By Plane: Most people fly directly into the little airstrip at Drake Bay (no phone; airport code: DRK), although the more adventurous can fly to Palmar Sur and then boat down the Sierpe River through the Térraba-Sierpe wetlands, the largest mangrove swamp in the Northern Hemisphere. All lodges will either arrange transportation for you, or include it in their packages. Both Nature Air (www.natureair.com; tel. 800/235-9272 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2299-6000 in Costa Rica) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com; tel. 877/767-2672 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2290-4100 in Costa Rica ) fly directly to Drake Bay from San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport. Flights also depart San José daily from the same airport for Palmar Sur. Fares range from $84 to $144 each way by air; a taxi to Sierpe runs about $30 and a boat ride to Drake $20.
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 past an important archaeological site. 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 the main river channel before negotiating the mouth of the Sierpe River and heading out to sea for the final leg to the bay. Warning: Entering and exiting the Sierpe River mouth is often a very rough ride.
By Bus: Tracopa buses (www.tracopacr.com; tel. 2221-4214 or 2290-1308) leave San José daily for the Southern Zone throughout the day, between 5am and 6:30pm from Calle 9 and Avenida 18. Almost all stop in Palmar Norte, but make sure to ask. The ride takes around 6 hours; fares are around C7,800. Once in Palmar Norte, ask for the next bus 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 $35. 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 river dock at either the Las Vegas Restaurant or the Hotel Oleaje Sereno to book passage on the collective water taxis. This will cost you an additional $20, or you can charter a private boat for your party for $200 or so. Collective water taxis are timed to coincide with the twice-daily Sansa flights from San José.
By Car: Driving to Drake Bay is not for the faint of car. Four-wheel drive is essential on the sometimes steep gravel road, and you have to cross three streams and one fair-sized river, plus there’s a scary little bridge with two planks for your tires and no rails.
If you do drive here from the capital, take the San José–Caldera Highway (CR27) to the first exit after the fourth toll booth and follow the signs to Jacó, where you will pick up the Southern Highway, or Costanera Sur (CR34). Take this south past Jacó, Quepos, Dominical, and Uvita, and turn right onto the Inter-American Highway (CR2) at Palmar Norte. Take this road south to the junction at Chacarita, where you can gas up before turning right toward the Osa Peninsula, following the signs for Puerto Jiménez and Corcovado. Just before the Rincón River bridge, turn right to follow the signs to Drake. About 5km from Drake, there’s one fairly wide river that can become impassable in the rainy season, but you can leave your car at the Drake Bay Backpackers Hostel and catch a ride the rest of the way for $20 or so. The road ends in the town of Drake Bay, formally known as Agujitas, so from there you must take a boat to reach destinations to the south. The only hotels that you can actually drive up to are very basic cabins in town.
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 Palmar Sur you can catch your round-trip return flight, and from Palmar Norte you can catch north- and southbound buses along the Inter-American and Costanera highways.
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.