Notes and tips on planning a trip to Osa/Corcovado

If you think you can do it on your own and have a group, give yourself a solid non-weekend, during normal bank business hours day to get the passes from the office in Puerto Jimenez. I know it sucks because you’re already “wasting” two days in travel to get to the peninsula and back, but that’s how it works. If you know Spanish, you can try and call the office ahead of time and wire the money to the bank. But really plan on one scratch day to coordinate everything. Maybe go kayaking in the mangroves in the afternoon. Have a nice meal on the water. Chill out.

If you’re looking for a guide, I recommend the two that helped me:



If you’re into hiking, you need to get into the park. It’s a requirement. No excuses. Just make sure you read up on everything, like the rules.

If you’re into backpacking, I super recommend the 3-day hike I couldn’t do: figure out how to get to Los Patos (the main road, of course, goes nowhere near it, most people seem to take a cab to the nearest town and hike in), hike in to La Sirena, spend a full day at La Sirena, and hike out to La Leona, and then hike to Carate to catch the Collectivo back into town.

If you have two days, I recommend doing what I did: bite the bullet to fly in, spend a whole day at La Sirena where all the animals are, and hike out to La Leona/Carate.

If you have one day, La Leona/Carate might still be totally worth it. That was one of my favorite sections. But it’s such a pain in the ass to get a pass, I’m not sure that end of the time investment is worth it. Matapolo – with waterfalls and dolphins and lots of cool wildlife is also totally worth a look – and I’m upset I didn’t make there myself.

Here is the best map I could find. Can you feel my frustration? Especially because I love maps. I’m a map nerd. In the day and age of Google Maps and GIS, this is a pretty sad thing, with edits in what look like Paint. But, it’s better than nothing.

If you’re a normal, pampered American, there’s some nice, waterfront lodges at La Leona. Or, Drake Bay has a bunch of resorts and offers daily boat rides to La Sirena.

The tour company, Osa Wild, is worth a look: they come highly recommended by the local as being both sustainable and locally minded. If you want to meet some of the more indigenous people, they can take you there.

The Corner Hostel is the perfect place for backpackers to meet up and hike in/or relax after getting out. It’s two blocks from the bus station and across the street from where the Collectivo will pick you up and drop you off. As far as I could tell coming in, it doesn’t really have an online profile or way to book ahead of time. But it will probably have a bed available. It also has locked storage for the extra crap you don’t want to hike in with and laundry services for the dirty crap you hike out with.

The Jungle hostel is nice if you want to be in immersed in the jungle, but aren’t too concerned with having access to the town.

There are a ton of waterfront hotels if you’re in more of a middle price range (vs my backpacker price range). They are almost never booked if you’re ok with getting here and wandering around until you find something. Most of these places haven’t found the internet yet. Be prepared for cold showers and minimal wifi, no matter where you are. Not that neither exists, just don’t get your hopes up, and you won’t be disappointed.

1/4/14 – Getting to Osa

Despite getting very little sleep, I was up early, ready to figure out what to do with the day. San Jose was a transition city, the central location to catch a bus to your next destination. I navigated to the bus for Puerto Jimenez by myself, despite the hostel worker looking concerned while showing me the map. What is the chance muggers are both awake at 7am and around during my ten minute walk? I decided it was very minimal. I was also a little annoyed that the super nice girl that had helped me book the rafting trip was now pushing a private “tourist” bus on me in the $60 range when the normal $14 bus was one of the nicest I’ve ever been on.

Not knowing Spanish was a little tough. But playing charades helped. I successfully asked directions when the guy pointed to a bus and said “verde” and I knew what he meant! So, snaps for me. And I bought the ticket by just saying “Puerto Jimenez” in a spanishy way. But then my bus seat partner sat down and tried to have a whole conversation. It soon became clear that he knew about as much English as I knew Spanish. He had a six page printout of English phrases that did very little to heighten our communication, but did succeed in freaking me out. He first pointed to the phrase “I am going to my mother’s house.” Why that was one of a dozen phrases the pamphlet decided was important, I can not begin to know.  But, you know, that sounds nice, I guess I’m happy for you. Until he points to the phrase “Will you come with me?” Now I’m confused. You want me to come to your mother’s house? You want me to meet your mother? Or just come to your house? Whyyyy? 7.5 hours later the conversation had barely evolved. We laughed at the small child being obnoxious as hell in the seat in front of me (he thought it was adorable, I pretended to laugh as the kid threw food in every direction) and then he tried to invite me dancing downtown (I think – who knows what he said – maybe it was “you’re so screwed if you think you can survive without knowing even basic Spanish”). He got off a few stops before me, thank god. Hopefully I’ll have a quieter/english speaking/non-existent bus mate on the way back.

It may have been a long ride with a weird companion, but there were gorgeous views of the countryside at every turn – and the price could not be beat. Alas, pictures from buses are never the greatest, but I hope they capture some of the landscape.

The bus arrived on time (around 4pm) at Puerto Jimenez. I avoided the cab drivers by pretending to know what I was doing. This mostly involved sticking to the one paved road. I quickly bee-lined for the first sign promising wifi, coffee, and smoothies. I had made a reservation at the “only” place available in town – except glancing at the map, it clearly wasn’t really in town. With a smoothie in hand and wifi, I looked up the directions to see if they had a pick-up service and it miraculously said they would come by THIS CAFÉ every day at 5pm. Serendipity. Works every time. Until 5:30pm had come around and they still weren’t there. I tried to ask the staff but they had reassuringly never heard of the place. I walked down the road to the tourist office where I found English speakers who thankfully started making phone calls and for $10 I got a taxi ride up two back roads to Bello Horizonte Yoga Jungle Hostel.

It was…rustic. First off, what kind of name is that? My horrible Spanish translated it as beautiful horizontal yoga, which doesn’t bring the greatest image to mind – hopefully I just mis-translated and it’s actually the best name ever. But I don’t have my hopes up. The lodging is incredibly simple. A roof, bamboo supports, planks for the floor, bunk beds with mosquito nets. This simplicity was nice in many ways: the people staying there came together to talk and hang out and did not sequester themselves away in a room. You got to fall asleep and wake up immersed in the sounds of the jungle – howler monkeys barked nearby, insects chirped, and birds joined in chorus at dawn. But the $14 price was a little steep for such limited amenities and the location was 3km from town and for some reason the owner seemed weird about giving rides very often. Also, online it said they had wifi and were willing to help you make reservations for Corcovado. But the wifi was shaky at best and the owner sort of threw his hands up at dealing with getting into the park. Overall, this place makes me feel like I’m really immersed in Costa Rica, but there’s too many distractions to fully enjoy it yet.