A Complete Travel Guide To Drake Bay Costa Rica
A Complete Travel Guide To Drake Bay Costa Rica

A Complete Travel Guide To Drake Bay Costa Rica

Rumoured to be a port once used by the famous English explorer Sir Francis Drake during his ventures in Central America, Drake Bay (Bahia Drake) is now a paradisiac beach town visited by people from all over the world.

The beautiful bay is clad in lush rainforest and boasts a tranquil beach lined with palm trees. It’s a great destination for nature lovers or those who want a picturesque and relaxing escape.

Read on for a complete guide to Drake Bay Costa Rica. You’ll find out how to get to the bay, all the activities you can do there, accommodation recommendations and some extra top tips. 

Where is Drake Bay?

Drake Bay is located at the north-western end of the Oso Peninsula in Costa Rica. The Oso Peninsula almost looks like a small foot growing from the Pacific coast of the country. It lies in the south of Cost Rica not too far from the border with Panama.

The nearest major town to Drake Bay is Palmar Norte—roughly 1 h away by speedboat. This is an important transit point for people traveling in the Puntarenas region. San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city, is quite a bit further away at 6 h.

How to get to Drake Bay Costa Rica

San Jose to Drake Bay

Most people go to Drake Bay from San Jose. The total journey time is roughly 7 h and includes taking a bus, a shuttle or taxi, and then a speed boat (lancha in Spanish).

From San Jose take a Tracopa bus to either Sierpe or Palmar Norte. The bus to Sierpe is the quicker and direct option, but only leaves once a day at 8:30. Buses to Palmar Norte run several times a day. You can check the schedule here.

The Journey takes roughly 4 h and  6 h respectively and currently costs 7,170 CRC ($14 US). You can’t buy tickets online and these routes are popular. For this reason I recommend getting to the Tracopa terminal at least half an hour before your bus leaves to buy a ticket.

At Palmar Norte you’ll need to take either a collective shuttle bus or a taxi to Sierpe. The Shuttles and taxis will be waiting at the bus stop in Palmar Norte where you get off. Supposedly there is also a bus that costs around 500 CRC ($1 US) from Palmar Norte to Sierpe. If you want to take this, then I’d ask a local in Palmar Norte for the latest times.

I recommend taking a shuttle as this costs around 3,000 ($6 US) CRC per person while a taxi costs 10,000 CRC ($20 US). If taking a taxi try and haggle the price down as, at first, you might be quoted somewhere around 15,000 CRC ($25 US).  The ride from Palmar Norte to Sierpe takes 20 minutes.

Sierpe sits on the bank of the Sierpe River and from here you’ll take the speed boat. You can buy tickets for the speedboat from the restaurant Donde Jorge. Taxis/shuttles drop you off right outside Donde Jorge, so you’ll see it straight away.

The speedboat leaves twice a day from Sierpe; at 11:00 and 16:30. A ticket currently costs 11,000 CRC ($22 US) if bought in person either from Donde Jorge or directly on the boat. You can also book one online beforehand. I don’t recommend doing this though because it costs around $35 US. Try to get to the boat at least 15 minutes beforehand as it fills.

The boat ride to Drake Bay is picturesque as you weave your way along winding rivers through mangroves. It takes about an hour and I recommend folding a towel or a jacket to sit on as the hard plastic seats aren’t comfortable.

Puerto Jimenez to Drake Bay

Puerto Jimenez is another area where travelers typically come to Drake Bay from. There has previously been a bus service between the two towns.

The journey is two-step. First get a bus from Puerto Jimenez to La Palma at either 11:00 or 15:00. Then get a second bus from La Palma to Drake Bay either at 11:30 or 16:30. The total journey time is around 3 h.

If you’re thinking about doing this bus ride, I highly recommend asking a local for the latest bus information before you plan anything. While I always strive to provide accurate information, in my experience schedules for hyper local bus services in Costa Rica such as this one can change routinely.

Drake Bay Costa Rica things to do

Drake Bay main beach

The main beach in Drake Bay is called Playa Colorada. It’ a beautiful and shallow sandy beach meaning you’re never too far from the water’s edge even when the tide is out. The beach is lined with palm-trees if you prefer to sit in the shade and the sea gets deep pretty quickly.

Brown and red leaves on a tree illuminated by sunset. The tree is on a beach.

Playa Colorada is the perfect place to take a dip if you don’t want to walk far. It’s at the bottom of the hill that brings you down from the town.

Drake Bay Trail

One of the most popular and adventurous things to do in Drake Bay Costa Rica is to walk the Drake Bay

A monkey in a tree looks directly at the camera.
Monkeys sometimes come down from the tress to the trail

While you could technically walk the entire length of the Oso Peninsular coast, most people typically walk as far as Playa San Josecito before turning back. In total this is about 21 km.

The trail itself is flat the whole way, but the distance and heat can make it a challenge. I recommend heading out early so you can get to San Josecito before temperatures peak. Another benefit of this is that the sunrise over Drake Bay is stunning!

The sun rises over a bay. There is a small beach with palm trees in the foreground.

The trail mostly journeys through forest so don’t have to worry about getting a sunburn. However, you’ll want sun cream for the beach. For this hike I recommend taking plenty of water, snacks and beachwear. You’ll definitely want to take a dip once you get to San Josecito.

A virgin beach. There are rocks in the foreground and palm trees in the background.

Corcovado National Park

Many people use Drake Bay as a base for visiting Corcovado National Park as it’s just a 45-minute boat ride away. Corcovado is a popular destination for wildlife watching and you can see tapirs, monkeys and crocodiles—to name but a few.

A tapir relaxing in a mud pond looks directly at the camera.

There are several entrances to the national park, but visitors from Drake Bay usually enter at either San Pedrillo or La Sirena ranger stations.

