145km (90 miles) S of San José; 32km (20 miles) SW of Palmar

While Drake Bay remains one of the more isolated spots in Costa Rica, the small town located at the mouth of the Río Agujitas has boomed a bit over the years. Most of that is due to the year-round operation of the small airstrip here, and the sometimes passable condition of the rough dirt road connecting Drake Bay to the coastal highway—just a decade or so ago there was no road, and the nearest regularly functioning airstrip was in Palmar Sur. That said, the village of Drake Bay is still tiny, and the lodges listed here remain quiet and remote getaways catering to naturalists, anglers, and scuba divers. Tucked away on the northern edge of the Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay is a great place to get away from it all.

The bay is named after Sir Francis Drake, who is believed to have anchored here in 1579. Emptying into a broad bay, the tiny Río Agujitas acts as a protected harbor for small boats and is a great place to do a bit of canoeing or swimming. Many of the local lodges dock their boats and many dolphin- and whale-watching tours leave from here. Stretching south from DrakeBay are miles of deserted beaches and dense primary tropical rainforest. Adventurous explorers will find tide pools, spring-fed rivers, waterfalls, forest trails, and some of the best bird-watching in all of Costa Rica. If a paradise such as this appeals to you, DrakeBay makes a good base for exploring the peninsula.

South of Drake Bay are the wilds of the Osa Peninsula, including Corcovado National Park. This is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful regions, yet it’s also one of its least accessible. Corcovado National Park covers about half of the peninsula and contains the largest single expanse of virgin lowland rainforest in Central America. For this reason, Corcovado is well known among naturalists and researchers studying rainforest ecology. If you come here, you’ll learn firsthand why they call them rainforests: Some parts of the peninsula receive more than 635cm (250 in.) of rain per year.

Puerto Jiménez is the best base if you want to spend a lot of time hiking in and camping inside Corcovado National Park. Drake Bay is primarily a collection of mostly high-end hotels, very isolated and mostly accessible only by boat. Travelers using these hotels can have great day hikes and guided tours into Corcovado Park, but Puerto Jiménez is the place if you want to have more time in the park or to explore independently. (It has budget hotels, the parks office, and “taxi/bus” service to Carate and Los Patos, from which visitors can hike into the various stations.) From the Drake Bay side, you’re much more dependent on a boat ride/organized tour from one of the lodges to explore the park; these lodges offer many other guided outings in addition to visits to the park.