Puerto Jimenez

You might not guess it from the rickety bicycles and ancient pickup trucks parked on the main street, but Puerto Jiménez is the largest town on the Osa Peninsula and the main gateway to the rest of the peninsula and to Corcovado National Park. This one-iguana town has a certain frontier charm, with an interesting, funky edge provided by eco-lodge owners and backpacking nature lovers. A bayside promenade has added a touch of civility, with benches where you can sit and admire the gulf views. At night, elegant street lamps light your way to the restaurants along the waterfront.

This is the last civilized outpost on the peninsula. Heading south, you fall off the grid. Cell service is spotty, so make your phone calls, send your email, get cash, and stock up on supplies here. Be prepared for the humidity and mosquitoes—Puerto Jiménez has plenty of both.

If you need a refreshing dip, head southeast of the airport to Playa Platanares, where there is a long stretch of beach with swimmable, warm water. At low tide, you can also walk out onto a narrow, pebbly beach beside the town dock.

The main reason to come to Puerto Jiménez is to spend a night before or after visiting Corcovado National Park, because the town has the best access to the park's two main trailheads and an airstrip with flights from San José. It's also the base for the colectivo to Carate.

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