Situated near the tip of Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, the town of Puerto Jimenez might not seem like a tourist destination if you were just passing through. On any given day, locals can be seen doing business in the small downtown or tending to their fishing boats bobbing in the bay. But when you see a Scarlet Macaw parrot flash red, blue, and yellow overhead or a dolphin surface in the bay, you’ll soon realize that there’s a lot more to this modest seaside town. In this post, we’ll give you an overview of Puerto Jimenez and explain why it is the perfect outpost for exploring the raw nature of the Osa Peninsula.
Puerto Jimenez is located on the Osa Peninsula, a vast swath of land that juts out into the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone. The town sits on the southeastern side of the peninsula, adjacent to a wide bay called the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf). Aside from a few other small towns, the Osa Peninsula is literally covered with rainforest, much of which is protected as part of the famous Corcovado National Park. Puerto Jimenez is one of the two main jumping off points for visiting Corcovado, the other being Drake Bay on the Pacific side of the peninsula.
Getting to Puerto Jimenez
Part of the appeal of Puerto Jimenez is that it is an off-the-beaten path destination. The two primary ways to get there are by driving or taking a domestic flight/small plane. From the international airport in San Jose, it’s a long seven or so hour drive down the coastal highway and out onto the peninsula. While the roads are all paved, there’s not much around once you get past the small city of Palmar Norte. Many people who add Puerto Jimenez to their itinerary make it their last stop after visiting other destinations along the Pacific Coast, like Manuel Antonio or the Costa Ballena. They then fly back to San Jose on either Nature Air or Sansa to save time. Flights are much faster, taking only about an hour.
Note: There are only a few rental car agencies in Puerto Jimenez that allow you to return your car at the airstrip, and they all charge a fee to do so.
Puerto Jimenez Activities
With incredible rainforest at its doorstep and a glistening bay full of marine life, we were surprised to find when researching our latest visit, that information about tours was somewhat confusing or even misleading. In fact, some of the activities offered through tour-company websites were on the complete other side of the peninsula, better accessed through Drake Bay. But don’t worry, there are plenty of amazing things to see and do. Below we cover the main activities available from town and hopefully clear up some misinformation.
Corcovado National Park
The main attraction in Puerto Jimenez is Corcovado National Park, an expansive 417 sq. km. (161 sq. mile) area of protected rainforest that holds an astonishing amount of biodiversity. Scientists often use this park as their laboratory, and new plant and animal species are being discovered all the time.
Puerto Jimenez is a popular starting point for multi-day hikes in Corcovado, but you can also visit the park just for the day. Below are the most common options.
Multi-Day Hikes – Prearranged through a local guide, these trips have you hike between Corcovado’s different ranger stations. Common routes are from Carate/La Leona to Sirena and back, or Los Patos to Sirena and then on to La Leona/Carate. Accommodations and meals at the ranger outposts are simple, but a dry place to sleep and eat is welcome after hard days of trekking. Book your trip at least 30 days in advance as tickets to the park are limited.
Via Carate/La Leona Ranger Station – This is how we first visited Corcovado many years back. It requires taking the public bus from downtown Puerto Jimenez (actually a truck with bench seats) to the remote village of Carate for about two hours. From the small store/restaurant in Carate, you then have to hike for about 45 minutes before reaching La Leona Ranger Station. Most of this hike is along the beach and is extremely hot. Like all entrances, a registered guide (booked in advance) is required to enter the park. Although this is a long day trip, it is a beautiful hike that will give you a sense of Corcovado’s magical diversity. The adventure of getting there is fun too!
Via Rio Tigre Ranger Station – The Rio Tigre entrance to Corcovado National Park recently opened in 2015. This is very exciting because, unlike La Leona, this entrance is just 25 minutes from downtown Puerto Jimenez, making it ideal for a day trip. The community organization of Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre is in charge of tours through this sector, and making reservations months in advance is not necessary. In addition to a long loop trail (about 7-8 hours) that goes into Corcovado, the community offers a plethora of other tours just outside park limits. These include birdwatching, gold-mining demonstrations, and night tours. For more information about the rural tourism project at Dos Brazos, read out post Corcovado’s El Tigre Entrance: Hiking and Activities from Puerto Jimenez.
Via Sirena Ranger Station (Day Trip) – This is one of the tours offered from Puerto Jimenez on some websites that would be much more logical from Drake Bay. This tour brings you directly to Sirena by charter plane and is quite costly.
A great free activity is enjoying the calm cove right along the edge of town. The main beach stretches south all the way to the Rio Platanares Estuary, which makes for an awesome and easy walk. Unlike many beaches in Costa Rica, the water here is very calm and excellent for swimming.
For a more secluded beach, head to Playa Platanares south of town. This is a long stretch of fluffy sand with crashing waves and some shady palm trees. It is better to drive here (take the road south from the airstrip for 6 km/3.75 miles), but you can also bike or walk if you bring plenty of water and some snacks.
There are two chocolate tours in the area. Rancho Raices is the closest, just 10 minutes outside town. German, the owner, brings you on a tour of his organic farm, letting you taste lots of exotic fruits and vegetables along the way. The real highlight, though, is learning about how to make chocolate from the pod step by step and then tasting it ($35). The other option is Finca Kobo, about 17 km (10 miles) north of Puerto Jimenez. This tour is also of an organic farm and explains the process of chocolate growing and small-scale production ($32).