You can’t just turn up at Corcovado; the only way to experience it is with a guided tour. These start at around $100 US per person for a single day tour. While you might think this is expensive, in my opinion, it is worth it.

Your money goes towards protecting the nature and without an expert guide you would almost definitely not spot any wildlife.  

I booked my Corcovado tour on Viator, but there are also tour operators in Drake Bay town. There are a few rules for visiting Corcovado including a complete ban on bringing in single-use plastic and food.        

Scuba diving

Drake Bay has a reputation for being one of the top spots for scuba diving in the country. Tour operators typically take divers out to Caño Island which is roughly a 1 h boat ride from Playa Colorada.

Scuba diving is one of the best ways to experience marine life in Costa Rica. Divers at Caño Island often see manta rays and sea turtles.

The cost for a day of scuba diving at Drake Bay starts upwards of $100 US and you can book on sites like Viator or directly with tour operators in Drake Bay.

Snorkelling

Scuba diving is just one of the water activities you can do in Drake Bay Costa Rica. Snorkelling is another and is a more affordable option for spotting wildlife below the surface.

Scuba diving tour operators in Drake Bay also run snorkelling excursions and prices for a day start at around $100 US.

Bird watching

The wildlife in Drake Bay is diverse and includes several species of birds. There’s constant bird song around the bay and if you’re lucky you’ll see where it’s coming from. I saw a pair of scarlet macaws flying right overhead on my first day.

A large black bird sits on a branch.

Spot humpback whales

Perhaps the most impressive wildlife to spot in Drake Bay are whales. Species include humpback whales and the endangered Bryde’s whale. Prices for a whale watching tour start at round $120 US.

Horseback riding

Fancy strutting round the beautiful Drake Bay on a stallion? Then a horseback riding tour is for you. Tours last around 4 h and prices start at around $75 US.

Drake Bay accommodation recommendations

Ultra-budget option: Sukia Hostel

From $15 US/night

A wooden building among trees and plants in a rainforest.

Sukia is where I stayed and I highly recommend it. The hostel is tucked away in the rainforest away from the main road, just a 5-minute walk into town. Guest can use a communal kitchen and there’s free coffee. There are shared dorms and private rooms at Sukia.

Budget option: Mariposa Drake

From $20 US/night

For a few more dollars a night you can stay in a private double room at Mariposa Drake. This is a pretty standard accommodation with a communal kitchen and rooms look clean and comfortable. The location is great at just a 3-minute walk to the beach. The property has an overall rating of 8.4 on Booking.com.

Higher-end option: Sunrise

From $28 US/night

This hotel is a short drive from Drake Bay, roughly 9 km away. Rooms are private with on suites and there is a garden to relax in. Guests can eat at the on-site restaurant and there’s an option to include breakfast in your stay. This accommodation is a good option if you have rented a vehicle. The property has an overall rating of 8.4 on Booking.com.

Drake Bay main town

The main town in Drake Bay is called Agujitas and its main street has just about everything you need all located within a few metres. There are:

  • 2 mini supermarkets selling all your typical groceries
  • 2 fruit and veg shops
  • A few tour operators
  • Several restaurants
  • A couple of bars
A person holding an umbrella walks across a dirt road in a small town.

When is the best time to visit Drake Bay Costa Rica?

If you prefer hot and dry weather, and don’t mind too many people, then the best time to visit Drake Bay is during the dry season. The dry season normally runs from December to mid-April.

The rainy season normally runs from mid-April to the end of November. Unsurprisingly, this is also the low season for tourism. So, if you don’t want to be in Drake Bay when most other tourists are, and you don’t mind getting wet, then this period is best.

Is Drake Bay safe?

Drake Bay is considered a safe place for tourists. There is little crime reported there and a very small police presence. Even though the vast majority of travelers in Drake Bay don’t have any problems, you should still take care.

Don’t leave your valuables unattended—including on the beach when going for a dip—and avoid flashing your wallet, watch and phone etc.

A father and child at the beach during sunset.

Top tips for Drake Bay Costa Rica

Get enough cash for your stay

There are no ATMs in Drake Bay so you’ll need to bring enough cash for your stay if you don’t want to pay by card. If you do run out of cash it won’t be problem as most places accept card. You’ll just have to pay whatever fees are charged by your bank along with a tourism tax imposed by the Costa Rican government.

Bring as much food with you as you can

The prices in the mini supermarkets in Drake Bay are steep. To give you an idea, a small block of cheese costs around $12 US…Because of this I recommend bringing as much food with you as possible. Drake Bay was one of, if not the, most expensive place I visited in costa Rica when it came to buying groceries.

Thick tree roots in a rainforest.

Mosquito spray

The climate in Drake Bay is ideal for mosquitos and at night they come out to play. Unfortunately for you, that means lots of itching and scratching. You’ll want some mosquito spray for your time in the area.

Reserve a space for the speedboat back

The boat from Drake Bay to Sierpe leaves at 7:30. You need to tell your accommodation the night before so that they reserve a spot for you, else you’ll be stuck for another night. It doesn’t cost anything to reserve, it’s just to guarantee your seat.

More Costa Rica adventure travel advice on A World Over

While Drake Bay causes most budget travelers to spend bit more than they’d like, it’s definitely worth a visit. The range of fun activities, beautiful nature and peaceful beaches made it one of my favourite spots in Costa Rica.

Although it’s currently a lesser-visited destination in Costa Rica, Drake Bay is becoming more popular. And like many other tourist destinations, with increased numbers of visitors comes an increase in infrastructure.

So, if during your time in Drake Bay you notice something not included in this guide, or outdated information, feel free to leave a comment below.

Looking for more travel advice for Costa Rica? Then check out the following guides.

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