Even though I did say once I didn’t want anyone to go to Matapalo 😉 I created this blog post with all my favorite things to do in the area for those who have asked. Enjoy!
1. Hit The Beach
Some of the best things in life are simple and free. The Matapalo area has three main beaches that offer three levels of swimmability and perks.
PAN DULCE: The fist one you’ll come up to from the main road is Pan Dulce, the safest for swimming, the one where you will surf beginner waves, SUP and kayak. It has a little parking, lots of shade and perfect for reading a book.
BACKWASH: The second one coming up (also with a tiny “parking lot”) is Backwash beach, my personal favorite. The water on this beach tends to be more turquoise than the other beaches, and with the right tide (mid) and (small) swell you can have a great swim. On high tide you won’t have much room to lay out through. Keep in mind the name backwash implies that the waves suck you in right at the ear of the water (like- take-your-bikini bottoms-off-type-of-backwash), so pay attention when navigating the entrance and exit from the water and go with the waves rather than against. Swim is safest near the rocks on the opposite side of Pan Dulce (so towards Matapalo). If you’ve gone past the steep hill on the road, you’ve passed backwash beach.
MATAPALO: The third beach you’ll find, where the road basically dead ends is Matapalo. There is no safe swimming here, but sunsets are best and also it’s where the action is if you want to watch surfers.
***Tidepools: since the Matapalo area is not so swimmer friendly you can intelligently take advantage of the low tide and find tidepools to soak in. Between Pan Dulce and Backwash there are some tide pools and in Matapalo, right in front of the beach also.
2. Surf And Get Active In The Water
If you’re at the beach and craving more action ,surfing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are right at your fingers tips. Please be respectful of other surfers in the water. Be humble, know your etiquette and share the waves. You may rent boards at Encanta La Vida.
For more information on surfing see my comprehensive surfing guide.
3. Hike The Waterfall(s)
If you are into hiking, nature, solitude and peace, there are two different waterfalls you an hike to.
The first one is also known as the Lapa Rios waterfall, (it’s on their property but they allow access to public from the main road). Start your hike from the river with a little bridge and start walking the river/trail all the way up to the waterfall. Swimming will be refreshing and If you’re lucky you’ll run into a troop of baby white-faced monkeys playing and tumbling off trees.
Alternatively, the King Luis waterfall is also a great one to visit. For that one you start walking past the Matapalo beach, take a right and keep walking along the road. Pass a little river, a slight uphill and when you hit the ivy covered trees at the curve turn right and head up that way. You’ll see a trail head which marks the beginning of the King Luis waterfall hike. If you’re unsure, ask one of the locals to point you in the right direction.
Wear clothes and shoes you won’t mind getting wet and muddy. you’ll literally be walking in water.
4. Lunch at Lapa Rios
Lapa Rios offers breathtaking views, good cocktails and a delicious, affordable lunch menu. The burger is my favorite and the catch of the day is great. Buen provecho! If you’re looking for a more laid-back vibe, some ping pong and a beer poolside, swing on over to Encanta La Vida where you’ll be greeted by the friendly staff.
5. Treat Yourself To Yoga Or A Massage
6. Horse Back Ride
Whether you are seeking a simple ride on the beach or a session getting to know the magical power of horses, contact horse expert and creator of Osa Horse Medicine Maria to schedule a visit to the ranch in Punta Tigre.
7. Tree Climbing
For some real jungle action climb an enormous strangler fig tree (Matapalo) with our beloved guide Andy and free-fall back down attached to ropes. Contact Everyday Adventures to schedule your tour.
8. Martina’s On Fridays
Martina’s is the little restaurant you will see before crossing your first river coming from Puerto Jimenez into Matapalo. Martina’s is an adorable locale with jungle flare, brightly colored walls and pirate vibes. On Friday night you can go there early to check out the farmer’s market, sample the incredible Osa Natural organic beauty products, eat Barbara’s home made ice cream, try Cocoa Ethika chocolate and then dance your head off starting 9pm into the night.
Martina’s is only open from December-August.
9. Drive to Carate
Driving to Carate is always fascinating because you venture into a less travelled, more hidden and completely different Osa Peninsula. The drive alone will take you through thick greenery, buffalo ranches and pastures. You’ll end up at Carate beach and from there can check out Luna Lodge, nestled on a hilltop with a killer view. (ps: the driveway is also killer).
10. Corcovado National Park
For the intrepid at heart and the real adventurers you will love this trip deep into one of the most bio-diverse and ecologically intense places on Earth. If crossing rivers Indiana Jones style, hiking Kilometers on beaches and spotting tapirs and pumas sounds fun to you then contact one of the best guides in the area for a customized tour.
***Bonus: Look Up! Look Down!
Anywhere in the Matapalo area you are surrounded by wildlife. Walking is by far the best way to spot moneys, sloths, toucans, frogs, snakes, birds, armadillos and many more.