Costa Rica

Wildlife At Its Best @ Osa Peninsula

Wildlife At Its Best @ Osa Peninsula

July 2023

We were off to the coast, this time it was the Pacific coast again. The final highlight of our stay in Costa Rica was waiting for us, and that was the Osa Peninsula. On the way, we got some groceries, refilled our water tank and admired some more Macaws during a lunch stop at the Marino Ballena National Park. With a kilometer-long winding road with a green wall of jungle on either side, it soon became clear to us that we were now in the largest contiguous area of forest in Costa Rica. In fact, the entire range of plants and animals that Costa Rica has to offer lives on this peninsula and of course we did not want to miss it!


We had heard from other travellers that Playa Blanca is a great overnight spot to get acquainted with Osa. Located on the Golfo Dulce, we sought a spot there along the pebbly beach and wondered where the name “Playa Blanca” came from. The beach could be called black rather than white. What was definitely not black were the motley Scarlet macaws (Scharlachara) that had gathered in a large group in a tree along the beach, making themselves well heard with their loud cries. We put on our swimwear and tried to get a swim in in the shallow water, but no matter how far we walked into the water, it never reached our knees. At least the necessary cooling was provided.


As we lowered ourselves into our camping chairs, we briefly thought we were in a wildlife park. The macaws had apparently had enough and took to the skies in search of another suitable place to make noise. As we looked up to wave goodbye to the macaws, we discovered a sloth right above our car, which was currently busy getting rid of some mosquitoes before it sought a spot higher up in the tree in preparation for the night.  A couple of green sea turtles were gasping for breath every few minutes about 10 meters from us in the calm water. This is the picture we had of Costa Rica.

In Puerto Jimenez, we had a few things to take care of in preparation for a hike we wanted to do tomorrow in Corcovado National Park. For this park, they have devised a complicated and time-consuming system to get entry tickets. Initially, we were required to register ourselves by e-mail with SINAC, the company that manages the national parks in Costa Rica. SINAC then did send a payment order that we had to transfer at Banco Popular in Puerto Jimenez. We didn’t understand this way of doing things in a country where cash withdrawals and digital transfers are already the most normal thing in the world. We e-mailed back the payment receipt and went in search of something to eat first. 

Then, after a good hour, the redeeming e-mail came back from the SINAC, confirming that we would have access to the park tomorrow. Our chosen spot for the night was just outside the town limits of Jimenez at the Golfo de Dulce bay. The last three kilometres were unpaved towards the beach where a deer almost ran into our car before we reached the beach. In the distance on the other side of the bay, we could see dark clouds gathering over the mainland.

If we still wanted to swim in the sea, we had to hurry. A typical European way of thinking, we found out. Because a “Tico”(Costa Rican) doesn’t shy away from a downpour and will sit quietly in his beach chair until the shower has blown over, or will dive into the water just then, while our first thought is to find shelter. We saw our chance to shower off the salt water and sweat and, dressed in swimwear, we walked outside and let the thick warm drops do the work. When calm had returned and we sat in our chairs outside drinking a cup of coffee, we noticed our surprise guest for today. This time it was an owl taking a nap right above our car on a branch of a tree.

The park consists of different sectors with corresponding different entrances. We had chosen La Leona sector because it is the only place where we were admitted as day guests without a guide. The cost of a walk with a guide was simply too high for us. The alarm clock sounded as early as 5:00 a.m. Getting up nice and early was the motto for the past few days and we were almost starting to get used to it. Before we reached the park entrance, we had to drive another 40 kilometres of ‘unpaved’ road. On the way, we could already observe several bird species namely the Ringed kingfisher (Rotbrustfischer), a Yellow-headed Caracara (Gelbkopfkarakara) and probably another buzzard species.


At the ‘airfield’ of Carate, we parked and set out to walk. We passed the first river for the day. With a huge jump, we avoided having to immediately take off our hiking boots. Continuing walking parallel to the beach, we dove into the jungle on our way to La Leona Ranger Station. The first two kilometres were still outside the park boundaries, but this did not mean that we did not get to see any wildlife. A big anteater took little notice of us and slowly climbed its way up a tree. Its long snout and large front legs including a kind of hook make it much easier to get its daily dose of ants, which it gobbles up.

In terms of wildlife, this walk was a success! A Lineated woodpecker (Linienspecht), a Common black hawk (Krabbenbussard), two Crested Caracara (Schopfkarakara), a Yellow-throated toucan (Goldkehltukan), a Gartered Trogon (Grünschwanztrogon), several families of Coatis, another anteater, several owl butterflies, a Agouti (Aguti), Scarlet Macaws (Scharlachara), several monkey species including Titi monkey (Springaffen) and Spider monkey (Klammeraffen) and many small birds.

In total, we walked for more than seven hours alternately through the jungle and along the beach. The somewhat difficult preparation and remote location on the south side of the peninsula had been well worth it! We found one last beautiful spot under the palm trees and walked in the dark with our torches along the beach in search of turtles. Unfortunately, we were not successful in our search. But the view of the ocean the next morning was still beautiful. 


With an overnight stay in the small town of Neily, we headed for the border to Panama. We parked the car right in the centre close to a small park for the night. It was Friday night and reason enough for the local youth to keep us awake until late at night. Early in the morning then, it was the Red-lored parrots (Rotstirnamazonen) who saw it as their job to continue the racket although the screeching of these beautiful green birds was a lot more pleasant. Adios Costa Rica and Pura Vida!!!


Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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