How to Get to drake Bay: Public Bus, Boat or Car

Drake Bay is a little slice of paradise nestled in the southwest corner of Costa Rica. It’s the gateway to Corcovado National Park, home to a diverse and high concentration of wildlife.

The journey to get to Drake Bay from San Jose is a long one. As a result, many people choose not to visit.

But, if you’re looking to escape the crowds and be surrounded by lush jungle, I highly recommend you venture to this part of Costa Rica.

I recently did the trip – with public transport, might I add. So if you’re wondering how to get to Drake Bay, here’s everything you need to know.

How to get to Drake Bay Costa Rica
Exploring Drake Bay after a long travel day

How to get to Drake Bay

There are four ways to get to Drake Bay.

  1. Boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay: Most people choose this option if they’re coming from San Jose or Uvita. This route involves a bus to Sierpe followed by a boat ride to Drake Bay.
  2. Bus from La Palma: Yes, you can get to Drake Bay by public bus! If you’re traveling from Golfito, Puerto Jimenez, or Paso Canoas (Panama border), this is the best option.
  3. Driving to Drake Bay with a rental car. You’ll need to drive to Rincon/La Palma and follow the same road to Drake Bay as the public bus goes.
  4. Flight from San Jose to Drake Bay: This is the quickest yet most expensive option.

Here is a breakdown of all the ways of getting to Drake Bay.

1. Public transport: Public bus + Taxi boat from Sierpe

Sierpe is a tiny town surrounded by mangrove forests. Taking the boat from Sierpe is the most popular way to get to Drake Bay, and also the most scenic.

Here’s the lowdown if you’re traveling from San Jose or Uvita.

  • Take the Tracopa bus from San Jose to Palmar Norte: 5.5 hours
  • Transfer busses at Palmar Norte and take the bus to Sierpe: 40 Minutes
  • Boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay: 1 hour

The boat departs from Sierpe to Drake Bay next to La Perla Del Sur Hotel.

Here are the boat times which operate daily.

Sierpe to Drake Bay Boat times

  • Sierpe to Drake Bay: 11:30 am (USD 15) and 4 pm (USD 20)
  • Drake Bay to Sierpe: 7:15 am and 2:30 pm

If you’re driving from San Jose to Sierpe, you can park your car at La Perla del Sur for 3 000 Colones per night.

You can’t pre-book boat tickets so be sure to get there 30 minutes earlier.

Sierpe to Drake Bay
The easiest way to get to Drake Bay is by boat from Sierpe

2. Public Transport: Bus from La Palma

If you’re wondering how to get to Drake Bay on a budget, you can use a public bus. The logistics are a bit more complicated but it is doable.

The bus to Drake Bay runs from La Palma, a small town located on the Osa Peninsula.

If you’re using a public bus to Drake Bay, you’ll need to make your way here first. Rincon is a small town close to La Palma so you can get picked up on route if you’re here.

Here is the travel itinerary for getting to Drake Bay by bus.

  • Take the bus from San Jose, Uvita, or the Pasa Canoas Border to Chacarita: 7.5 hours
  • Transfer buses from Chacarita to La Palma: 1.5 hours
  • Transfer buses from La Palma to Drake Bay: 2 hours
Costa Rica travel
To get to Drake Bay by public bus, you first need to get to La Palma on the Osa Peninsula

La Palma to Drake Bay bus

There is only one bus from La Palma to Drake Bay per day so you don’t want to miss it. It costs 6 000 Colones and does not operate on Sundays.

If you don’t make the bus, I highly recommend staying at this rustic cottage in the jungle near La Palma.

We spent two nights here before catching the local bus from La Palma to Drake Bay and it was amazing! You can check availability here.

La Palma to Drake Bay bus times

  • La Palma to Drake Bay: Departs 12:30
  • Drake Bay to La Palma: Departs 4:15 am

You can contact the driver on +506 8522 6843 or +506 8373 8946 to confirm.

I did this trip in February 2023 and this was the schedule at the time.

I have read a few other blog posts with different times, but after talking to everyone in the La Palma community, they confirmed that there is only one bus, and it departs from La Palma for Drake Bay at 12:30.

This bus takes 2 hours and follows a dirt road. Traveling by car? Keep reading!

Driving to Drake Bay
This is the public bus from La Palma to Drake Bay that departs one time per day

3. Driving to Drake Bay with rental car

While it’s not the most popular option, it is possible to drive to Drake Bay.

You can either go to Sierpe and leave your car there before taking the boat to Drake Bay. Most people choose this option.

Or you can drive to Rincon on the Osa Peninsula (a stones throw away from La Palma) and then take the dirt road to Drake Bay.

Driving to Drake Bay: Road condition

From San Jose to Rincon/La Palma, the road is fully paved and easy to access. No need for a 4×4 here.

10 minutes after leaving Rincon, you’ll take a turn onto a dirt road that heads to Drake Bay.

Here are my thoughts about whether you need a 4×4 or not.

  • I did the trip in February 2023 and so my views are based on my experience during the dry season.
  • While the road is untarred and all dirt, it was still relatively flat.
  • There were no big potholes or dips in the road so a truck or 4×4 isn’t necessarily. But the wet season may be a different story.
  • During the dry season, there are no river crossings on the road to Drake Bay.
  • Most cars we saw had higher clearance (an SUV rather than an off road 4×4).
Drake Bay travel guide
The main street in Drake Bay

4. Flight from San Jose to Drake Bay

This is the quickest and easiest way to get to Drake Bay. But it’s also the most expensive!

The 40-minute flight from San Jose to Drake Bay airport can cost up to USD 150 one way in high season. Check out Sansa Airlines.

Getting to Drake Bay FAQ’s

Can you get to Drake Bay by car?

Yes, you can drive to Drake Bay. It’s a bit of a detour and most travelers choose to take the boat from Sierpe instead.

A car is not necessary to explore Drake Bay as the town is very small. Most attractions require a boat to get to anyway, rather than a car.

However, if you’re exploring more of the Osa Peninsula (Puerto Jiménez, Matapalo), then you’ll want a car.

Do you need a 4×4 to drive to Drake Bay?

From my experience in the dry season, you do not need a 4×4 to drive to Drake Bay. But a car with higher clearance is preferred.

Is there a public bus to Drake Bay?

Yes, there is a public bus that goes from La Palma to Drake Bay. It’s important to note that there is only one bus per day and it doesn’t run on Sundays.

Public bus to Drake Bay
I was very impressed with the public buses in Costa Rica – They were clean, comfortable and ran frequently

Is Drake Bay worth it?

Getting to Drake Bay might seem like a mission, but it was the highlight of my trip to Costa Rica. The coast is untainted by tourism and the wildlife is spectacular.

If you’re going to Drake Bay, I highly recommend spending a few extra days in the Osa Peninsula.

Matapalo is a surfing hotspot with gorgeous beaches but you can also go completely off the beaten track to a gorgeous cabin that borders the park.

Are you wanting to visit the Osa Peninsula? Do you have any questions about how to get to Drake Bay? Drop me a message in the comments section below.

About Carryn

Hi, I'm Carryn. I’m an adventure travel blogger trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel guides and tips for life abroad. Find out more about me here.

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