© Flickr/Vytautas Serys
© Flickr/Vytautas Serys

Vacationing off-the-grid on Osa beaches

5 minutes to read

If you are looking for off-the-grid nature and surfing experiences, be sure to explore Osa beaches on the Osa Peninsula. The area is known for thrilling ecotourism encounters, incredible surfing, as well as for exotic bird-watching, and exciting charter fishing.  

© Flickr/Greg Gilbert
© Flickr/Greg Gilbert

The Osa Peninsula, located just before the border with Panama, is on the Southern Pacific Coast. It is about a 6-hour drive from the Juan Santa Maria International Airport, but it is a wonderful adventure. If you drive, plan to stay overnight near the airport in Alajuela. Get an early morning start with a typical Costa Rican breakfast at the Tortillería, then begin your adventure to Osa. As Costa Rica's second-largest city, Alajuela offers plenty to do and see. It is a great introduction to Costa Rica.  Or, you can skip the drive by getting a small flight to Drake Bay or Puerto Jiménez.

 © Flickr/MAGarridoCrespi
© Flickr/MAGarridoCrespi
Juan Santamaria International Airport, Costa Rica
Juan Santamaria International Airport, Costa Rica
Juan Santamaria International Airport, Provincia de Alajuela, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Tortillería, Alajuela
Tortillería, Alajuela
costado Este de Parque Juan Santamaría, Provincia de Alajuela, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Osa Peninsula/Drake Bay/Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Osa Peninsula/Drake Bay/Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Osa Peninsula,, Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Puerto Jiménez, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Puerto Jiménez, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Calle de la Conte, Provincia de Puntarenas, Punto Jimenez, 60702, Costa Rica

Roughing it the fun way

While highways and roads interweave to connect cities and communities all over Costa Rica, there is still plenty of rural-ness. A high, all-terrain vehicle is your best transportation for exploring the many surf areas around the Osa Peninsula.   Driving around the Osa Peninsula means lots of unpaved roads, two-tracks, and sometimes no road at all! Occasionally bridges over small creeks get washed away in the rainy season and are not replaced. In this case, you just have to cross! This is when your 4-wheel drive vehicle comes in handy!  These all-terrain vehicles are especially fun to explore Osa beaches during the rainy season.  Likewise, do not miss out on drives and hikes in the Corcovado National Park.

© Flickr/Alquiler de Coches
© Flickr/Alquiler de Coches
Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

What to expect on the Osa Peninsula

The Osa region is remarkably untouched; categorized by National Geographic as one of the most biologically rich places on earth. The peninsula is bound on the northwest by breath-taking Drake Bay; on the southern side is Golfo Dulce. Besides surfing, the coasts are famous for awesome whale-sighting tours and exciting charter, large-fish fishing excursions

© Flickr/JarleNaustvik
© Flickr/JarleNaustvik

Along with surfing options, charter fishing tours are one of the main attractions for Osa visitors.  Tuna, Roosterfish, Grouper, Snapper, Mackerel and other bottom fish are frequently caught all year long.  Even so, generally the best time to catch Sailfish is from January to April. Fishing for Marlin/Mahi-Mahi/Wahoo is usually better from May–September. The fun is the surprise because you never know what you might catch!

© Flickr/Rich Orgin
© Flickr/Rich Orgin

Ocean waters on either side of the Osa Peninsula are wonderful for whale watching.  The area is said to be the longest humpback-whale-watching season in the world! Humpbacks come to the Costa Rican coasts to feed, breed, and raise their young. Likewise, schools of dolphins are frequently seen, playing and jumping in the distance.

© Flickr/Chad Teer
© Flickr/Chad Teer

3 Popular Osa surfing sites

While wonderful for whale-watching and fishing, the shores along the Osa Peninsula has fabulous surfing spots.  While most international surfers worldwide have heard of the Osa Peninsula and Cabo Matapalo; it is still not a crowded place. This is because it is a little more remote than northern Costa Rican beaches. The seclusion of these locations, even on weekdays, is probably a big part of their attraction. Be sure to ask locally to learn about the best locations and conditions for either novice/beginner or expert surfers.

© Flickr/Dakine Kane
© Flickr/Dakine Kane

Cabo Matapalo- This beach is at the peninsula’s outermost point. Open-ocean waves are consistent and can be enjoyed by beginners and advanced surfers alike. There are strong right-hand waves that break best around mid-tide. These can be challenging on big swells. Watch out for rips, undertows, and rocks that can “disappear” at high tide.

© Flickr/Bernal Saborio
© Flickr/Bernal Saborio

Playa Pan Dulce- is the smallest break off a long beach break that cuts to the right. For the most part, Pan Dulce beach is rideable only on the larger swells that wrap into the gulf. When you can catch it well (usually at mid-tide), it is a fabulous ride. Usually, you can ride long for up to 500 meters. Pan Dulce offers great waves for beginners when the swell is small at low-medium tide.

Playa Pavones- one way to arrive at Pavones Beach is by crossing Golfo Dulce by boat. Pavones is popular with surf enthusiasts who want to pick up and ride long waves and large swells. Waves tend to be sectioned which provides both challenge and entertainment. The long waves allow surfers to perform various maneuvers during a long (2-3 minutes), exhilarating ride. Interestingly, surfing at Pavones is excellent during the rainy season from April to October. It is good to check surfing conditions online.  At times, the swells from Golfo Dulce can block the waves practically eliminating any surf for weeks.

© Flickr/eric.surfdude
© Flickr/eric.surfdude

While the Osa Peninsula is one of Costa Rica’s most remote, off-the-grid vacationing destinations, it still offers rustic amenities. Think about it as roughing it (even though many lodges offer wonderful comforts) and you will not be disappointed. That said, this untamed tropical region is worth the trip. Consider staying at La Leona Eco-Lodge, Ojo del Mar Eco-Lodge, Poor Man’s Paradise or Bosque el Cabo at the outermost tip of the peninsula.  Great restaurants and other venues are Kalaluna Bistro, The Jaguar’s Jungle Lodge & Hostel.

The area is home to sea turtles and one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws and Humpback whales. Additionally, all four species of Costa Rican monkeys live here. Be sure to take tours or ride out to explore the vast, and extremely bio-diverse, rainforests.  The wonders of nature surround you from the clean and warm ocean surf to the unforgettable views of land.   

© Flickr/Fimb
© Flickr/Fimb
La Leona Eco Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
La Leona Eco Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Carate - LaLeona - Corcovado Trail, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica
Ojo del Mar EcoLodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Ojo del Mar EcoLodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
245, Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Poor Man's Paradise Hotel, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Poor Man's Paradise Hotel, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Rincón de San Josecito, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica
Bosque El Cabo Rainforest Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Bosque El Cabo Rainforest Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Drake Bay, Costa Rica
Kalaluna Bistro, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Kalaluna Bistro, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
70100 Puntarenas Bahia Drake, Costa Rica
Jaguar's Jungle Lodge & Hostel, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Jaguar's Jungle Lodge & Hostel, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
5 miles south of Drake Bay, next to San Pedrillo, Drake Bay Hiking Trail, Agujitas de Drake, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, San Pedrillo, Provincia de Puntarenas, Drake, Costa Rica

The author

Susan Wesley-Vega

Susan Wesley-Vega

My name is Susan and I’m from the U.S., but have been living in Alajuela, Costa Rica for 15 years. I love discovering the specialness in every place I go. By writing about the fun and fabulous ecotourism hotspots in my adopted country, Costa Rica, I hope to inspire you to come and see for yourself!

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