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12 BEST Things to do & Complete Guide to Visiting Drake Bay, Costa Rica

12 BEST Things to do & Complete Guide to Visiting Drake Bay, Costa Rica

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Tucked away on the Osa Peninsula sits a hidden gem in Costa Rica – Drake Bay! Drake Bay isn’t usually at the top of everyone’s Costa Rica places to visit list, but it really should be. Home to gorgeous beaches, stunning sunsets, and that small-town vibe we all know and love, Drake Bay is paradise on earth.

On top of that, Drake Bay sits on the doorstep of Corcovado National Park and Caño Island Biological Reserve. So, as you can imagine, there are plenty of awesome things to do in Drake Bay, especially if you come for the wildlife.

However, aside from the most well-known activities in Drake Bay, the are plenty more undiscovered activities in Drake Bay. In this blog, I’ll share the 12 best things to do in Drake Bay, as well as a guide to the town and area including some of the best places to eat, stay, and getting in and out!

12 Fun & Exciting Things to do in Drake Bay, Costa Rica 

1. Go snorkeling or diving in Caño Island Biological Reserve

A turtle swims through the water on a snorkel tour from Cano Island, Costa Rica
Seeing the turtle this close was really cool!

If you’re going to make the journey down to Drake Bay, you simply can’t miss a visit to Caño Island Biological Reserve. Although the island itself is off-limits to visitors, the gorgeous marine reserve surrounding it is the perfect place to snorkel or scuba dive.

I did a snorkeling tour with my hotel, Rancho Corcovado, and loved it. Our day started with a 45-minute boat ride out to the island before we got to jump in and explore the coral reefs around the island. We visited two snorkel sites and got to see a ton of marine life, such a colorful fish (the entire cast of Nemo was there), and even turtles. Lucky visitors can also spot blacktip reef sharks (don’t worry, they are not aggressive sharks.)

Snorkeling tours to the island start at around $75 USD (depending on inclusions.) However, they usually include lunch and a visit to Playa San Josecito. 

If you plan on diving, this two-dive tour costs $146 USD and visits deeper sites where you can even dive with dolphins. It also includes lunch! 

Without a doubt, Caño Island Biological Reserve is one of the best places to snorkel or dive in Costa Rica and my favorite activity in Drake Bay.

2. Hike the Drake Trail

A lady plays in the water at Playa San Josecito after hiking the Drake Trail
At Playa San Josecito after hiking the Drake Trail. You’ll earn that swim after the long walk!

One of the best free things to do in Drake Bay is to hike the gorgeous Drake Trail. Stretching from Drake Bay to Playa Rincon de San Josecito, the trail follows the coastline within the rain forest and visits beautiful beaches covered in palm trees.

The entire trail is 10 kilometers one way (Drake Bay to Playa Rincon) and takes around 2.5 hours to walk each way. The Drake Trail is primarily flat but, in some sections, not well maintained and muddy after rain. 

Of course, you don’t have to walk the entire trail to enjoy this free activity in Drake Bay. Common places to stop much closer include Cocalito Beach, only 25 minutes (one way) from Drake Bay, or Playa Las Caletas, around 40 minutes from Drake Bay.

Along the way, keep an eye out for wildlife, especially howler monkeys and toucans. Also, if you have time, stop at the river at the beginning of the trail for a swim or to watch wildlife. It’s a beautiful place to stop, and you’ll know you’re there when you cross the suspension bridge.

3. Visit Corcovado National Park

A squirrel monkey in Corcovado National Park
A monkey in Corcovado National Park!

The biggest drawcard to visiting Drake Bay is Corcovado National Park. In fact, it’s one of the most important national parks in Costa Rica and is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity – that’s insane!

From Drake Bay, you can easily reach the park on a guided tour via boat. Water taxis leave every day at around 6 am to the Sirena Ranger Station, where guided walks occur. You can choose from this one-day tour, as well as this two-day tour with a night at Sirena Station

If you get seasick, there is an option to visit San Pedrillo Ranger Station, which you can drive to in the dry season. This specific tour does not involve taking the boat. And instead, you’ll drive to the edge of the park and hike in. 

