By Plane: Most people fly directly into the little airstrip at Drake Bay (no phone; airport code: DRK), although some tourists still fly to Palmar Sur. All lodges will either arrange transportation for you, or include it in their packages. Both Nature Air ((tel) 800/235-9272 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2299-6000 in Costa Rica; www.natureair.com) and Sansa ((tel) 877/767-2672 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2290-4100 in Costa Rica; www.flysansa.com) fly directly to Drake Bay twice from San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport. Flights also depart San José daily from the same airport for Palmar Sur. If you’re connecting Drake Bay to Manuel Antonio, you are best off using the Palmar Sur connection, as there are direct flights between Quepos and Palmar Sur, but not between Quepos and Drake Bay. Fares range from $120 to $160 each way.
If your travels take you to Drake Bay via Palmar Sur, you must then take a 15-minute bus or taxi ride over dirt roads to the small town of Sierpe. This bumpy route runs through several banana plantations and quickly past some important archaeological sites. In Sierpe, you board a small boat for a 40km (25-mile) ride to Drake Bay. The first half of this trip snakes through a maze of mangrove canals and rivers before heading out to sea for the final leg to the bay. Warning: Entering and exiting the Sierpe River mouth is often treacherous; I’ve had several very white-knuckle moments here.
By Bus: Tracopa buses ((tel) 2221-4214 or 2258-8939; www.tracopacr.com) leave San José daily for the southern zone throughout the day, between 5am and 6:30pm from Calle 5, between avenidas 18 and 20. Almost all stop in Palmar Norte, but make sure to ask. The ride takes around 6 hours; the fare is C5,500.
Once in Palmar Norte, ask when the next bus goes out to Sierpe. If it doesn’t leave for a while (buses aren’t frequent), consider taking a taxi.
By Taxi & Boat from Sierpe: When you arrive at either the Palmar Norte bus station or the Palmar Sur airstrip (airport code: PMZ), you’ll most likely first need to take a taxi to the village of Sierpe. The fare should be around $15. If you’re booked into one of the main lodges, chances are your transportation is included. Even if you’re not booked into one of the lodges, a host of taxi and minibus drivers offer the trip. When you get to Sierpe, head to the dock and try to find space on a boat. This should run you another $20 to $40. If you don’t arrive early enough, you might have to hire an entire boat, which usually runs around $100 to $150 for a boat that can carry up to six passengers. Make sure that you feel confident about the boat and skipper, and, if possible, try to find a spot on a boat from one of the established lodges in Drake Bay.By Car: I don’t recommend driving to Drake Bay. But if you insist, take the San José–Caldera Highway (CR27) to the first exit past the Pozón toll booth, where you will pick up the Southern Highway, or Costanera Sur (CR34). Take this south through Jacó, Quepos, and Dominical to Palmar Norte, where you’ll meet up with the Interamerican Highway (CR2). Take this south to the turnoff for La Palma, Rincón, and Puerto Jiménez (at the town of Chacarita; it’s clearly marked). Then at Rincón, turn onto the rough road leading into Drake Bay. This road fords some 10 rivers and is often not passable during the rainy season. Moreover, it only reaches into the small heart of the village of Drake Bay, though almost all of the hotels I list below are farther out along the peninsula, where only boats reach. The only hotels that you can actually drive up to are very basic cabins in town. For the rest, you’d have to find someplace secure to leave your car and either haul your bags quite a way or get picked up in a boat.
Departing -- If you’re not flying directly out of Drake Bay, have your lodge arrange a boat trip back to Sierpe for you. Be sure that the lodge also arranges for a taxi to meet you in Sierpe for the trip to Palmar Sur or Palmar Norte. (If you’re on a budget, you can ask around to see whether a late-morning public bus is still running from Sierpe to Palmar Norte.) In the two Palmars, you can make onward plane and bus connections. At the Palmar Norte bus terminal, almost any bus heading north will take you to San José, and almost any bus heading south will take you to Golfito.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.