What to See and Expect From the Pearl of Costa Rica, the South Pacific Coast

 July 12th, 2014 |    mangotree

You have picked the most gorgeous part of Costa Rica to visit and stay, the “Pearl of Costa Rica”, the South Coast. This part of Costa Rica is mostly unknown, even to many native Costa Ricans. It is only in the last 5 years that the coastal road was paved and only late last fall, 2010 that the coastal road was paved and opened between Quepos to Dominical. Prior to that, you had to drive over a very bumpy unpleasant road or drive the mountain route from San Jose to San Isidro and then to Dominical and further South.

Many people come to the South coast to visit the OSA Peninsula where more biodiversity has been expressed in plant and animal life than any other place on the planet. Sierpe, a fishing town on the OSA Peninsula is the departure point for many trips through the Mangroves to go fishing in the best fishing grounds off the coast, or to Caño Island to go snorkeling. Between Sierpe and Palmar Sur is where the new International airport is to be built. When? “Soon”, the say. Drake Bay is another interesting day trip out of Sierpe.

Driving north from the OSA Peninsula, the new Cortes Hospital was recently built near Cortes as well as a number of eco-building communities. One is OSA Mountain Village and the other is La Joya Perfecta. Just north of these two communities is a hardware store. The Mangroves are along the Pacific between Palmar Norte and Coronado. Just off the highway and north of the hardware store is San Buenas De Ventura. Here the owners have built the first Golf course in Southern Costa Rica. Just north of San Buenas the beautiful Costeña Mountains begins to slip into and border the Pacific Ocean. At the entrance to Coronado the first bowling alley is about to be constructed. This is also the entrance to Tres Rios de Coronado.

The most southern hotel/villa Spa rental location is in Tres Rios de Coronado at the Mango Tree Spa. While Tres Rios is not on most maps it is a very special small pueblo with glorious mountains, jungle, the Coronado River running alongside the pueblo all the way out to sea at Punta Mala. Vergel has a camping hotel, a dog kennel and two wonderful Talapia Restaurants. Tres Rios and Vergel both offer many river adventures both for hiking and exploring.

North of here is a research marine biology station on the way down to the Isla de Tortugas. It was here that Hurricane Mitch changed the whole terrain of the Terraba River mouth. Before Hurricane Mitch large ships traveled up the river to Cortes. Back then it was approximately 60 feet deep. After Mitch the mouth of the river filled in and wiped out all the concession stands and huts on the beach. During low tide the river mouth and river are almost a sand bar. There is very little river left.

North of Playa Tortuga is the road into Ojochal, a very French and Canadian community with a few Americans. The area is gradually building with gorgeous homes spotting the mountain sides. There are three of the top restaurants in all of Costa Rica right here in Ojochal, Citrus (cosmopolitan), Exotica (French) and Ilang Ilang (Indonesian). Ojochal has a nice small grocery store and a couple of hotels. Just north is another progressing hardware store that now has many items not here 4 years ago. North of here is a liquor, gift, diving and grocery store. About a km. further north are more beaches: Ventanas and Pinuela. Ventanas is a must see with its two caves at low tide.

Before the next town north are two more hotels, Crystal Balleña and Mar y Selva. The next town (about 15 minutes driving North) is Uvita (grape in Spanish). This town is very Gringo with a number of start-up businesses that weren’t completed with the economic turn-around in 2008. Still, there is a vet, two excellent grocery stores, a small Saturday market and more beaches, Playa Ballena and Ballena Park with the Whales Tale beach. Here one can snorkel, but it is not as good as a trip to Caño Island through Sierpe. This is a wonderful long beach for hiking.

Going further north (about 20 minutes) are a couple of more hotels, La Casinga and Cuña de Angel, just off the highway. Finally, you will arrive at Dominical, a well developed seaside type of town with many young hippies, restaurants, hotels and potential drugs. This is a very young people’s town with an older presence. It was the beginning of the Southern corridor for many years before the road and development started to happen south of here. You have now reached the northern extension of the Costeña Mountains where they no longer slip into the Pacific, but have moved back inland. Here the road splits for you to choose to drive north to Quepos and Jaco or turn toward San Isidro and the mountain route back to San Jose.

The total distance between Dominical to OSA is 1 ½ hours to 2 hours depending how far down the Peninsula you might want to venture. Uvita is about 20 minutes South of Dominical and Coronado is about half way between Dominical and OSA. Depending on where and what you are planning to do, choose your vacation rental to optimize your driving time.

By Rosemary MacGregor



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Tags: Coronado, Cortes, Ojochal, OSA PENINSULA, Pearl of Costa Rica, Sierpe, south Pacific Coast