Only 150 people are allowed in Corcovado National Park per day, so it’s essential you book your tour in advance (especially in the busy season from December to April.) Visiting Corcovado National Park is also one of the best things to do in Puerto Jimenez so tickets go even quicker.

Regardless of how you choose to explore Corcovado National Park, it’s a must-do in Drake Bay, so be sure to book it, so you don’t miss out.

Please note, to protect the park, you MUST go with an accredited guide. If guided tours are too expensive or tickets are sold out, you can organize tours to local properties that border the park. Although you won’t enter the park boundary, you’ll still see tons of wildlife. 

4. Rent an ATV and explore

A man rides an ATV through the jungle near Drake Bay
So much fun!

Many of the best beaches in Drake Bay or Bahia Drake are a decent walk from town. So, Bailey and I decided to rent an ATV to make exploring not only more adventurous but easier!

What a fun way to spend a few hours! The roads around Drake Bay are more like off-road dirt tracks, so it’s really fun on an ATV. We had a little bit of rain that day, so we got a little dirty but loved it.

Renting an ATV in Drake Bay with Tours Mono is super easy, and all you need is a $100 deposit. We rented our ATV for 3 hours, and it cost us $60 USD with fuel. This was a $10 discount on the regular price because it was low season.

If you don’t want to rent one by yourself, Tours Mono also offers very affordable guided tours (not much more than the rental itself.)

5. Go on a night wildlife tour

Red eyed tree frogs on a night tour in Drake Bay
How cool are these guys!

As the sun sets, the jungle really comes alive around Drake Bay. In fact, many species of animals in Costa Rica are nocturnal, including snakes, frogs, and other reptiles. So, joining wildlife tours during the day only tells half the story.

Night tours from Drake Bay are a must, and it’s one of the best places in the country to do them. One of the reasons for that is your chances of seeing snakes are much higher in Drake Bay than in many other destinations in Costa Rica.

Tours cost around $50 USD and depart from Drake Bay at 6:30 pm. Your expert local guide will lead the way, checking for dangerous critters and spotting the wildlife. It’s hard to know where to look without a guide. They know the plants each species enjoy hiding in, so you are guaranteed to see lots. 

The tour I did, was awesome and I highly recommend it to others. We walked along the river nice and slowly and I was amazed at how much we saw. The frogs, lizards, and snakes are so cool! 

6. Go bird watching

A macaw east in a tree in Drake Bay
The macaws are my favorite!

One thing that amazed me when I first visited Costa Rica was the beautiful birds. From stunning macaws to cute toucans, Costa Rica is the home of colorful and rare birds. The best part is, there are so many of them around that you’re guaranteed to see a few! 

You can easily go birdwatching on your own in Drake Bay, and the Osa Peninsula is home to 400 species. The Drake Trail is one of the best spots, and we saw lots of toucans on our walk. However, if you’re a keen bird watcher looking to find some of the harder-to-spot species, or want to get a closer look at them, then joining a bird watching tour in Drake Bay is a must.

This specific birdwatching tour in Drake Bay begins at first light, arguably the best time to spot birds. You’ll visit both new and old-growth forests along rivers and through a private garden for 3 hours. Along the way, your guide will keep a close eye on the canopy, and when he spots a bird, you’ll see it up close through a HD scope. The tour cost only $50 USD.

Related read: Flying into San Jose? Then check out the best things to do in San Jose while you’re there!

7. Horseback riding

Horseback riding in Drake Bay
If you’re solo like me, join a group tour!

Horseback riding is a way of life for the people on the Osa Peninsula and Drake Bay. Used for transportation and farming, there is a huge need for these beautiful animals in the region.

So, do as the locals do and travel through the beautiful rainforest and along sprawling beaches on horseback.

Horseback riding tours in Drake Bay are very popular, and although we had no intention of joining one before we arrived, after seeing so many tour groups, I really wanted to give it a try.

Of course, Bailey is allergic, so I went solo on this adventure but loved it! I did the morning tour with Drake Bay Getaway that started at 8 am and was 4 hours long. We traveled through the mountains and rainforest as well as along beaches. We even visited a waterfall so we could cool off.

I highly recommend the tour, and for $70 USD with lunch, I thought it was good value for money!

