Costa Rica 2021 – Drake Bay & Corcovado

This was the last proper stop on our epic two month Costa Rica tour and we hoped it would be one of the best…we still had a couple animals to tick off our ‘must see’ list we had mentally made but would we get to see them here?  We had big hopes for this little peninsula after speaking with others and reading reviews but would it live up to our expectations?

Getting to Drake Bay is possible by road if you have a good 4×4, alas our faithful little Suzuki Swift wasn’t man enough for the task.  Instead we opted to drive to Sierpe, park the car and hop on the ferry.  Sierpe was an hours drive from Uvita and a lovely drive at that, through banana plantations and with some nice mountain views. 

Arriving in Sierpe we drove towards the dock to Jorge’s and were met by a man who directed us to a secure car park costing $6 a day.  This kinda looked like someones front garden turned into a car park. We then bought our boat tickets for $20 each and grabbed some breakfast at the dock at the restaurant where we waited until our 11.30am departure.

The boarding process was something of a confusion, there were several boats and we weren’t sure which one to get on; despite being asked our hotel name several times people seemed a little confused and repeated back a different one.. eventually we were sent to the last boat leaving and hoped we would end up in the right place.  It was time for the weekly family video call too so we stuck our heads in whilst on the boat much to the amusement of the other passengers!  After circling the dock for some time wondering what was going on, we went back again to pick up another late passenger and off we went, losing all 4g/cell reception as we went.

The boat trip took about an hour we were lucky enough to see a croc on the side of the river;  our captain stopped for a lil photo opportunity and we carried on.  Now I really don’t have the greatest sea legs and at the point where the river meets the sea it was very rough 🤮.  Eventually we finally made it Drake Bay to experience what we had been forwarned of by Kevin and Bo as the wet landing….getting off the boat in the rough water with no jetty.  Little did we know this would be one of many! It was an experience and due to being forewarned about this we had our hard soled water shoes at the ready! 

Our luggage was luckily removed by the boat staff safety and dryly unlike us! Finally on terra firma we were met by Jamaica our accommodation host and taken to our  digs for the next few days.

Now one of the animals we wanted to see here was the Scarlet Macaw and as we walked up the road, two flew over our head – yay, another tick!  Just a few hours later we would see more courting in the tree opposite our hostel – what a wonderful sight to see their amazing colours! And they were free! We always think wildlife sightings don’t count if it’s in a zoo or sanctuary or similar, but no, these were free to fly wherever they pleased. These were the first of many we would see on our stay here and we were always in awe of the beauty of these birds.

Our accommodation for the next few days was Casa Tuanis, a small but central hostel in Drake Bay.  We had a nice spacious double room, a private bathroom and a shared kitchen.  It was a really cosy little place and we felt very at home here especially due to Jamaica being so welcoming and friendly. She was really helpful with any queries we had and even bought me a sea sickness tablet from the local shop! Although very small and quite basic it was a lovely little place we would highly recommend.

Drake Bay is a very small town situated up a hill from the main beach with a few restaurants and shops, if you are looking for gourmet food you would struggle here but we got by! It had a friendly vibe and given our location we had everything we needed nearby.  There arent any ATMs here so make sure you have some cash with you when visiting; although a lot of places do take card payment.  It was a good base for exploring Corcovado National Park and doing excursions out.

Cano Island Boat Trip

As anyone who has read our previous posts would know we love snorkelling and we were informed the best place around the area to go was Cano Island. We booked a boat trip for $85 per person and made our way to the beach for 7am.  We had to board the boat in wavy conditions from the beach which was somewhat challenging however all aboard and off we went! Our boat was fuller than we probably would have liked with the maximum group size allowed (12).  We headed out to Cano Island picking up others from a different beach and stopped to watch some dolphins on the way.  Unfortunately we weren’t too successful at catching them on camera.

Due to its proximity and location just outside of the National Park all snorkellers had to wear a life jacket and be accompanied in the water by a guide..if you’ve ever tried to snorkel with a life jacket on it’s not easy! We were given an alternative way of wearing it round our waist which seemed to work a little better.  We were provided with snorkel gear including flippers; unfortunately the amount of rocking on the boat whilst people were getting ready was pretty bad and the seasickness kicked in again…..this unfortunately would last for the rest of the trip with no respite as floating in the rough sea was as bad as being on the boat!

Our first snorkel however was pretty successful, we saw a beautiful, small but perfectly formed manta ray swimming, a turtle and a quite big black tip reef shark, funnily because it was a big group and sea was choppy we saw a lot more at the back of the group than the guide did! When going back to boat we realised those closer to her hadn’t seen anything we had and were really excited about seeing a turtle underneath them! The next part…getting back on the boat was pretty darn difficult….imagine choppy water and no steps to get back onto the boat.  The result, whilst some of the younger tour members and Nigel mostly managed to get on the boat by clambering or kneeling,  myself and a couple of others experienced some undignified lifting and grabbing by boat staff to get us back on board.  I’m not sure exactly how difficult it would have been to have obtained a detachable ladder like we had seen on other boats!

