Osa through eyes of local guides
By Jani Schulz
Tours run by local residents born and bred on the Osa Peninsula let visitors see beyond the surface of the region's natural beauty, while providing an essential contribution to the conservation and economy of this wild frontier. Witness the local way of life, share their food, learn their traditions, and discover the natural wonders through the eyes of someone that grew up with macaws and jaguars as next door neighbors.
As a responsible visitor to Osa, ask your lodge for a list of locally run tours. The kind treatment and earnest friendship that is extended to you will stay with you for the rest of your life. One travel guide states that people visit Costa Rica for its natural beauty, but they return because of the people. Nowhere is this truer than on the Osa Peninsula.
- Osa Rainforest Tour: hike through a lowland rainforest – one of the richest ecosystems on Earth – near the town of Guadalupe outside of La Palma. Contact owner Merlin Oviedo at: 2745-1111.
- Finca Kobo Chocolate: located in Palo Seco between La Palma and Puerto Jimenez, this tour highlights one of the most important native trees, the cocoa. Begin with a stroll through an organic cocoa plantation where you sample fresh fruit produced on the farm along with pure liquid chocolate. Contact owner Alex Retana at: 8398-7864.
- Miramar Canopy Zipline: ideal for thrill-seekers and safe for children, certified guides will lead you on a ride through the jungle canopy above the town of Puerto Jimenez with a view of the Golfo Dulce. Miramar also offers a night canopy tour for the more adventurous. Contact owner James Mesen at: 8399-8763.
- Waterfall Rappelling: trek to the La Clarita waterfall on a locally owned property where your guide will teach you the art of rappelling down the face of a waterfall to a swimming hole 11 meters below. Guests repeatedly call this tour the thrill of a lifetime. Contact guide Dennis Atencio at Crocodile Bay Lodge: 2735-5631.
- Horseback Riding: explore the interior of the Osa Peninsula on horseback along farms and jungle trails, while enjoying fantastic ocean views and abundant wildlife. The tour is located in Sandalwood. Contact owner Walter Aguirre at: 8377-6861.
- Night Walk in the Forest: the rainforest comes alive at night with active nocturnal creatures such as red eye tree frogs, glowing insects, alligators, snakes and more. With flashlights in hand, follow your experienced local guide as you seek to uncover the secrets of the night. Contact owner Manuel Morales at: 8975-3027.
- Artisan Gold Mining: before becoming an ecotourism destination, Osa was famous for its gold deposits. Head to the Tigre River Valley, which runs into the Corcovado National Park, where you’ll try your luck at gold mining, and possibly go home with a few grams of gold! Contact owner Rafael at: 8628-4543.
- La Tarde Archaeological Tour: La Tarde, a valuable archeological site where researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have unearthed artifacts dating back thousands of years, offers local accommodations and various tours by horse and foot through pristine rainforest bordering Corcovado National Park. Owner Carlos Eduardo Castro Rojas books his tours through Osa Aventura at: 2735-5670.
- Tigrito Fishing Tour: cast your rod next with the legendary El Tigrito, a former gold miner turned artisan fishing guide who lives on the beach in the Los Mogos area of Osa. Tigrito, with his gold teeth and unmatched fishing instincts, will opt for a spool and hand thrown line, after giving you a choice between his 40-year-old boat carved from a fallen tree or a new fiberglass boat – both equipped with motors. His big kind smile, legendary stories and patience in teaching local fishing methods, make this a truly unique excursion. Reserve a trip in advance with Tigrito: 8839-8838
- Lapamar Tours: Lapamar is a small lodge at Playa Blanca near La Palma just a few steps from the gulf. Guests enjoy amazing food and conversation in the “Rancho” as scarlet macaws and fly overhead. Lodge owners Ysenia and Alvaro (a.k.a. Flaco or “skinny”) offer tours such as kayaking through mangroves or hiking through rainforest during which they share many secrets of the region unknown to most outsiders. Visit www.lapamar.com or call: 2735-1347.