best time to go. Kayaks cost around $15 per hour. If you prefer to stay dry, there is also the option to rent a boat instead.
#8 Drake Bay Canopy Adventure
Not all animals live on the jungle floor. You’ll need to get in and amongst the trees if you want to see the animals that have made the jungle canopy their home.
Drake Bay Canopy Adventure has thought of this and created a tour that makes you feel like you’re tarzan.
The tour consists of nine platforms, six ziplines, one of which is over 100 meters long, observation walkways and last but not least, a 25-metre rappel down to the edge of a stream where wildlife hangs out.
As well as being an exhilarating adventure, you’ll also be accompanied by a guide who will be pointing out the surrounding wildlife.
Drake Bay and the Osa Peninsula are one of the most unique fishing destinations in the world.
The calm waters offer a pleasant boat trip, whilst all the action is going on under the water. Drake Bay is home to a variety of fish such as Marlin, Mahi-Mahi, Tuna, Roosterfish, Grouper, Mackerel, plus many more.
Whether you’re a pro angler or you’ve never even held a rod before, there are plenty of experienced fishing charter companies ready to take you out.
Copadearbol offers both half and full-day charters from $450 for groups of up to 5 people. Half-day trips include water, soda, beer, juices, fruit and cookies, while full-day tours also include a delicious homemade lunch.
#12 Go horse riding through the rainforest and along the beaches
Riding on a horse somehow makes you feel more connected with nature around you.
There are a number of bridleways leading you to remote areas of the rainforest. Here the animals and wildlife are predominantly undisturbed. Along the way, your guide will also be able to tell you stories and information about the wildlife.
During the ride, you’ll get to gallop along deserted beaches and ride through primary forests to enjoy the viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Oceans. Sounds pretty magical right?
With Pacheco Tours, the horse riding lasts for 3 hours and costs $45 per person.
#13 Relax on Drake Bay beach
Travelling can get busy and tiring, so it’s never a bad idea to just relax and do nothing!
Drake Bay has a number of idyllic and secluded bays. Most of which are lined with palm trees, offering a much-needed respite from the sun.
To find these beaches, you don’t have to walk far along the Drakes Bay Coastal Trail (the one we spoke about earlier).
If you don’t fancy doing any walking, you can just lay your towel on the dark sand beach directly in front of the town. Some hotels along the beach also offer sun loungers if you fancy a bit more comfort.
If you’re looking for a secluded escape from the world, then Las Caletas Lodge is your place. The only ways to get to this hotel is by boat from Drake Bay, or a walk along the jungle path.
Not to worry, both your breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room. It’s practically impossible to leave without having released some of your stress as the lodge oozes peacefulness. It’s also just a few steps from the perfectly blue ocean.
Hotel Finca Maresia is set slightly further back from the beach of Drake Bay. It’s surrounded by lush forest and greenery, where all you’ll be able to hear is the thriving wildlife.
There’s also an onsite bar and restaurant, so you won’t have to venture far for some delicious food or a refreshing drink. The cabin-style rooms with balconies, offer the perfect place to relax and admire the magnificent view.
Visiting Drake Bay and Corcovado is all about surrounding yourself in Costa Rica’s nature. Hotel Jacamar, boasts the perfect balance between nature and luxury. Their flourishing gardens make you feel like you’re in the jungle, but their large and clean rooms create a space of comfort.
The staff are extremely hospitable, helping to organise your trip to Drake Bay. It’s location also makes it great for exploring the town.
Entering Casita Happy Feet, you’ll feel as if you’re being welcomed into Javier and his wife’s home. Javier has been a guide in Corcovado National Park for over 25 years now. Having him as your guide, with his enthusiasm, knowledge and experience, you’re guaranteed an incredible visit!
Every morning, even the early ones, you’ll awake to a delicious and freshly cooked breakfast, perfect for your day of adventures. The rooms are clean, authentic and homely.