How Much Time Should You Spend in Drake Bay?

Many websites, hoteliers and tour operators will tell you that you should probably spend 3 days in Drake Bay. This piece of “wisdom” has become so prevalent that as much as 90% of visitors to Drake Bay follow it. The standard package? Corcovado National Park, Cano Island and a day at the beach.

While these activities are certainly worth experiencing, at Gringo Curt’s, we think that you could easily spend two weeks in Drake Bay and still find things that you didn’t have time for! You don’t have to spend money on tours everyday either. There are plenty of free or independent adventures you can have. If you are interested in the natural world, there is literally nowhere else in Costa Rica that compares.

The best place to see whales and dolphins? The best snorkeling spots in Costa Rica? One of the best national parks in the world? The most pristine beaches in Costa Rica? The highest number of bird species in the country? The best sport fishing charters? The largest unspoiled mangrove forest in Central America? The most primary forest to explore? Waterfalls? Horseback riding? Canopy tours? Night tours? Sea turtle projects?

You guessed it, the answer to all of these questions is- Drake Bay.

So, why the 3 day rule? From my experience, there seem to be two main reasons.

The first is what I would refer to as “backpacker attitude”. When people plan their trips to Costa Rica, they want to “check off” as many places as possible. When I was younger, I was also a victim of this travel mentality- gallivanting through Europe at breakneck speed and spending half my time on epic bus journeys. In Costa Rica, the notoriously bad public transport system just compounds this problem and you end up needing a vacation from your vacation.

The second reason has to do with Drake Bay hotels. To take a recent example, when my aunt and uncle were planning a visit to Drake Bay, they booked a hotel for 2 weeks. The hotel manager actually told them that they would get bored! The truth is, that people in Drake Bay receive the largest commissions on two main tours- Corcovado National Park and Cano Island. After that, tourists start to discover free activities and tours that don’t offer commissions.

It’s not that anyone in Drake Bay is trying to rip you off. Tours are the same price, whether you choose to book with your hotel or directly with an operator. The thing is, that Corcovado National Park and Cano Island are virtually customer satisfaction guaranteed. The tour guides are great, the wildlife spotting opportunities are amazing. The hotel can just shift people in and out of Drake Bay on a 3 day rotation without much thought. They make some cash, you get your Tapir picture. Everyone’s happy.

But what about if you take another approach?

When you are planning your trip to Costa Rica, think of it like the “slow food” movement. Change your checklist to quality not quantity of destinations. Think about what you want to experience, not where you want to experience it. Once you get that checklist together, 3 days in Drake Bay will not be enough.

Compare our sample itineraries for inspiration, and just think, you’ll still get your Tapir picture- you’ll just spend a lot less time on the bus!

By Charlotte