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Experiencing Drake Bay and snorkeling at Caño Island

My name is Yannik, I'm from Germany, 25 years old, studying International Tourism Management and currently doing a 5-month internship at CRS Tours here in Costa Rica. After about two months of my internship, I got the fantastic opportunity to do a hotel inspection for the agency in Drake Bay and would like to tell you about my experiences.

We often do inspections of the hotels we offer to our customers to make sure that the service etc. is up to standard. These inspections are very important in order to offer our customers the best hotels and tours.


Now I had the opportunity to do one of these inspections myself and was sent to Drake Bay, part of the Osa Peninsula on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, which is mostly accessible only by boat and full of wildlife and untouched nature. Drake Bay is home of the Corcovado National Park and the perfect place to visit Caño Island, both places that were very high on my "to-see list" in Costa Rica. It was an amazing experience and I'm very grateful to have gotten such an opportunity as an intern.


Due to the long distance from San Jose, where our office is, to Drake Bay, I got two days off and left early Thursday morning. As previously described, Drake Bay is mainly accessible by boat, which is why I first took the bus from San Jose to Sierpe. Sierpe is a small town that feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, from where most boats leave to Drake Bay. There are 3 riverfront restaurants where boats leave, as well as some small cabinas, a tiny police station and a small mom and pop shop. The bus ride to Sierpe had many beautiful views, but took over 6 hours and I was pretty tired when I finally arrived.



Since the last boat to Drake Bay had already left that day, I booked into one of the small cabinas to spend the night in Sierpe and take the boat to my hotel the next morning. I went to one of the restaurants on the waterfront, ordered some food and enjoyed the view of the river and was looking forward to the following days in Drake Bay.



The next morning, I went to the restaurant where I had eaten the night before at 10:00 and ordered a fruit salad for breakfast while waiting for my boat. The boat was relatively large and had space for about 20 people plus luggage. This boat had two huge outboard motors which the captain took full advantage of. All passengers got life jackets and then they started across the rivers around Sierpe towards Drake Bay. Our experienced captain steered the boat insanely fast but still safely through the rivers and successfully avoided the driftwood and other boats on the water.


The ride on the rivers was very quiet and was a great experience even though the weather was very cloudy and it was partly raining. The boats are covered though, so you don’t get wet. After about 45 minutes we reached the transition between river and sea and had to overcome some relatively large waves by boat. Personally, I did not mind, but I can imagine that some others may get seasick on this part of the journey. After being on the ocean, it is only about 15 minutes to reach Drake Bay. The bay is full of small fishing boats as well as excursion boats but there is nowhere where boats can dock. Instead, the boats drive backwards as close to the beach as possible, pulling the outboard motors up and docking on the beach. Then the luggage of the passengers is carried off the boat by workers from the boat and hotel employees and brought to the beach. You jump off the boat yourself and walk the last couple of feet through the water. Therefore, I recommend either putting on waterproof shoes or sandals or just getting off the boat barefoot. The staff are all very helpful in getting out, but the boat still floats between the waves and you might get wet. I think it was a great experience and something you do not experience every day.


All in all, the boat trip took about an hour and then I arrived at my hotel, the Pirate Cove. A great hotel with only a few rooms and bungalows which felt very cozy. The other travelers and I were greeted on the beach by the staff and led to the hotel entrance. It's just a short walk along the beach and the luggage is brought from the beach to the hotel by a quaint old Toyota Landcruiser. To get to the reception, we went up a wooden staircase and were greeted with a refreshing fruit juice, checked in and got our room keys



As I was here due to the inspection, I was met by one of the owners of the hotel and got a tour of the premises. After the tour it was already time for lunch and I got a super delicious typical Costa Rican dish and had lunch with the hotel owner and talked about the area and the hotel. After lunch, I took a short break to check out my room. I was in the best room of the hotel and had a terrific view of the bay and beach and even had a hammock on my balcony from which I enjoyed the view.



A little later I went to the open air dining room for a coffee and talked to another traveler. We decided together to explore the area for a while and walked along the beach until it got too dark and we had to turn back. I guess we walked about 5 km back and forth and did not see another person the entire time, but instead several toucans and many other animals. Drake Bay is a truly magical place, and being surrounded by nature was a great experience. After the long walk, I relaxed briefly in the pool of the hotel before it was time for dinner, during which I met some other German tourists and got into conversation with them about Costa Rica. Since everyone had to get up early the next morning, we went to bed relatively early and I slept like a stone.


The next morning, I got up at 6 o'clock, because we left at 7 o'clock for Caño Island to go snorkeling there. Caño Island is a small uninhabited island about 11 miles from Drake Bay which is full of wildlife and unspoilt nature. The number of visitors per day is limited to protect the island and all visitors must be registered in advance. The excursion started with trying on swim fins and getting to know our guides. Then we went on the boat and we drove about 45 minutes to the island. Here we received our snorkeling equipment and were instructed by the guides and then it was time to get into the water! It was the first time I was snorkeling and I was a bit skeptical at first, but after jumping from the boat into the water I was immediately convinced how great snorkeling is. Swimming with the fins and breathing with the snorkel mask was a bit odd at first, but I quickly got used to it and just enjoyed and admired the view. Around Caño Island there are many coral reefs and tons of colorful fish that I've never seen before in my life. Within the first 10 minutes we saw a reef shark and a huge turtle. It was an incredible experience. We made a total of two dives, each about 45 minutes and in between taking a break on the beach of the island. The guides were with us in the water and showed where there was something to see and what it was. During the breaks we got fresh pineapple and watermelon and explanations of the fish we saw in the water. It was an incredible time and something that I have to repeat! After the second dive we drove back to the hotel where I spent the rest of the day taking turns in the pool and hammock, reflecting on the snorkeling experience. In the evening we had another delicious dinner and then I went to bed relatively early.


The next morning it was unfortunately time to leave again and I went by boat back to Sierpe. From here I took the bus back to San Jose and got home in the early evening. It was a fantastic weekend and a unique opportunity that I could not have dreamed of as an intern.



By Yannik Rehling