“Family, like branches in a tree we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” – unknown

After a delightful vegetarian lunch with our hosts Eric and Francesca at the Cascada Naguala Ecolodge, it was time to pack our bags once again and be off to our final destination of my week long adventure in the Osa Peninsula. We were staying at a tiny family-run ecolodge on the outskirts of Drake Bay where I’d be flying back home in two days.

If I had imagined that the fun and adventure were over, I was thankfully wrong. I had spent the past six days inside the thick of the jungle and now I would get my time of sun and fun at the beach. Finally, I’d get to dip my Minnesota toes in the warm, soft waters of the ocean and watch the sunset over the ocean’s horizon.

By this point in the trip, nothing about the road conditions phased me anymore. River crossings and bumpy, mountainous unpaved roads were all part of the experience. Not seeing a single road sign was also common nor any place to stop to use the bathroom or grab something to eat. Even seeing other cars was uncommon and there were definitely no tour buses on the roads we traveled.

Drake Bay is much smaller than Puerto Jimenez, where I first landed by small plane into the Osa Peninsula. Besides a few high-end ecolodges and a handful of middle of the range accommodations and restaurants, there isn’t much else there. The one thing I did see however for the first time since leaving Puerto Jimenez were tourists which felt like a little bit of a shock.

The rural tourism part of my trip was near the end and now I’d be lumped back together with the tourists. Thankfully, our lodging was locally and family-owned with not a single non-Costa Rican tourist except for us. I was getting spoiled by the complete immersion into Costa Rican life and culture. I didn’t want to let go of that feeling just quite yet.

Heading along the road to Drake Bay

Driving to Drake Bay

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

By two o’clock it was time to pick up Eytan’s family who were arriving from mainland Costa Rica via boat at the beach in Drake Bay. Given the remoteness and lack of major roads within the Osa Peninsula, a lot of transportation around the Osa is via water taxi. Many of the luxury resorts are only accessible via boat as well which means to get to them, you first have to either fly or travel by long, unfriendly roads and then take a boat to reach your lodge. Many of these places are incredible however extremely expensive. I preferred the local accommodations for $50/night versus upwards of $500/night.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

The beach at Drake Bay


Excitement filled my veins as we approached the beach. I was delighted to see the crystal blue waters and hear the gentle waves hitting the shore. Although I’d thoroughly enjoyed my time in the jungle, I could hardly wait to go for a swim in the ocean and to feel the salt water kiss my skin.

I was introduced to Eytan’s mother and her boyfriend as well as his uncle who were all lovely, delightful people and spoke both fluent English and Spanish.  It was fun to have some new additions to our group. We piled into the Land Cruiser and headed out to the Bella Vista Ecolodge. Once we arrived, I instantly understood where the hotel got its name. The view of the surrounding ocean, jungle and beach was incredibly beautiful.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Land surrounding hotel

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The view….

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

No wonder it is called “Bella Vista”.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa RicaDrake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa RicaDrake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

The lodge is perched up high above the ocean, with a large open-air restaurant and dining area where you can watch the sunset. There are flowers everywhere and the smells of chef Willie Lopez’ cuisine was to die for. I immediately knew that I was going to really like this place. It even had a bar, another luxury after being in the remote jungle for the past six days.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa RicaDrake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa RicaDrake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

The lodge has ten rooms which each accommodate up to four people. The rooms are basic but clean. Besides the view, the best part of the Bella Vista Lodge that made it so special and unique is the warm, friendly staff who are all one big family. Over the next two days, I got to know all the family members as well as their children and felt incredibly welcomed and at home. That is the beauty of local tourism. You are invited into people’s lives and homes and for that moment you feel as if you are part of one big family. It is an incredible experience.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Willie cooking with a smile. He was a fabulous chef! Here he is making fresh tortillas

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Some of the family who own and run Bella Vista Lodge

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Some of our group

We didn’t have too much time before we were off for our next adventure: A late afternoon horseback ride along the remote beach below the lodge, a sunset swim and delicious dinner cooked by Willie and his wife.  I could hardly wait!



    1. Thanks for the comment! If you head to the Osa Peninsula, check out all my other posts in case you missed them. I got to see some pretty remote places and it was magical and off the grid. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. From the jungle to the ocean, what a fabulous experience. I would have been reluctant to head back into the touristy area and civilisation too but it sounds like you chose a wonderful place to stay. Local immersion is the best. Your photos make me want to go there but there’s nothing new about that! Another beautiful post Nicole.

