Trip Report: El Remanso Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica (December 2009)

National Geographic Magazine labeled Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula ‘one of the most biologically intense places on Earth’.  Costa Rica as a whole has “wow” factor, but the Osa, on the south Pacific coast, is in a league of its own.  This Central American country is home to 4% of the world’s biodiversity and 3% can be found in the Osa.  My first visit there was in May 2007 and I was blown away by its wildness and sheer abundance of plants and animals.

I’m not sure when I first heard about El Remanso Lodge near Puerto Jimenez, but the property has been on my “to-visit” list for a few years now.  The lodge has a reputation for conservation and sustainability, while providing luxury and comfort in the heart of the forest.   Conservation and sustainability are requirements for properties to be on our list of preferred suppliers at a destination.  When a few friends of mine asked me to put together a December trip to Costa Rica, I knew the Osa was the place to go.  This was also the perfect opportunity to check out El Remanso.

We drove to the Osa from San Jose with an overnight in Cerro de la Muerte so we could see the elusive resplendent quetzal.  Costa Rica is only the size of West Virginia, but winding roads, large trucks, and potholes make for a slow drive.  The total drive time from San Jose to the lodge with rest stops took approximately 9.5 hours.

View from classic cabin

Day 1

I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof, waves crashing along the shore in the distance, and howler monkeys establishing their territories before dawn.  December is considered the dry season, but the Osa gets 4-7 meters (160-280 inches!) of rainfall each year.  Rain is a distinct possibility during your stay, but don’t let that deter you.

Beach access from lodge

After breakfast, the four of us walked down to the beach.  El Remanso has beachfront access, but it is a 15-20 minute walk downhill (~1/2 mile; 400 ft change in elevation) to get there.  It’s worth it.  When we got to the beach, not another person was in sight.  If you hit the beach at low tide, you can even relax in a natural jacuzzi at the tide pools.

I didn’t want to overdo it on my first day, so I opted for an afternoon massage.  Listening to macaws squawk at each other like old married  couples did nothing to take away from the relaxation.  This was the best massage I’ve ever had.

Day 2

Another early morning wake-up call by howler monkeys.  It rained again last night, but stopped by breakfast.  We chose to do the long guided hike with Gerardo, the lodge’s resident naturalist, this morning.  Highlight species during the hike included spider monkey, chestnut-mandibled toucan, walking palm, and red-capped manakin.  The red-capped manakin is famous for its courtship dance that looks like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.  You can check out the courting male’s dance moves on YouTube.


Day 3

This afternoon, I opted for the waterfall rappelling tour while my three amigas went surfing at Cabo Matapalo.  El Remanso has several waterfalls on site and the rappelling tour includes navigating four waterfalls of increasing height along a river canyon.  The last waterfall is 70-feet high.  This was definitely a wet and wild adventure!  As I waited for other members of the group along the way, I was treated with views of howler monkeys overhead and Golfo Dulce dart frogs along the river’s edge.

Golfo Dulce dart frog

The day ended with a presentation by Aida Bustamante of Yaguara Cat Conservation Project.  Aida is one of the primary researchers on the project and she regularly give talks on wild cat conservation in the Osa.  Jaguars still roam the forests in and around Corcovado National Park and El Remanso’s reserve is an important buffer zone for the park.  Yaguara is hoping to help protect crucial habitat for jaguars, in addition to other cats (puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, and margay), tapirs, and peccaries (a valuable food source for the cats).  Yaguara is using a combination of remote cameras and radiotelemetry to monitor populations.

Day 4

I opted for the birding tour this morning.  Three other birders from the lodge and Gerardo rounded out the group.  For this tour, we drove along the road to Puerto Jimenez until we came to an opening in the forest, i.e. cattle fields.  This spot provided several habitats in close proximity (ocean, mature forest, pasture, and plantation).  The birding here was great and within an hour, we spotted  34 species.  Highlights included roseate spoonbill, veraguan mango, pearl kite, and scarlet macaw.

Day 5

To drive to the Osa, it takes a full day.  To fly, much shorter.  NatureAir and Sansa have flights connecting Puerto Jimenez and San Jose.  NatureAir doesn’t fly to San Jose International Airport, so if you’re going to catch a connecting flight, Sansa may be a better choice.  Flight time was  approximately one hour with a brief stop in Drake Bay.

El Remanso Lodge is in line with the level of service and commitment to sustainability we value at Reefs to Rockies.  As a result of this scouting trip, we now offer a variety of itineraries that incorporate the Osa and a stay at El Remanso.  A portion of the proceeds from these trips will help fund Yaguara’s research and jaguar conservation in the area.  Check out our website ( for more details.