Visiting the Osa Peninsula

Chiky, our 1988.5 Suzuki Samurai
Chiky, our 1988.5 Suzuki Samurai

During our times in CR, we’ve always heard of the biodiversity and beauty in the Osa but we were always deterred by the distance to get us there. We found a property that peaked our interest and with our newly acquired car, nicknamed Chiky, we finally had a way down there so we decided it was time to go.

Knowing that the 100 miles would be a big undertaking we chose some good car music and planned some rest stops for the way there. Chiky has been great on our mountain roads but really hasn’t driven fast up to now. This would be our chance to see what driving on a “highway” would be like. Our destination was Cabinas Jimenez, a waterfront place that looked great on Google Maps, let’s go! We also had an appointment planned for viewing a property the day after we arrive. 

The road trip wasn’t all that complicated as far as directions go. Drive to Dominical, spend a while on the Costenera, then catch the road down the Osa Peninsula and you’re there. Well I’m sure Neil would say it was a bit more complicated since he was making the drive but it took 5 hours!! Ah driving in Costa Rica. Chiky rocked it out but we found out our top speed is around 48mph in a soft top SUV from the 80’s. Still all good. 

We had our pick of rooms at Cabinas Jimenez since we were the only guests, so we chose some prime real estate at the edge of the property. Once we had our room chosen we found a waterfront restaurant just down the road for some lunch. We soaked in the humidity (which included some rain) and enjoyed being out of the car. We grabbed a few supplies at the local grocery store and settled in. Our plan was to check out the property For Sale the next day and we’d spend a couple more days just to relax. Not a bad plan. 

The next morning we made our way down the road a few minutes to meet the property’s caretaker Monica. She planned to meet us at a school to bring us to the actual location, no problem, until we realized she didn’t have a car and we were in a two-seater. Time to get snuggled up with a new person. Next set of obstacles, it started raining, there was a small river we’d need to cross and we had to drive up a very grassy driveway straight up a hill. These adventures are pretty common here in CR so we did it all without really hesitating. 

The house was rustic, to say the least. We put a handful of those pics in the slideshow (above) but it had solar power, a water source, a good altitude for cool air and lots of plants already growing there. All things we’re looking for, as well as a ton of property that bordered the Corcovado National Park. We spent most of our time trekking through the jungle portion of the property. Good thing we had some rubber boats to tackle that terrain in the rain! Oh and we had a guide that was a local Costa Rican guy. The rain didn’t really matter but we definitely got our fill of hiking around. What a pretty property but not for the price without a house that actually functions. About 4 hours later we started searching for some lunch. 

On our way back to Cabinas Jimenez, we got to know the Osa Peninsula by stopping at random side streets that lead to little beaches. As we made our way closer, the rain started coming down again but it didn’t phase us because it’s the rainy season. We ran into the room and found out the power was out. This happens during the rainy season in CR so no big deal, right? Well about an hour later we spoke with the owner of the hotel, John, and he said it was quite a storm where trees fell, wires were down and pretty much the entire Osa Peninsula was without power. We had some dinner already planned and our computers and phones were pretty powered up so we were good. 

When we woke up the next day, we found out the power was still out. Whatever, we can still go for a walk down the road to see the estuary and maybe find some crocodiles. No crocs to be found but we did see the boat-billed heron, squawking all around and displaying his mohawk. Super cool! Also a crazy lizard ran across the water right in front of us and then just hung out. 

As we arrived back to the room, John let us know the power would probably be out for the whole day but asked if we wanted to go whale watching during the afternoon. Um yes!! So really the power outage didn’t make much difference. There was plenty to enjoy without it. 

There ended up being a few people around the resort by the afternoon so we had a small group to head out to sea with. As we approached the “usual whale spotting area” there were a few off in the distance slapping the water with their tails. That was only the beginning! I’d guess we were out there maybe 1.5 hours and we saw multiple whale families arching their backs (coming up for air and then heading back down) all around us. Neil went and sat in the front chairs with the good view to take some pics and videos. I never built up the courage to get up there but I was happy in the center of the boat. Toward the end of the trip, one of the male whales started performing for us. He waved a couple times and showed us his pectoral fin. Amazing! Then he came up and dived back down showing us his tail. We all cheered! 

That night, we wondered if any restaurants would be open during the power outage? Yup, we found one with a generator that had lights, fans and the fish tank on. Works for us. We shared  two fish entrees, one with a ginger sauce and veggies, the other with mushrooms in a white wine sauce. We kind of fought over the wine sauce one because it was so rich and tasty. 

Back at the hotel there were plenty candles so we could navigate around and we found a couple of people looking to chat that night. Talking about the pandemic, the world and traveling around was a great way to enjoy the evening.

So what’s your guess, did we have power that next morning? Well no, but we still had more ideas of what we could do without it. This was our original day to leave but we decided to extend our trip a few more days.

We filled up our beach bag and grabbed our phone charge cables so we could power up in the car. We’d go see Matapalo, one of the beaches near the National Park. I think the map said it would be 16km (about 10 miles) but people kept asking us if we had 4 wheel drive for the trip out. It was bumpy! Dirt roads are pretty common so we didn’t worry too much but there were pretty much a million potholes that Neil had to keep avoiding while driving maybe 7 mph the entire way. We happily hopped out at a few of the side street’s beaches to settle our minds a little. The coastal views were beautiful so we were holding up pretty well. 

