Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica is a portion of the Puntarenas province and is situated in the South Pacific. It is regarded as one of the most legendary locations to tour or live in Costa Rica and Central America. Long lengths of pristine white sand beaches are contrasted with the turquoise sea that glistens in the light. Numerous plant and animal species can only be found in this region such as the Pentagonia osapinnata pictured below. The Peninsula is truly a national treasure, as it occupies less than 0.001% of the planet’s total surface area and is thought to contain 2.5% of all the world’s biodiversity, making it the greatest concentration of life in the world, covering an area of just 700 square miles.
All types of beach and water sports, including swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the warm Pacific seas, are ideal on the Osa Peninsula. Kayaking in caverns or mangroves, whale and dolphin watching, sport fishing, and many more activities are also available. Even from the coast, you may be lucky enough to spot whales breaching in the distance.
Due to the tropical environment of the Osa Peninsula, there is a lot of heat and humidity. Rarely do the temperatures drop below 26 degrees Celsius, and the humidity is generally relatively high all year round. The dry season is from December to May if you want to catch as many rays as possible, which frequently make their way to the Osa Peninsula during the wet season.
How to travel to the Peninsula
Many visitors that go to the Osa Peninsula choose to fly thanks to the regional airline Sansa Air and their Cessna Grand Caravans (propeller planes), which seat up to 14 people. Daily flights are available from the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José. You may fly into Osa via Drake Bay on the northwest side of the Peninsula, or Puerto Jimenez, on the southeast.
From the international airport in San Jose (SJO), you can reach the Osa Peninsula in 5-6 hours by car, depending on traffic and weather. Highway 34 hugs the Pacific coastline and passes through a few charming small communities worth seeing. Dominical is a lovely little town for its fantastic beaches, laid-back lifestyle, and superb surfing. Another serene town, Uvita, is home to beautiful beaches and Marino Ballena National Park, popularly called the Whale’s Tail from the natural phenomenon that has formed on its coast. Both are worth taking your time to explore thoroughly.
History of the Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula has been inhabited since 6,000 BC, and several indigenous tribes like the Chiriqu and Borucas used to hunt there in the thick forests. This region’s extraordinarily high biodiversity level is mainly due to the land bridge connecting the two enormous continents.
Numerous locations in the area, notably the Diquis Delta and Isla del Cao off the Pacific coast of the Osa, have near perfectly round stone spheres of various sizes that are assumed to have been fashioned by early indigenous people. The Osa peninsula and the mainland are connected by a narrow isthmus, which includes the Diquis Delta. The cultural significance of the stone spheres is unknown to archaeologists, and no folklore explains what it may have been, making it an uncracked mystery to this day.
A gold rush in this area began in the 1930s and persisted until Corcovado National Park was created in 1975. Small-scale gold mining that is unlawful and harmful to the environment has continued for years. This includes the use of mercury to extract gold. Thankfully, strict rules are in place today to regulate mining activities and the unlawful hunting and poaching that appear to go hand in hand with them.
The Osa peninsula is the home of 140 different kinds of mammals including sizable populations of endangered species including the Squirrel Monkey and Scarlet Macaw. The animals that tourists see the most frequently, besides monkeys are coatis, agoutis, collared and white-lipped peccaries, and tapirs. If you keep a good eye out when trekking around Corcovado, you could even glimpse an anteater. As of a recent survey, the Osa Peninsula is home to 463 different bird species. It’s common to see Toucans feasting on the treetops, their beaks like bananas, they make a lot of noise and are entertaining to watch.
Many travelers come to Costa Rica in search of seeing the monkeys. If that’s the case, you won’t be sorry you went to the Osa. Arguably the most famous or should I say infamous of them all is the White-Faced Capuchin who can be seen regularly foraging in sizable groups throughout the day in the treetops. They are frequently seen interacting with the spider monkeys chasing them away from their favorite food sources. In a jungle lodge’s open spaces like the kitchen, or the dining room, they may be amusing for you to watch as they try to grab and eat everything that isn’t nailed down.
The endangered Spider Monkeys usually form into small groups and move across the canopy at great heights while consuming food. They are highly territorial and can swing and jump incredibly far across trees to reach their favored meals. They like to hang there by their prehensile tails to eat and when they begin to chew, the sound of them chittering can be considered soothing to some.
The Mantled Howler Monkey the loudest of all monkeys has a reputation for scaring many unknowing tourists as they sound much larger and more dangerous than they actually are. They start howling in the early morning, generally around 4:30 a.m., to signal to other groups of howlers where they are eating and to keep away. They have a unique sound like a roaring, loud bark, or a growling scream in the distance and can be especially startling when nearby.
The majestic Jaguar is the apex predator at the top of the food chain on the Osa Peninsula which can weigh up to 250 pounds. But there are drawbacks to being a top predator. The declining white-lipped peccary is the preferred prey of the few remaining jaguars on the Osa. The peccary population has been ravaged by illegal hunting to the point that this magnificent creature is now seriously endangered. One of the most crucial locations for the preservation of this species is the Osa Peninsula, which was designated a Jaguar Conservation Site in 1999.
The Osa Peninsula is a botanist’s paradise, home to an astonishing 700 types of trees and plants, including 800 varieties of ferns and 30 varieties of the omnipresent heliconia. The over 250-foot-tall Silk Cotton tree at Corcovado National Park is the biggest tree in Central America.
The ficus trees offer much-needed fruit for foraging monkeys, birds, and ground-dwelling creatures in addition to a variety of fruit-producing palm trees; luckily, monkeys are messy eaters and drop a lot of fruit to keep the forest well seeded!
A typical food source for Scarlet Macaws is the abundance of wild almond trees that border the shoreline close to beaches. When you observe these trees, take a closer look; chances are you’ll probably notice a Scarlet Macaw attempting to remove nuts from their visibly orange husk.
Golfito, a little town in the South Pacific very close to the Peninsula, is ideal for anyone looking to purchase appliances or entertainment systems and wine enthusiasts to add to their collection. Golfito is Costa Rica’s largest duty-free retail district and not just a center for sport fishing. Since the import taxes on items are reduced, frugal customers from all across the nation benefit from the low costs of electronics and appliances. Purchase limits are $1,000 USD twice per year for each individual person you bring with you to Golfito that presents their passport or DIMEX.
The Golfito Duty-Free Zone was established to encourage tourism to the area and to provide tax breaks to Costa Rican citizens. To ensure that tourism is introduced to the area, they encourage you to spend the night in Golfito as it is a requirement before you’re able to take advantage of the tax-reduced shopping. When you arrive at Golfito, we recommend the first thing you do is request your shopping authorization card (TAC) at the Customs Offices in order to prove your overnight stay.
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