Whale watching in tranquil Drake Bay, Costa Rica

From Manuel Antonio, our itinerary took us further south towards Drake Bay and the Osa Peninsula. In the dry season, Drake Bay can be reached by a dirt road that crosses the mountains and several rivers. But since the rains had just started we decided not to risk getting rained in, parked the car at Sierpe and took the boat up the Río Sierpe instead.

Sierpe to Drake Bay

The boat ride was practically a mangrove tour in itself, which was great for those who haven’t seen the mangroves before. The same rains that washed out the road, flooded the forest that we were sailing through. We even got to do some wildlife watching on the way.

READ MORE: 50 Outstanding Safari Holidays Destinations Outside of Africa

Crocodile in Drake Bay
Crocodile on the way from Sierpe to Drake Bay

Though once we cruised out into the ocean, it became more of a wild adventure ride. The boat rocked on the large swells as the waves crashed onto the rocks jutting out of the water between our navigational path and the shoreline.   

Thankfully the boat driver was an expert seaman and navigated the waves with such skill that he got a wild round of applause from everyone on board. It must’ve been the adrenaline from the near-death death experience.

If you ever wondered, is Costa Rica safe to travel around? The answer is yes, but wear a life jacket!

Whale watching in Drake Bay

Drake Bay is a very laid back small town with idyllic beaches well off the beaten path. Its main claim to fame is as the departure point for Corcovado National Park that takes up almost a third of the Osa Peninsula, which was our main reason for coming here as well. We were meeting our guide for the Corcovado expedition in town the following day. But we couldn’t miss the opportunity to do some whale watching in Drake Bay. It is one of the best places to witness the Humpback whale migration in Costa Rica.

READ MORE: Unique Costa Rica Itinerary: 2-Week Wildlife Watching Road Trip

The best time to see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica is from mid-July to October when the whales migrate from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to their breeding grounds in the tropical waters of the Osa Peninsula.

From November to April the whales migrate back to Antarctica, just like the Australian migratory population, that I watch in Sydney every year. During this time females travel with their yo g calves and you have a chance to see baby whales.

We booked our tour with Divine Dolphin and since we were a group of nine, we had the boat to ourselves. And within half an hour our boat was surrounded by a pod of Pantropical spotted dolphins. These adorable cetaceans stayed with us for about 15 minutes, riding the bow wave of our boat. There was a very young dolphin among them that was always surrounded by protective adults.

Slightly further out we came across a female Humpback whale also with a young calf. We followed them for a while but the whales decided to keep a low profile and stayed mainly below the surface. Although they did approach the boat quite closely a couple of times and we could see their white bellies even through the water.

Humpback whales in Drake Bay
Humpback whales mother and calf
Humpback whales
Humpback whales (female and calf)

Once the whales disappeared, we headed for a beach that was absolutely deserted. The hour that we spent on that deserted beach was perhaps the most relaxed hour of our entire Costa Rica journey. It takes a while to slow down to the Costa Rican rhythm, but once you do, you start to realize how much you miss in life in the constant rush of western urban lifestyle.

READ MORE: 25 Landmarks in Costa Rica to Add to Your Bucket List

Back on terra firma, we spotted some Scarlet macaws, a Variable seedeater and a very excited Cherrie’s tanager that was flirting with a side view mirror of a parked truck. Apparently, the frog night walk is quite good at Drake Bay as well, but we had a meeting with our Corcovado guide in the evening and a 5.30 am departure the following morning, so we turned in quite early.

We wished we had more time in this amazing little town. It is one of the most tranquil places in all of Costa Rica with spectacular sandy beaches and beautiful wildlife.

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1 thought on “Whale watching in tranquil Drake Bay, Costa Rica”

  1. WOW! Your photo’s of Drake Bay are really spectacular. Clear, bright and alive.

    I have friends who have a small piece of land way down on the beach, about a 30 minute walk from the dock..they put up a tent and built a cooking pit out of bricks. They have these lemon trees just loaded with fruit, the lemons are green on the outside and orange on the inside. I have to tell you I had NO idea what fruit really tasted like until I lived in CR. You can’t compare the fruit we get in Canadian supermarkets to the fruit I tasted down there. That was a real surprise to me because I thought what I was getting locally was the real thing. It’s not.

    I spent a good 4 months on that beach, between Puerto Cortes (now called Ciudad Cortes), Sierpe and Drake.

    In closing I want to tell/ask you something. Did you know the correct way to pronounce Drake is not like the explorer? The name Drake rhymes with
    Tacky! Not a lot of people know that…

    Thanks for the great images, I really enjoyed them!



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