We kept seeing a road sign for Rancho Tropical that was only 12 km away, but it felt like forever Then when we got there, we knew we must be close to Matapalo. The hotel owner had given us a hand drawn map that began right after that landmark. Just as we “entered the map” there was a river in front of us. Well there’s tire tracks coming out of it so I guess we just drive through? For the record, this was our third experience driving through creeks and rivers since arriving on the Osa Peninsula. This one did seem a little larger though. Once we were across, we continued along the route of more dirt roads. We were looking for the “entrance” which we apparently missed because then we found another landmark on the map. We found the entrance and it was no wonder that we missed it originally because it didn’t really look like a road. 

Matapalo is the town that was drawn out on the map, but we pulled off to visit Playa Pan Dulce, just before Matapalo. The beach was pretty and filled with coral reef everywhere. We also got to see some pelicans flying around. We ate a few snacks and explored the beach for 45 minutes or so. We’d have another 2 hours ahead of us to get back so we didn’t stay too long. I don’t know that I’d say it was really worth driving out all that way but perhaps it’s better when there isn’t a pandemic going on? We heard there are some waterfalls around there, maybe we’ll do that another time? 

Back to the bumpy road, and through the river. Past Rancho Tropical, returning to Playa Tamales (yes just like the tasty treat). We stopped at this beach on the way out to stretch our legs but had noticed there was another property For Sale. Why not explore it? So we walked through the gate and found monkeys playing peek a boo with us. I’ll take that as a good sign. There was a path though the wooded property but definite development too. We came across a water spigot, a very tall water cistern, and an outhouse but no actual house. As the path winds around you pop out at the ocean. Yes! So we’d have woods and a beach? Sounds great! Where was the electricity though? No poles around the property. Ok so we took some mental notes and a few photos before heading back out. 

We were getting hungry around now and the restaurant from dinner last night really worked out since they had a generator so let’s go back there. The fans were on, and so were the lights and then we realized the electricity had returned. Hoorah!! They told us it had just come back on, so we hopped on the wifi to see what we’d missed for the last two days and had a pretty tranquil lunch.

Saturday when we woke up, we came out to our patio and watched the waves lapping on to the shore. We should use the kayaks today! Neil and I have used both kayaks and canoes before but I wouldn’t call us pros in any way. Still it would be a fun way to head back out on the water and even get a little exercise. We made our way towards the mangroves and paddled around for a bit. At one point, we beached ourselves out in the middle of the water and had to get out the boat to find some deeper water. We had been warned that when the tides change here they are a bit extreme. Now we know that they don’t recommend using the kayaks more than 3 hours after high tide. Still a good time, once we got paddling again. 

Guess we felt like having a fitness day because once we returned, we made our way over to the desk to borrow the bikes too. There was a beach “just down the road” that had been recommended so we’d go check that out. Apparently there are a lot of bumpy roads around here because we found another one that day. Not that big a deal but I got a ridiculous hand work out trying to keep the tire steady over all the rocks and sandy road. And no, it wasn’t down the road because Neil and I were like, “Where is this beach?” Seems like this is becoming the theme, oh well, Pura Vida!

There were a bunch of surfers out in the sea, so we watched them for a bit, as a storm rolled in.  I guess that’s a good time to find waves?

We made a quick stop at the grocery store before we came home. That was interesting loading up the bike baskets with our items. Pretty helpful though! I was ready to be off the bike when we returned but it was nice to change up our exercise routine that day. I remember just sitting for a bit to rest my hands. 

For our final day, Sunday, we opted for a “Hang Out and Relax day.” Coloring in my art book and watching the boats was all I needed. Neil caught up on a few things on his computer. It was a pretty easy going day.

The next morning we packed up and took one more walk over to the fishing pier. It about a mile round trip and so peaceful to see the water and get moving a bit. We really weren’t in any hurry to get back but figured we’d have another whole day of driving ahead of us. We stopped at one last beach before we left the Osa. There really are so many beaches around here. 

Our drive was pretty leisurely as we kept our eye out for more real estate signs. Around the half way point, we would arrive at another town we’d only seen on the maps before, Ojochal. We knew it had restaurants and shops that seemed a bit upscale so we planned to stop there for lunch. Once again, we got a little confused on where we were going, but I could see a sign for one of the restaurants that I’d heard of so we must be there. 

We took a pretty sharp turn off the road and made our way up a steep dirt road. It was not what we were expecting, there were neither shops or restaurants but we continued along. There were some scenic views overlooking a valley since we had climbed a bit. We found the restaurant we were heading towards but it was closed up tight so we turned around and headed back down the dirt hill. Maybe there were multiple turns into this town? Yes that was it, our road was another minute down the main road. They had a French cafe, a home furnishing store, a wine bar, a boutique hotel, and a specialty grocery store. None of which, we’ve seen in any other part of Costa Rica besides the capital. For lunch I had seared tuna and a glass of wine, then we went into the specialty grocery store. What a great pit stop! I think we’ll be heading there again!

We were home by 430pm and filled with great memories of our week away. Just what we needed after many work filled days leading up to that trip. And yes, the Osa Peninsula was just as everyone had said, a little piece of paradise. We do wonder though what it is like when there are tourists and not a pandemic going on? Maybe we can head back again now that we know how to get there and have a place to stay.

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