To be honest, before actually coming down here, Costa Rica had always been pretty far down on my list of countries to visit. It is a sort of Diet Latin America – a commercialized, well-trodden travel destination where the only Spanish you need is “pura vida” and you can still drink the tap water.
But then the Osa happened.
On my previous post, Working My Way Through Costa Rica, I highlighted my excursion through the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. That’s the northwest region on the Pacific coast bordering Nicaragua. Along this region creeping down to the central coastal areas you see a lot of resort development and also the major airport of Liberia. These sprawling, all-inclusive behemoths are void of anything “Costa Rican,” and could just as easily be in Cabo San Lucas or Florida.
The Osa, in contrast. Is the southwestern region of the Pacific coast. There are no major airports here. The coastal highway was just repaved, which has increased access to this region.
The towns in these areas are tiny. Bahia is small enough to walk around in about an hour. It is bordered by Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.
Unlike a lot of areas to the north, where large corporations took hold of the tourism industry early, the people of the Osa are taking tourism into their own hands and creating interesting cooperatives to involve as many members of the community as possible. The idea is to share the benefits of tourism and create ownership in helping to protecting the precious natural resources.
Rancho Quemado is a town in the Osa Peninsula where I visited a mariposaria (butterfly garden), trapiche (traditional sugar cane mill) and met with families that mine and pans for gold and produce chocolate.
We met with members of one such group, Caminos de Osa, and I highly encourage you to check them out if you ever plan to visit Costa Rica or have an interest in sustainable tourism or entrepreneurship.
One of the many highlights of this trip was Corcovado National Park, which contains 2.5 percent of all the biodiversity in the world.
Kumbirayi Murinda is earning a bachelor’s degree in International Business at San Diego State University. He is blogging from Costa Rica during spring semester 2016.