The Osa Peninsula is a wild and remote corner of southwestern Costa Rica. It supports at least half of the species living in the country and is home to the spectacular Corcovado National Park. Corcovado covers about a third of the peninsula and is said to be the ‘crown jewel’ in Costa Rica’s reserves. It is home to an incredible range of species including the endangered Baird’s tapir and jaguars. National Geographic has even labelled it “the most biologically intense place on Earth”. The waters of the peninsula are also rich in biodiversity, with the Cano Island Biological Reserve providing a home to humpback whales, manta rays, whale sharks, reef sharks, and green sea turtles. There are two main access points to the peninsula – Drake Bay in the west and Puerto Jimenez in the east. Both require a flight to get there or a combination of boats and buses.
Average rating: 4.5 (very good)
Average spend per person: $60 ($60 – $60)
Number of reports: 2
Best time to visit: December – April
Typical activities: animal watching, bird watching, boat trip, jungle trek, scuba diving, snorkelling, whale watching
Wildlife in the Osa Peninsula
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here are as follows:
Green sea turtle – 100% of Scuba Divers (1/1) reported sightings
A large population of green sea turtles is found around Cano Island, off the western coast of the peninsula. The turtles are actually a sub-species of green sea turtle called Pacific black sea turtles. They are easily visible during tours to the island and swim close to the boats. These beautiful, slow-moving creatures can also be seen when snorkelling and diving around the island. You can arrange trips out to the island from a number of operators based in Drake Bay. In addition to green sea turtles, there are three other turtle species that can be found on the peninsula, including olive ridleys, hawksbills, and leatherbacks.
Humpback whale – 0% of visitors to Drake Bay (0/1) reported sightings
The good news is that Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the world! This is because California humpbacks migrate down from the northern hemisphere to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast from December to March, while Antarctic humpbacks migrate up from the southern hemisphere from July to November. This makes the Osa Peninsula an amazing spot for humpback watching. Most of the whale watching tours are based in the shallow waters of Drake Bay, where mothers raise their calves. Although they can also be seen in the waters of Golfo Dulce. To see them here tours can be arranged in Puerto Jimenez.
Jaguar – 0% of visitors TO CORCoVADO (0/1) reported sightings
The best place to see jaguars in the Osa Peninsula is the Corcovado National Park. Studies of the jaguar population in Corcovado suggest that the population density is around 7.0 jaguars per 100 km2. This is high relative to other areas such as Madre de Dios and Los Llanos. However, sightings of these elusive cats are extremely rare. There are no successful sightings recorded on TripAdvisor in the area, or by WildSide users. That said, there are some reports which suggest that jaguars can be seen in Corcovado. So if you do head out there and see one let us know!
Manta ray – 0% of Scuba Divers (0/1) reported sightings
A forty-minute boat ride from Drake Bay takes you to Cano Island, the centrepiece of the Cano Island Biological Reserve. The only way to reach the island is via snorkelling (US$80) or diving (US$135) tours leaving from the bay. Making the trip is worth it as the reserve is home to the spectacular giant oceanic manta ray. The rays can be seen year round although sightings are not by any means guaranteed – we didn’t see any on our dives. The best dive spot to see them is El Bajo del Diablo (Devil’s Pinnacle). Due to its status as a biological reserve, diving is restricted to five designated diving locations and there is a limit of ten divers in the water at a time.
Reef shark – 100% of scuba divers (1/1) reported sightings
Whitetip reef sharks are common off the coast of Costa Rica and the waters around Cano Island are no exception. They are regularly spotted by scuba divers as well as by snorkelers. During the day they are typically found resting on the sea bed or in caves. They aren’t usually bothered by the presence of people so you can often get quite close providing excellent photographic opportunities. The dive spot ‘Cueva del Tiburon’ (Shark Cave) is a great spot to look for whitetips. The cave is home to several whitetip sharks, and divers can often see around 6 or 7 of these sleeping from the mouth of the cave.
Tapir – 100% of visitors to Corcovado (1/1) reported sightings
Corcovado National Park might well be the best place to see tapirs in the world. The park is home to a sizeable population of the endangered Baird’s tapir. And unlike many jungle trips where sightings of tapir are elusive, tapirs are sighted frequently in Corcovado. We saw one from inches away lolling in the mud to avoid the midday sun. Reports on TripAdvisor suggest that such close-up encounters are not uncommon! The rainy season runs from May to mid November so the best time to look for them is December to April. If you want a truly memorable experience, WildSide recommends booking a night’s stay at the Sirena Ranger Station. A basic campground in the middle of the park, it provides the perfect place to look for tapir wandering past your tent at dusk.
Whale shark – 0% of scuba divers (0/1) reported sightings
While we didn’t see any whale sharks, reports suggest they are present in the waters off the peninsula. Based on a search of the information available online, it appears that these magnificent creatures congregate at two points in the Osa Peninsula. In January they can be seen off Drake Bay, while in April and May they can be seen in the Golfo Dulce (accessed via Puerto Jimenez). Although the TripAdvisor reports suggest they can be seen from January through to May. Like manta rays, the best dive spot for finding these giants is said to be El Bajo del Diablo (Devil’s Pinnacle). Unlike mantas, however, sightings of whale sharks are even less frequent!