8. Mangrove tour

The mangroves near Drake Bay
Searching for wildlife in the mangroves!

The mangroves around Drake Bay are filled with creatures few of us would want to run into on an average day. However, with an expert local guide, you can actually relax and enjoy some of the scarier animals in Costa Rica, such as crocodiles, on an organized tour.

The tour I did took us from Drake Bay to the mangroves around the small town of Sierpe. We saw crocodiles, all four species of monkeys, and lots of birds. On top of that, just traveling through the mangroves is fun, and because it’s a river, the ride is very calm – perfect if you get seasick! 

Overall it was a great experience and one of the most important learning experiences I’ve enjoyed in Costa Rica.

9. Dolphin and whale watching

A dolphin in Drake Bay!
It’s very hard to get a photo because they pop up everywhere!

Dolphin and whale watching has to be one of the most popular things to do on the pacific coast of Costa Rica. From north to south, you can spot whales and dolphins depending on the time of your you’re visiting. 

If you happen to be in Drake Bay from July to October (southern migration), you simply must jump on a tour to see humpback whales. This is the best time to spot them, and you may even see babies. Bailey and I got to see a mother and baby humpback swim side by side together. It was magical and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see them that close!

You can see whales outside this season, but it’s not as common. In the middle of the season, you’ll see up to 15 whales! There is also another season (northern migration) from November to April. However, this season is not as good. 

You can book this whale watching tour with Divine Dolphin, the only operator in the area. As the name suggests, they also specialize in dolphin-watching tours. These tours also look for whales, but you can see dolphins all year round in Drake Bay. 

Their Divine Dolphin Pelagic Day Tour, which looks for dolphins and whales, costs $120 USD for adults and $85 USD for children. On the tour, you can see Bottlenose Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, Spotted Dolphins, Roughtooth Dolphins, and Common Dolphins. 

10. Enjoy the best food at Kalaluna Bistro

Tuna steak at Kalaluna Bistro
The fresh tuna!

The best meal I had in Drake Bay was at Kalaluna Bistro. This small seaside restaurant is located on the edge of Drake Bay and serves up delicious authentic Italian cuisine.

The owner, an Italian, and his Costa Rican wife pour their heart and should into the restaurant, and you can taste it. Everything we tried at Kalaluna was delicious, but we especially loved the fresh tuna and fettucini carbonara. Although you’ll pay a little more for a meal at Kalaluna, it’s worth it in my opinion.

Mains cost between $10 and $25 USD, and bookings are essential for dinner but not lunch.

11. Go river tubing

River tubing Drake Bay!
Row, row, row your boat..or should I say tube! Photo credit: Nativos Corcovado Tours and Travel

Many people underestimate just how gorgeous the rivers that lead to Drake Bay are. With tall tree canopies that overhang the river, you can spot tons of wildlife while enjoying the refreshing water. It’s no wonder river tubing is one of the best things to do in Drake Bay.

You can book river tubing tours in town from lots of different tour operators. However, this specific family-run river tubing tour ensures your money goes into the hands of the locals. The tour begins from the Aguitas Eco family farm and includes a walk on the property to spot wildlife. This family was one of the first to settle in Drake Bay – talk about getting some local knowledge!

You’ll then cruise down the river on your tube, enjoying the views, water, and looking for wildlife. Stop for a swim along the way and learn tons from your guide.

The best part is the tour includes all your transport to and from Drake Bay as well as water and snacks.

12. Watch an epic sunset

Sunset in Drake Bay
Palm trees and sunsets!

The sunsets in Drake Bay are unreal! Every afternoon we would head to the beach to enjoy the last few hours of the day with a beer in hand. It’s magical, especially with the sound of the waves crashing.

The best place to watch the sunset in Drake Bay is the main beach. However, the best sunsets are at Playa Rincon, further south.

From Playa Rincon, you can actually see the sun disappear behind the ocean. To me, it was the best place to see the sunset! If you’re planning on renting an ATV, head out in the afternoon to Rincon. Although you’ll need to ride back in the dark, the ATV has headlights.

Related read: Love sunsets? Then check out the best things to do in Puerto Viejo and visit for yourself!

