It happens a lot. It may happen to you. It happened to me. The magic of Pure Vida entices you and once you set foot in the Osa, you may never want to leave.

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It has been called Paradise by nearly everyone who has experienced it’s pristine beaches and magical waterfalls, and wonder-filled primary rainforests.

Pre-Colombian cultures, divergent criminals, and modern-day surfers, biologists, and early retirees have called it home. It is also home to over 300 species of birds, and at least that many insects, arachnids, and crustaceans, four kinds of monkeys, and several sizes of cats, as well as numerous other small mammals, and an array of poisonous and non-venomous snakes. It is also the least populated by humans, and the lesser-traveled destination of adventure seekers in Costa Rica.

As I said, it happened to me ten years ago. I had already been living in Costa Rica for several years, going back to Aspen, Colorado for the summer season to work. But once I discovered the Osa Peninsula in the southern zone of Costa Rica, I never wanted to leave.

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It was all I had dreamed of: a hidden paradise that few had discovered, and those who had, protected the secret so as not to allow tourism and development to overwhelm it and destroy it the way it had in other areas of the country.

The Osa Peninsula is in the southern zone of Costa Rica. Corcovado National Park takes up almost one third of the area, comprising more than 100,000 acres of protected tropical rainforest lands, and the Golfo Dulce Wildlife Reserve, which protects more than 200,000 acres in private ownership, creating a green corridor for wildlife and the protection of natural resources where many endangered animal and plant species still thrive.

National Geographic has called Corcovado and the surrounding area the “most biologically diverse area on the planet.”

It is a place where jaguars still roam the jungles, Scarlet Macaws fly freely about town and beaches, and four kinds of monkeys are found in numbers unmatched in all of Central America. A naturalist’s paradise, and an adventurer’s dream, a pioneer’s challenge, Outside Magazine calls it…”the last best peninsula.”

The Osa Peninsula is one of the planet’s wildest and most spectacular regions. The Peninsula is bordered on almost all sides by water. To the east, by the Golfo Dulce, in the west, by the Pacific Ocean, and to the north, by the one of the largest expanses of Mangrove on the planet.

A little more remote than other, more developed areas of the country, the Osa is accessible by road; 6 hours drive from San Jose, or by 50-minute commuter flight. It is a tropical paradise lush with spectacular wildlife, deserted beaches, and virgin rainforests.

The Osa’s unique bio-diversity is made up of eight different habitats including cloud forest and the largest and most exuberant lowland wet tropical forest remaining in all of Pacific Central America and the longest stretch of protected beachfront between Alaska and Chile.

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It is one of the last remaining wildernesses on the planet. And yet it is very user friendly. Beaches vary from the lake-like placid waters in the upper Golf to world-class surf breaks in Matapalo, to tempestuous shore breaks on the Pacific side. Many of the forest reserves have maintained trails that make the jungle accessible.

Puerto Jimenez is a sleepy town with dirt streets and relatively few cars. Most people walk or get around on bicycles or the few taxi pickup trucks that idle on Main Street. Many of the locals have never ventured out of town further than a relatives’ finca or the rodeo corral, which was within walking distance of town.

Puerto Jimenez is considered the capital of the region, and serves the greater portion of the Peninsula with an airport, clinic, schools, post office, gas station, bank, stores, small hotels and lodges, and a ferry across the Golfo Dulce to Golfito and the mainland.

The major outlying communities are Mogos, Rincon, La Palma, Agujas, Canaza, and Rio Nuevo to the north, and Tamales, Matapalo, Rio Oro, and Carate to the south and west. Drake Bay at the northwestern corner of the peninsula is accessed best by waterways from Palmar and Sierpe or through the mountains from Rincon.

Four-wheel drive vehicles are most common as roads the only paved road in the Osa ends at Rincon, except for six blocks of Main Street in Puerto Jimenez.

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Osa has a growing International community, which serve about 10 percent of Costa Rica’s tourism, as well as a growing residential community, both of Costa Rican nationals and international immigrants and investors. It’s entire population is only about 8,000, including rural beach and mountain communities off the grid.

Many residents have utilized the benefits of nature to provide comfort rather than sacrifice nature for comfort. Solar and hydroelectric power, cell phones, and homes utilizing bamboo and palm are common.

There is a sense among the pioneers and “settlers” in this frontier land that they are here for a reason: to not only enjoy, but to protect the environment and to create low impact or positive impact on the land.

Hence many are buying pastureland and turning it back into tropical paradises with reforestation, permaculture, and by allowing it to go back to weeds, and eventually secondary forests, carving out only that part of the land that they need for comfortable dwellings and surroundings.

The Osa Peninsula has changed a bit in the past ten years, as Costa Rica has changed, as all the world has changed. But it still remains, for the most part, an unspoiled wilderness with selective and conscientious development, focused primarily on eco-tourism, and the newer market of wellness and transformational travel, with several locations hosting yoga and other types of retreats.

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Written by VIP Member Tao Watts who is a single mother, artist, writer, massage therapist and chef who now specializes in off-the-grid, conservation, and community development in the Osa Peninsula.

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