Peninsula de Osa: Costa Rica
January 1, 1970
by Gianluca Boncompagni
The summer of 2007 was the first time I made it to Peninsula de Osa, before Instagram was popular (maybe it didn’t even exist at the time) and before the #wanderlust boom took over the world. It was also before the Costa Rican government fixed the main road to get there.
I was part of a small high school group, which would organize a hiking or camping trip once every two months, and this time it was at Peninsula de Osa. To be more precise in a National Park inside the peninsula called Corcovado.
During the way there we could see the unpaved dusty roads full of bulldozers that were building bridges and the side walks. We make it to this tiny town called Puerto Jimenez, the biggest town in the area, and proceeded to set up our campsite right in front of the ocean.
Animals in the Peninsula
The next day we caught a bus ride to Playa Leona and from there we started our three-day hike. Little did I know about the beauties we were going to encounter along the way. All types of birds, from tucans to parrots, then we encountered a danta (a tapir) blocking our path, forcing us to stay back until it decided to leave. Then it was wild pigs, monkeys, more marvelous birds and we even got to see two beautiful turtles swimming in the ocean.
One morning I woke up feeling as something was crawling on my leg, and I saw a small scorpion. Being common in Costa Rica, I wasn’t alarmed, I just flicked it to the ground and smashed it with my flip-flop (they can be very poisonous), but it wasn’t over yet. Two more were also crawling on the sleeping bag, so I woke up a friend and he told me there could be more inside the tent. We flipped and moved everything and found forty, yes, forty scorpions! Scary as it was, it came with the pristine adventurous package that Osa has to offer.
Every night we would sleep in the rangers’ stations, there are three of them: La Leona, La Sirena and Los Patos. Every morning we would wake up to see the sunrise and start our walk that meandered between the jungle and the beach with greyish sand kissing the mesmerizing light blue water.
In total, the hike takes from three to four days depending on the person, it is roughly around 60km and it’s moderate level. The heat and the sun are strong, but if hydrated, you should be fine. Finding a place to sleep is easy, as the ranger stations have showers, kitchen and even a few rooms in case you don’t have a tent. Just remember that to go into the park, a booking and payment, plus a certified guide are needed in advance.
Around five years later, still reminiscing about the amazing experience, I wanted to go back. Luckily enough, my brother was designing an eco lodge in the area, not exactly next to Corcovado, but close enough. It was in Matapalo Beach, a half an hour drive from Puerto Jimenez.
This time I took a small airplane to get there, what Costa Ricans call “avionetas”, and in forty-five minutes I was in Puerto Jimenez. My brother picked me up and after a bumpy ride on the dirt roads we were at his small wooden shack in the middle of the jungle with no electricity. Basically what some would call paradise.
It was a week of relaxes and adventures. Every morning I took short walks through the different “senderos” (paths) in the area, that led to amazing views of the ocean and the beaches, one of them even led me to a thousand year old tree. It was superb, monumental, a soldier of nature guarding the jungle.
The food was great too, as small local restaurants (or sodas like Costa Ricans call them), offered delicious local and cheap food for less than $4 a meal.
Tourist Tip: Matapalo Beach
Matapalo was a pleasant surprise, it is the classic post card beach of Costa Rica, with green palm trees and trees in the back, providing shadow for the creatures that come to enjoy the gentle marine breeze. The water was incredibly light blue, the sand was grey but it was full of porcelain white rocks that made the sun shine even brighter. The best of it all was that it was empty. Day after day we would wake up, walk for like ten minutes through a small path in the jungle and discover, hidden behind the bushes, this wonder, empty, waiting there for us.
The waves were good too, and so we could surf for hours without being disrupted by anyone.
Then came the sunsets, they are nothing short of a Monet painting. The colours were magnificent, starting with a bright orange that when brushed by the blue tones of the sky and the ocean, started turning purple.
Peninsula de Osa is Developing
A couple of years later, still hypnotised by the beauty of the place, I went back with some Italian friends that were visiting. This time we drove there through the new road, which is still a long drive (it took us 5 and a half hours), but much better than before. The drive itself is quite impressive, as it takes you through so many hills and nature; it feels as if you were driving through a Jurassic Park scene.
To my surprise, Puerto Jimenez had changed a lot, and it’s probably still growing. It now had more shops and houses, but it was still small and gave a nice local vibe. We stayed at a small lodge for $8 a night each, breakfast included.
We drove everyday to different beaches, back to the wonderful Matapalo, and to La Leona. In the latter we were lucky to find a white horse just roaming around by itself, as if posing for pictures, giving the tourists an even better impression of the beach.
When we walked through some of the “senderos”, we found locals, which cut some coconuts for us to keep us hydrated with the purest coconut water you would ever try. Again, it was nothing short of perfect.
Costa Rican Biodiversity
This was one year ago, and I’m sure the place still remains almost intact. Peninsula de Osa is hard to reach, yes, but you will get all the real natural beauty of Costa Rica. Over there you can find 2.5% of the World’s biodiversity, endless amounts of animals, plants, waterfalls, beaches and rivers. The locals are humble and welcoming.
Let yourself be blown away by Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica’s best kept secret from any tourist.