A stay on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula gives you the chance to watch scarlet macaws, white-faced capuchins and giant butterflies from the garden of your own beach bungalow
Flying from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez is a tourist activity in itself. The half-full, 12-seater domestic flight carried us to Costa Rica’s southern coast from the capital in just under an hour, strapped in to the seat behind the two pilots. Flying over volcanoes, tropical jungle and clear isolated coast, we gripped our seats before landing on the miniature airstrip at Puerto Jimenez. On arrival there was no passport control or luggage conveyor belt - just a friendly taxi driver waiting to take us to our self-catering beach bungalow on the Osa Peninsula via the local supermarket in town.
Back to nature
Choosing to stay five kilometres out of town, we were driven along a bumpy road full of potholes to an idyllic spot on the coast of the Osa Peninsula, home to just five lodgings. We’d opted to stay at the Yellow Coco Lodge, a bungalow surrounded by secondary rainforest and just two minutes from pristine yellow sands. Within minutes of arriving and dumping down our cases we were welcomed by a family of white-faced capuchins swinging in the trees above and a stunning blue morpho butterfly as big as my hand.
No-one has windows in this part of the world - a screen mesh is used instead, allowing the jungle breeze and sounds of the wild to ooze in to our bungalow. It was difficult to sleep the first night of our stay. Rainforest sounds combined with the crashing of waves were so loud that even with earplugs and a pillow over our heads there was no escaping them. Not that I’m complaining - there’s nothing to be scared of in Costa Rica’s vast array of wildlife and to be exposed to such sounds was a privilege. However, when the howler monkeys start their haunting bellow at three in the morning it does wake you up with a bit of a confused start, especially as their call carries up to a kilometre away so you don’t even have much of a chance of spotting them.
A private path from the bungalow took us to the beach. Other people are spotted only occasionally and are few and far between. Many times we had the yellow sands entirely to ourselves even though January is considered to be high season. We took time to swing in the hammocks (provided by the lodge) and spot the odd dolphin in the distance. Bathing in the sea was like taking a warm bath and despite the tempting number of activities available it was impossible to tear ourselves away from the close proximity of the bungalow.
One trip, however, that you must do, no matter how long you have near Puerto Jimenez, is that to Cabo Matapalo. Situated on the southernmost tip of the Osa Peninsula, 45 minutes taxi ride from Puerto Jimenez, is one of Costa Rica’s most isolated and stunning areas of coastline. There are numerous guesthouses and hotels to stay in but they’re all hidden in the jungle so you won't see them. There’s no tourist centre here, just a dirt track that follows on to Corcovado National Park, a further hour's drive away. Walking along the track to the beach we spotted wildlife in abundance. It’s not just bird poop you need to think about in this part of the jungle - it's also monkeys urinating on you from the trees above. That’s how we found our first howler monkey. It wasn’t long after that we watched several spider monkeys merrily swinging on the nearby branches.
Cabo Matapalo is hot and sweaty. Here you need to be prepared with sunscreen, water and snacks, as you won’t find a restaurant or tea house. They don’t exist - not to day trippers anyway. As throughout the whole of Costa Rica, birds are prolific here. Once we’d made it to the beach we were rewarded with plenty of sightings of scarlet macaws, heron and pelicans. You have to share the beach with hundreds of hermit crabs - the most comical crabs in the world. And be extra careful in the sea, as the pelicans fly in groups and enjoy diving for fish from a great height just in the spot where you’re enjoying your dip
For ultimate relaxation and a good fill-up on wildlife, the Osa Peninsula will definitely satisfy. For those of you more adventurous, be sure to spend an hour or two in Puerto Jimenez to find out about trips to Corcovado National Park and around.
Eating in and out
Luckily we’d stocked up on wine, beers and some fresh produce at the local supermarket on the way to the bungalow, as restaurants in the region are limited. You can, however, dine at the Pearl, just two minutes further along the beach from the Yellow Coco Lodge, or next door at the Black Turtle. Both places do good food but expect to pay at least £20 per head not including drinks. Failing that, a taxi ride into Puerto Jimenez, where you’ll find plenty of small local restaurants, costs around $10.
Return flights from London Heathrow to San Jose cost anything from £550 upwards.
SANSA offers flights from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez starting from $95 one way. They fill up well in advance, so book early.
Where to stay
Yellow Coco Lodge: low-season rates start from $95 per person, not including breakfast.