Drake Bay Costa Rica: Unique 3-Day Itinerary

Looking for the best things to do in Drake Bay Costa Rica? We’ve got you covered. Drake Bay is a stunning destination known for its wildlife, beaches, and rainforests, and we loved our time here.

Many of the places we visited on our two-week Costa Rica trip were fairly popular tourist destinations, and for the last portion of our travels, we wanted to stay somewhere quieter and remote. 

Drake Bay offers visitors just that because it is more difficult to reach.  The town right off the bay is called Aguijitas and has a population of only around 1,000.  Most of the roads are unpaved; there are no ATMs, banks, or strings of tourist shops.

In contrast to the wildlife and tourist-filled Manuel Antonio National Park or the Monteverde zip lines, Drake Bay was the perfect way to escape the crowds before heading home.

From snorkeling at Caño Island to hiking along the beautiful coastline, there is so much to do, yet everything feels so…calm.  This 3-day itinerary includes the best of what Drake Bay has to offer; we hope you can enjoy this remote paradise as much as we did.

Getting to Drake Bay

Three main options for getting to Drake Bay are plane, boat, and 4×4 vehicle.  

By Boat from Sierpe

Taking a boat from Sierpe is one of the most straightforward ways to get to Drake Bay, and you get the experience of boating through the mangrove-surrounded Sierpe River.  Like our jeep-boat-jeep transportation from La Fortuna to Monteverde, we loved the boat ride experience. It was like a mini tour in and of itself.

We booked a shared shuttle service with EasyRideCostaRica online ahead of time to transport us from Manuel Antonio to the town of Sierpe, where we were dropped off at La Perla del Sur restaurant, where the majority of the boats leave for Drake Bay (at 1130 or 1530). 

Our shuttle service purchased tickets for us, but it is also easy to purchase them yourself if not already included in your transfer.  Just talk to anyone in the restaurant; we found most of these restaurant employees spoke at least basic English.

By Plane

Flying to Drake Bay is another great option, as the flights from San José to the Drake Bay airport are fairly inexpensive.  The flight is about 40 minutes, and there are several flights per day, more during the high season. 

By Private Vehicle

This is a more difficult option, but could also be part of the adventure.  Driving to Drake Bay during the rainy season is not recommended as many of the roads are not well maintained, but driving during the dry season with a 4×4 vehicle is feasible. 

Make sure to refill your gas tank in the town of Chacarita before continuing, as there are no gas stations beyond this point (including once at Drake Bay)

NOTE: there is no landing dock at Drake Bay, so it is a beach landing.  Be prepared to get your feet wet; either bring shoes that are appropriate for water or be ready to take your shoes off before hopping out of the boat.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at a very basic Airbnb about a ¼ mile walk from the beachfront on Camino Aerodromo.  The rooms, kitchen, and shared bathroom had a very ‘glamping,’ almost outdoors feel, but it had everything we needed for the few days we were there.

an airbnb kitchen at Drake Bay Costa Rica with wood plank flooring and a refrigerator

Day 1 Drake Bay Costa Rica Itinerary: Travel to Drake Bay and Ocean Kayaking

We had decided to reach Drake Bay via boat (departing from Sierpe). We were picked up at 7:15 from our Airbnb near Manuel Antonio by our shared shuttle service, EasyRideCostaRica, and arrived at the Sierpe boat dock by around 9:30. 

We had breakfast at La Perla del Sur Restaurant while we waited for our departure time, and by 11:30, we were on the boat headed to Drake Bay via Rio Sierpe. 

We LOVED this ride; it’s almost like a small tour in and of itself.  The trip takes you through river sections with mangrove trees on both sides and then out into the open ocean. 

Kayaking in the Ocean

We decided to spend our first afternoon exploring the Drake Bay coastline via kayak.  The beach vendor we rented from had a credit card machine (some don’t, and there are no ATMs at Drake Bay), which was fantastic because we were trying to conserve our cash. 

We paid $20 for two hours with a two-person kayak and headed out into the ocean.  The ocean kayaking wasn’t my favorite.  We are fairly inexperienced kayakers, and the waves made it difficult. 

However, we found a river inlet to explore, which was fantastic.  The water was calm and we could paddle upstream and see quite a few birds.   

two tourists in a kayak out in the ocean near Drake Bay Costa Rica

We ended the day with dinner at a local restaurant, Casa El Tortugo.  I ordered a very acidic oyster ceviche, but I loved the experience of eating something so different.  We went to bed early, anticipating our snorkeling tour the following day.

a bowl with oyster ceviche on a plate of fried plantains

Day 2 Drake Bay Itinerary: Snorkeling Tour to Caño Island

Caño Island is considered a biological reserve and was only recently allowed to offer paid tours.  We booked a half-day snorkeling tour with Yemanyá Expeditions on Tripadvisor and were out in our tour boat around 8 a.m. 

The trip to the Island is about 40 minutes, but just like our boat ride from Sierpe to Drake Bay, we loved the experience of cruising through the ocean water. 

Some of our favorite animal sightings were on this boat ride to the island.  We got to see a large group of dolphins swimming right next to us, and my favorite was watching groups of flying fish as they skidded across the surface of the water.

After reaching the island, we put on our snorkeling gear and jumped in.  Per tour regulations, we were required to have a PDF with us at all times but were not necessarily required to wear it. 

Most of us swam around with the life vests under our chests, and then we would temporarily leave them floating on the surface if we wanted to dive down under the water.

tourist with a snorkel

Our tour consisted of two 45-minute snorkeling sessions.  We loosely stayed together as a group as we swam along the shoreline, and our boat followed at a distance.  This was the third snorkeling tour I had ever done. 

Compared to the others, the colorful fish were fewer and more spread out, BUT we saw two big sea turtles and a shark, something I hadn’t experienced with the other tours. 

Overall, we loved it, but snorkeling in the ocean waves was a new experience for me, and one thing I didn’t anticipate was the motion sickness I experienced after about 30 minutes.  I would bring some Dramadine if I do another tour like this in the future.  

Our tour ended with lunch at a local restaurant, and then Esther and I spent the afternoon relaxing by the beach.

Day 3 Drake Bay Itinerary: Corcovado National Park OR Hike to playa San Josecito

Some consider Corcovado National Park one of the best parks in Costa Rica; this park is one of the few where visitors can see big animals such as Tapirs.  Corcovado can only be visited with a certified tour group, and tours book up fast. 

Unfortunately for us, I was still recovering from a torn ligament in my foot, and when we were planning our trip, I was unsure if I could walk far enough to enjoy Corcovado; once we were actually in Drake Bay, all the tours were booked.  Definitely a bummer! 

If I could go back, I would have just booked a tour with a generous cancellation policy.  Corcovado is one of the big must-see places that we couldn’t visit on this trip but will have on our list for next time.

Instead of Corcovado, we spent our last day in Drake Bay hiking some of the trail to Playa San Josesito.  

Hiking to playa San Josecito

The entire hike to Playa San Josecito is about 6 miles each way, and we had already stopped at this beach on our snorkeling tour, so we decided just to hike a few miles in and out. 

To hike the entire way is a full-day activity, and there is one portion where (depending on the tide) you need to have a few colones to pay a local that offers boat rides across a section of the river. 

We hiked a few miles in and out and felt this was the perfect low-key way to spend our last day at Drake Bay.

tourist walking on the black rocks at one of the beaches at drake bay
cane-like branches of a tree along the trail to Playa San Josecito