Off the Grid in the Osa: Exploring Costa Rica's Last Frontier

Discover Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula with travel writer Travis Marshall, as he goes deep into Corcovado National Park for some eco-adventure.
  |  Gorp.com
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Capucin monkey in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Capucin monkey in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica  (iStockphoto)

I press my face to a window enveloped by wet-season rain clouds, droplets streaking across the glass as turbulence lurches the 10-seater prop plane around the sky. When the aircraft breaks through the weather and banks over Costa Rica’s rainforest-clad southern Pacific Coast, I see the dark expanse of Golfo Dulce coming up fast. We buzz the tops of the boats anchored off Puerto Jimenez before skidding onto the remote town's tiny airstrip, alongside the local cemetery.

This is the easy way into the Osa Peninsula. Driving from San Jose, it can take upwards of eight hours to reach this far corner of southwest Costa Rica, situated just north of the Panama border. It has an off-the-grid atmosphere akin to what you might have found in Arenal and Guanacaste 20 years ago, before modern highways blazed a now-worn path among more convenient eco-hotspots.

The dogleg peninsula is a veritable lost world surrounded on three sides by untamed Pacific waters, its volcanic spine dominated by the Corcovado National Park. A rich corridor of primary rainforest, Corcovado is one of the most wildlife-dense places anywhere, home to around 2 percent of the planet's biodiversity in an area smaller than California’s Redwoods National Park.

Literally and figuratively, Osa is the wild west of Costa Rica. Just 50 years ago, it was a semi-lawless land, rich in gold, where transient Ticos could stake a claim by clearing the forest. The main town of Puerto Jimenez was a rough-and-tumble den of miners and traders, complete with an oversized helping of Dodge City-style saloons and brothels. Today, Puerto Jimenez may be a friendly, albeit ramshackle, seaside village of a couple thousand people, but it’s still entirely possible to spot prospectors fresh from the forest, plunking down glittering nuggets in place of cash.

Published: 7 Feb 2013 | Last Updated: 11 Feb 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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