Our second stop a little further up was not too successful, visibility was pretty poor so again an undignified water exit back on the boat and back to the first spot again.  By this point I was green to the gills, not wanting to swim again trying to get back onto the boat but feeling so green staying on the boat was not an option! Again we saw another (possibly the same shark) a turtle and some lovely coloured fish!

By this point I’d had enough I was done wanting to get back to terra firma.  Nigel who has considerably better sea legs than I enjoyed the trip, for me however it was blighted by seasickness and indignity!  We headed back to shore for lunch in a place ironically we had had dinner the night before and the same menu.  My thoughts on this trip – would I recommend it? No if you struggle with seasickness or are not comfortable or strong enough clambering back on a boat without steps in choppy seas. I cut my knee and ended up with some bruising on my arms from the efforts to get me back on the boat! Additionally you have to sit sideways on a bench on the boat which makes any nausea worse.

Corcovado National Park – Sirena

Nigel considered doing this tour on his own due to the walking involved however we met a lovely lady at our casa called Judit who had done this tour and she reassured me that this is a flat, slow walking trail so I decided to give it a go as well. It wasn’t a cheap trip at $190 for us both but we couldn’t come to the area without seeing the National Park! Another early morning wet boarding, an hour boat trip (luckily a lot less choppy) a landing on slippery rocks we reached the beach entrance.

Upon arrival we had to sanitise, have a temperature check and change out of our soggy wet shoes from landing to walking shoes. We met up with our guide and off we went!

The walk was indeed flat and slow paced which suited me fine; we saw scarlett macaws and howler.monkeys and a new species of monkey we hadn’t seen yet; spider monkeys! We still hadn’t seen the one animal we were keen to though -the tapir!

We stopped off at the ranger station (where you can stay overnight if you would like to) for a short break. There was food and drink available to buy, and toilets. Our group was a little sluggish so we had a long break before heading back out looking for the elusive tapir. We seemed to walk around for ages looking in her favourite spots, such as a mud pool and the beach but she was nowhere to be seen. Our guide would often run off and look and leave us standing in a group to talk amongst ourselves; at one point next to a crashed plane – we never did find out the history of that!

Unfortunately despite our guides best efforts she was nowhere to be seen. Disappointed we headed back to the beach to get our boat back. As we got there our guide was excitedly hopping about and saying she was right there by the entrance….we followed him through some dense woodland and got a glance of what Nigel thought was a horse…it wasn’t it was the Tapir! We struggled to get a good look until she walked out of the woodland onto a clear path we were amazed by the size of her but also so glad that the tracking efforts of the last couple of hours had not gone unrewarded.

Tapir

Getting back onto the boat was the worst challenge yet..the tide had come in and the waves were really strong. We had to walk through dense woodland to get to the beach further up where it was safer for our boat to dock but even then it was pretty perilous. Walking towards the boat we saw one man get catapulted off the boat when it was hit by a strong wave. Luckily the man escaped relatively unscathed besides some blistering to his hand from a rope burn (oh and very soggy shoes!)

Eventually with the skills of the boat captain and the boat staff we all got aboard safely, cheered the captain and did a virtual high five to each other, very relieved that we had made it aboard safely and were now on our way back to Drake Bay. We had a nice lunch together as a group at Rancho Corcovado Lodge after we got back (included in the price), shared videos and photos and dissected the day. We were with a small but nice group and that certainly adds to the enjoyment of the day.

I would recommend this tour, there were parts where we seemed to be standing around waiting for our guide and sometimes wandering aimlessly but we saw what we came to see and despite our very rough departure all persons were accounted for

Sunset at Drake Bay

It turns out the bay is positioned really well for an amazing sunset. We took a beer to the beach and sat and enjoyed the view. Just a warning there are a lot of bugs on the beach so don’t be like us, if you do it remember to wear bug spray! Also if you don’t fancy the trek down to the beach there are seating points on the way down where you can see it from higher up.

Massage!

A worthy mention in this blog post is the massages that we both got whilst here, both being a little achy we did a google search and found Serenita Massage. We whatsapped and got an appointment for me the same day and for Nigel the next day. Sarita was lovely, really professional and we both felt totally zen after our hour relaxing massage. – We would both highly recommend her.

Final Thoughts

Despite the negative aspects I outlined above about Cano Island we did both really enjoy our time on Drake Bay and Corcovado. It was the ideal end to what has been the most amazing 2 months in Costa Rica and we couldn’t have asked for a better last destination. Visiting here does involve a lot of dodgy boat landings so bring as little luggage with you as possible and if you get seasick then bring tablets! Don’t miss this place because you’ll regret it!

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