    1. Thanks so much Miriam! Yes it was hard to leave this feeling of tranquility and complete immersion. My spanish sure improved within that one week’s time as no one spoke English expect my guide. So I was really immersed into Costa Rican life and culture. It was pretty incredible.

  2. You’re right — Bella Vista is the *perfect* name for the lodge. Wow! Gorgeous photos! I also enjoyed reading about the culture shock of sorts you had after just one week in the jungle, when you rejoined the “beaten-path” tourists. Isn’t it crazy how quickly we humans adapt to our surroundings? I’ve had that experience while backpacking also: After a week of solitude and silence in the woods even a 300-person town seemed like a bustling metropolis. But I digress. Thank you SO MUCH for continuing to bring us along through your wonderful narrative and beautiful photos.

    1. Thanks so much! I am so glad that you have followed along. I’ve kept writing because it feels so therapeutic for me but am not always sure if people like to read so much about one trip. Glad you have enjoyed it! 🙂

      1. I sometimes wonder whether it’s worth chronicling my travels in loooong posts too, because readership definitely declines on those. But then I remember — to paraphrase Susan Isaacs — that the only reason to write is for yourself. Plus, selfishly speaking, I really enjoy your travel posts! They’re so engrossing and immersive that they’re like a mini-vacation in their own right.

  3. it’s so nice to take a quick cyber trip back to costa rica through your posts!!!! i told someone today that costa rica definitely has the prettiest beaches!

    it’s great to see you there in front of the camera!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I am going a little nuts here with the CR trips but I just can’t stop sharing the trip. It was really special and transformative for me. I’m bringing my husband and the kids there next week. I am so excited to see what they think. It means a lot to me to expose them to a new culture. I’m hoping they fall in love with travel and cultures like I did. 🙂

      1. That is a perfect place to visit with family! Will you be returning to the same area? Flying into SJO or Liberia – hm, depends on where you go! Monteverde and Arenal would make great spots to see with family as well….

      2. So this is the first real international family trip. We are flying to Liberia and will go to Manuel Antonio, Arenal and Stay at a farm a few hours from Arenal. So totally different area. I am really excited about this trip. Hoping the kids fall in love and get as inspired to see the world as I did at that age. My son is 12 and daughter is 10. Can’t wait!

      3. You will be in ‘cowboy Guanacaste’ there in Liberia and area…The weather should be very dry, though many times the first rains usually fall sometime around easter… we always were happy for those first rains.
        Lake Arenal and of course the volcano are wonderful, and the clima much cooler than near the coast.

        You will have a great time, and I suspect there will be some canopy tours/zip lines, etc! Buen viaje!

      4. Thank you so much Lisa! I’m starting to get excited. Fully how my travels have been focused on Costa Rica these days! It just kind of turned out that way. This trip was planned well before my January visit to the Osa. That just came up. I’m glad though because I love Costa Rica. It is a special place. Next I’ll have to get to Ecuador!

    1. Hope it isn’t getting boring! I just am having a hard time not sharing all the photos for this trip and it has become a little bit more like my journal but sometimes I have a hard time letting go! Thanks so much for your continued support Sally and inspiration! 🙂

    1. Thanks! I loved it too. Yes you should check out Bella Vista as it is very nice and so loving. That is the joy of staying at a family-run place. You get to know everyone and feel so welcome.

  4. I could almost smell the beach only by looking at your photos. It’s been a while since the last time I went to a place like this. I bet you returned home feeling rejuvenated. I really love your photos of the greenery with clear blue skies — so refreshing!

    1. Thanks Bama. Yes there is something truly magical about the water. I don’t get to see the ocean much but we do have lots of lakes here in Minnesota….over 12,000 to be exact!

  5. We loved Costa Rica! I’ll look up where Drake’s Bay is and Bella Vista sounds wonderful. Something to keep in mind for our next trip. Our friends just moved to close to Playa Flamingo. It’s time to go visit 🙂

    1. Thanks Alison! It was. We are off Friday this week all of us this time to Costa Rica. Doing the north and Manual Antonio. First big adventure with the kids. I’m really excited!!!

  6. Hello Nicole!
    I cannot believe all the adventures you have taken us on here took place in just a week… you have seen so much, met so many and lived a world away from life as you and we, know it. So beautiful and so amazing to think you’ll have it again soon with your family… a lovely post 🌹

    1. Oh thank you LuAnn! We actually aren’t going all the way to the Osa as it is hard to get to and very remote. We are doing the north and the furthest south we will go is Manual Antonio. I am beyond excited LuAnn!

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