Updated: Feb 17, 2020
When explaining to others that we live off-grid in the rainforest, a common follow-up question is "Where?!" To which respond, "Costa Rica - the Southern Zone " (aka the wildest, most beautiful place that you have to add to your list - we'll tell you why below!)
The almost 20,000 square miles of rainforests, mountains, mangroves and beaches that make up Costa Rica are divided into seven provinces - San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago, Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón. For political purposes each province is subdivided into “cantons” and further divided into "districts".
The Fusion Home, located in the Southwestern part of Costa Rica, lies in the province of Puntarenas, the canton of Osa, and the district of Piedras Blancas.
(...and if you're reading this you probably don't actually care about any of that, and would rather we just get to the point of this post!)
So, official jargon aside, it’s quite common, and much easier, to refer to the area of the country where we live by its more unofficial, regional name - the “Southern Zone” or the "Southern Pacific Zone".
Often acknowledged as the final frontier of Costa Rica, the Southern Pacific region, or “Pacífico Sur”, is a natural paradise, home to untouched rainforest, miles of pristine coastline, peaceful cloud forests, and numerous National Parks and wildlife reserves that attract nature lovers, adventure seekers, and ecologically minded travelers.
From the small surf village of Dominical to the tip of the Osa Peninsula, this region embodies what it truly means to be in Costa Rica and to experience the most wild, rugged, and unspoiled parts of the country. Although the region is more remote and rural than other parts of the country, it is still accessible via 4 regional airstrips (Puerto Jimenez, Golfito, Palmar Norte, and Coto 47), and the vast majority of destinations are reachable via paved roads that have continued to be improved over the past few years.
Below we’ve broken down the zones within the Southern Zone to wet your #passionpassport appetite and to give you an idea of what to expect from each.
The most easily accessible part of the Southern Zone from San Jose, and arguably the most up-and-coming tourist destination in the whole country, the Costa Ballena has something for everyone from pristine beaches to adventure tours to luxury accommodations.
The “Whale Coast” includes the small towns of Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal, and boasts numerous options for lodging, dining, and adventure. Whether you’re an experienced surfer, a beginner, or like me and just like to watch the surfers while sunbathing, the beaches of the Costa Ballena will not disappoint.
Go souvenir shopping on the beach in Dominical where each day tons of local artisans set up their stands full of clothes, sarongs, hammocks, handmade crafts and jewelry. In Uvita you can walk to the famous Whale’s Tail during low tide along stretches of pristine palm-tree lined beaches, part of the Marino Ballena National Park. If you’re a foodie and love a good meal then Ojochal is the best spot in the region for fine dining, and has even been called the “culinary capital of Costa Rica”. The Costa Ballena is a great jumping off spot for diving and snorkeling excursions to Caño Island, chasing waterfalls (check out the Nauyaca Waterfalls), and beach-combing to your heart's content.
Sierpe & Osa Peninsula
Just South of the Costa Ballena is a small town called Sierpe. This quiet little village sits right at the mouth of the Sierpe river, which winds through the Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands - the largest mangrove reserve in Costa Rica, and one of the largest in Central America. Sierpe is known for being a gateway to the Osa Peninsula and is a great starting place for excursions to Caño Island and Corcovado Park, as well as mangrove tours and whale and dolphin watching.
We can’t speak highly enough of the Osa Peninsula, and we still have so much of it to explore! If you are wild at heart and crave adventure, if you are keen to explore virgin rainforest and have the sense of being far, far away from the tentacles of the modern world, you will LOVE the Osa Peninsula.
Exploding with biodiversity and abundant in native flora and fauna, some of the country’s most remote, rugged, and naturally beautiful destinations can be experienced here, including the world famous Corcovado National Park. This is a truly wild place where you can experience nature up close and personal unlike anywhere else in the country. Corcovado National Park is the main draw for travelers looking to visit the Osa Peninsula, and for good reason - it’s the largest single area of lowland tropical rainforest in Central America and has been named one of the world’s most biologically intense places by National Geographic (so I mean, come on...).
Drake Bay is a quaint seaside village on the Pacific side of the Peninsula, most easily accessed by water taxi from Sierpe, although there is also an airstrip for regional flights. Drake Bay is an awesome little spot to disconnect, enjoy some beach time, and soak in the wildlife and unspoiled nature of the peninsula. We've been to Drake Bay a few times and will continue to return!
The town of Puerto Jimenez is situated on the Golfo Dulce and is home to the Corcovado Park information center. Puerto Jimenez is a two-hour scenic drive along the Golfo Dulce from The Fusion Home.
South of Puerto Jimenez is the village of Matapalo situated at the very tip of the Osa Peninsula, and Carate, a bit further down the road. Although we have not yet visited either at the time of writing this, we have a few friends who spend a lot of time in Matapalo and Carate and they rave about it - they are all seasoned surfers and yogis, so we can only assume that they are amazing places with great vibes, and we can’t wait to go visit.
There are many rustic and simple accommodations and dining options on the Osa Peninsula, as well as several amazing luxury eco-retreats and all-inclusive options. Corcovado Park tours can be easily arranged from almost anywhere on the peninsula.
Separating mainland Costa Rica from the Osa Peninsula is the sparkling bay known as the Golfo Dulce, or "Sweet Gulf" in English. The Golfo Dulce is surrounded by small fishing villages of Golfito and Puerto Jimenez (each on opposite sides of the Gulf - note that Puerto Jimenez is located on the Osa Peninsula!), the unspoiled rainforest of Piedras Blancas National Park (the closest National Park to The Fusion Home!), the world-famous surf town of Pavones (home to one of the longest left-break surf waves in the world), and the Golfo Dulce Forestry Reserve, which creates an important wildlife corridor connecting Corcovado Park and Piedras Blancas National Park.
Along with the other coastal areas in the Southern Zone, the Golfo Dulce is one of the best spots in the country to view marine wildlife and to participate in aquatic adventures like kayaking and fishing. The Golfo Dulce is also one of the places in Costa Rica where bioluminescence occurs - a truly incredible experience.
Piedras Blancas National Park is one of the last remaining homes of the jaguar in Costa Rica, and is also home to four other species of cats - the jaguarundi, puma, margay, and ocelot. Piedras Blancas National Park has also been noted by many birders as one of the best bird watching parks in the country, with a species list almost identical to Corcovado’s.
Lodging and dining options are a bit more rustic and spread out in this area, however world-class and off-the-beaten-path eco-retreats are sprinkled throughout, including the neighborhood where we call home, the Finca Bellavista community.
(if you would like more info about booking a stay at Finca Bellavista, coming to volunteer for a few weeks, or joining the community check out the links at the bottom!)
From rest and relaxation to adrenaline and adventure, from rustic cabins to eco-chic wellness retreats, the Southern Zone has endless options to immerse oneself in the natural beauty and charm of what we consider to be authentic Costa Rica. Whether you have two days, two weeks, or two months to spare, you must include a visit to the Southern Zone!
If this unique region of Costa Rica wasn’t on your list before, we hope we’ve helped nudge you in the right direction. If you have any questions or if there is something else related to the Southern Zone that you’d like us to elaborate on, please let us know in the comments - we would love to hear from you.
The strangely shaped Puntarenas province, in red:
Interested in experiencing off-grid living in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone, or learning more about the Finca Bellavista community in general? You can book a stay at the Fusion Home or any of the other rental homes at Finca Bellavista. If you have at least two weeks and really want to get your hands dirty, check out the Finca Bellavista volunteer program!