Osa Wildlife Sanctuary
A favorite tour in the area, the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary located across the bay will get you up close and personal with amazing wildlife. The animals at the sanctuary have all been orphaned, injured, or displaced and are in the process of being rehabilitated. Entrance is $25/pp, but since you need to take a boat here and it is sort of far away, this tour is often combined with a mangrove, dolphin watching, snorkeling, or other tour. Otherwise it will be at least a couple hundred dollars for roundtrip boat transportation alone.
The calm waters of Puerto Jimenez are perfect for paddling. The town has at least three different kayak tour operators and some hotels also offer complimentary kayaks to their guests. One of the best times to take a tour is just before sunset, as you’ll not only see many types of birds and monkeys in the mangroves, but maybe also turtles and dolphins, depending on the tide. Prices for guided kayak tours are around $45 per person.
Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours
The sheltered Golfo Dulce is home to variety of different whales and dolphin species. Humpbacks are the most common (present December to April and July to November), but whale sharks, the world’s largest fish species, can also be seen in smaller numbers from April to May. Several species of dolphins can be seen any time of year, and it’s not uncommon to see huge pods of 100 or more.
Prices for these tours are usually charged by the boat instead of individually, making these tours more expensive (we were quoted $260 for a half-day tour for 3 people). Be sure to shop around because prices vary widely.
Not surprisingly with all the marine life, the fishing is also amazing from Puerto Jimenez. Inshore fishing charters go after roosterfish, snook, jacks, grouper, sharks, and several types of snappers. Offshore trips go out to the mouth of the gulf for sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, and marlin. The peak season for trophy fish is December through April, but fishing is good all year-round. Fishing from shore or kayak is also possible, either guided or on your own. Fishing tackle for do-it-yourselfers can be rented near the town pier.
Hotels in Puerto Jimenez
Below are some recommendations for hotels in Puerto Jimenez. Because it isn’t a very big town, it doesn’t have a ton of options for lodging. Try not to wait too long to book so that you have the best choices.
Something to keep in mind when comparing hotels is whether or not they have air conditioning. Puerto Jimenez is one of the hottest, most humid areas in Costa Rica so even if you don’t normally need A/C, you might appreciate it here.
Iguana Lodge offers a relaxing escape on the secluded Playa Platanares. The property, a few kilometers outside town, has a mix of nicely appointed casitas and rooms. Casitas are around $200 per person/night (includes meal package), rooms $145-180 per night (no meals included). None of the accommodations have A/C; opt for a casita for the best ocean breeze. Check rates and availability here.
For the ultimate in R&R, you’ll have to head south to the popular Lapa Rios. This luxury eco-lodge is set in a private nature reserve near Cabo Matapalo, about 45 minutes south of Puerto Jimenez. Because the property is set off on its own, visitors arrange their activities and meals through the lodge. $340-470 per person, per night (all meals included). Check rates and availability here.
Agua Dulce is a mid-size resort right on the beautiful Playa Platanares. It’s best to have a rental car so that you can get to more restaurant options in town. Rooms range from suites with ocean views to more affordable standard rooms. $80-140. Check rates and availability here.
Corcovado Beach Lodge
This lodge made up of several freestanding bungalows has a prime location right on the bay. Mangroves and tall palms surround the property, drawing wildlife like Scarlet Macaws and howler monkeys. The beach is steps away for swimming and kayaking (use of the lodge’s kayaks is free). While this new hotel still has some fine details to work out, it is a nice place to stay for the location alone. $80-120. Check rates and availability here.
Hotel Inn Jimenez
Hotel Inn Jimenez is a quaint B&B right in the downtown that still manages to feel somewhat secluded. Small gardens surround the property, and the rooms are tastefully decorated. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about area activities. $65, includes A/C. Check rates and availability here.
Las Islas Lodge
This small hotel with excellent service is a good option if you’re traveling with a car. It is located one mile from downtown Puerto Jimenez in a nice quiet location. Rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable, and a good value for the area at around $65-95 (includes A/C and hot water). Check rates and availability here.
You won’t find frills at Cabinas Tropicales, but the rooms are comfortable and have A/C. Nice gardens surround the property, drawing many species of birds. Guests love the owner who is very friendly and knowledgeable about local tours. $50. Check rates and availability here.
For a small patch of civilization in the middle of the rainforest, Puerto Jimenez surely has a lot to offer. The town has all the amenities you need, nature is knocking at your door, and the locals are friendly and laid back. If you’re looking for a destination to connect with nature, this outpost on the Osa is definitely worth a stop.
Have you visited Puerto Jimenez or stayed nearby? Let us know about your experience in the comments below (email subscribers click here to post a comment online).
Looking for more information to help you plan your trip? Check out these posts:
- Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – Before you jump into the driver’s seat and head to Puerto Jimenez, read our tips on what driving is like and how to stay safe on the roads.
- Best Hotels Near SJO Airport – If you need to stay near the airport in San Jose, don’t settle for a stale room with no character—you are on vacation, after all! Instead, check out our recommendations for charming places that will ease the transition to/from the real world.
- Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged – If you love wildlife and beaches, Drake Bay is another Osa Peninsula destination to consider. Arguably harder to get to than Puerto Jimenez, you can definitely unwind and unplug here.