Where to Stay in Drake Bay, Costa Rica

View frqom qour baalcoqny in Drake Bay at Rancho Corcovado!
The view was amazing at Rancho Corcovado!

Drake Bay might be a small town, but there is no shortage of amazing places to stay. When Bailey and I were looking, we really wanted to stay on the beach but also close to town. So, we ended up staying at Rancho Corcovado.

This gorgeous mid-range hotel is only steps from the beach, and our room had gorgeous ocean views. We could even hear the waves at night, which was amazing! Our room included breakfast and a large king bed as well as a rain shower. We loved our stay!

Mirians Place Drake is a good option if you’re on a budget. Although you won’t be right on the water, the hotel isn’t too far from the beach and for the price, it’s great value.

Getting to Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Getting to Drake Bay can seem a little difficult at first, but that’s what makes visiting so worth it! Below are all the options of how you can get to Drake Bay!


Views from our domestic flight from San Jose to Drake Bay
The views over the mangroves and beach!

The easiest way to get to Drake Bay is with a domestic flight with SANSA Airlines. There are around five flights per day from San Jose during the busy season from December to April, and they cost around $150 USD each way. The flight is also very scenic so consider it an activity too!

This is how we got onto the Osa Peninsula, and we loved it!

By boat

Catching the boat from Drake Bay to Sierpe
On the open water on our way to Sierpe.

The town of Sierpe is the main access point to Drake Bay. It lies on the mangroves, and by boat, you can reach Drake Bay in 45 minutes. If you’re planning to do this, you’ll need to get yourself to Sierpe, which is pretty easy to do. 

By bus, you want to end your journey in Palmar Norte, and from there you can get a bus or taxi to Sierpe (it’s only 15 kilometers away.) If you’re taking a shuttle, book it right to Sierpe.

Once in Sierpe, there are two departure times from La Perla Del Sur Restaurant. One at 11:30 am and 4:00 pm. The boat costs $15 USD and $20 respectively. The journey can be rough once you’re out of the mangroves, and you’ll be dropped right on the beach in Drake Bay.

You can leave the vehicle in Sierpe at a secure parking spot for $6 USD per day if you’re in a rental car.

By Bus

The bus stop in Sierpe
Waiting for the bus in Sierpe!

Taking the bus all the way to Drake Bay isn’t the best idea due to the time it takes. However, it is the cheapest option if you’re on a budget. From San Jose, or anywhere else in Costa Rica, you are looking for a bus (or buses) to Puerto Jimenez. You won’t be going the entire way, though. Instead, get off at La Palma.

From La Palma, you can get a colectivo bus to Drake Bay. This route is only available in the dry season as heavy rain floods the road. To be honest, I would not advise doing this. Just get the bus to Sierpe instead (it’s only a few dollars more.)

By car 

Fuelling up our rental car!
Filling up before the long drive!

Getting to Drake Bay by car is actually just as difficult as the bus if you plan on going the entire way. Although possible, the roads on the Osa Penisula are challenging to drive on, and you’ll need to cross three rivers (not possible after heavy rain) and drive alongside steep drops. With that said, it is an adventure.

To reach Drake Bay, head down Ruta 34 which passes towns such as Uvita. Keep driving as if you were heading to Puerto Jimenez before turning right onto Rincon Road just before the Rincon River. From here, strap yourself in and make sure you have insurance (although the water crossing arn;t covered.) 

Of course, you can make this journey much easier by driving to Sierpe instead and getting the boat from there. And in all honesty, there’s no need for a vehicle in Drake Bay – especially if you rent an ATV! 

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel from Destinationless Travel
Thanks for reading!

Thanks so much for reading my guide to Drake Bay and the best things to do. I hope you found it helpful when planning your trip to Costa Rica. If you did, then you might also love some of our other Costa Rica blogs such as: 

Things to do in Uvita

Where to stay in San Jose

Things to do in La Fortuna


Saturday 11th of November 2023

this was extremely helpful! I live in Costa Rica in Liberia, Guanacaste and have a 4x4 but think I will take the Sierpe route! Thanks so much for all of your tips and advice.


Sunday 12th of November 2023

No worries Sarah!