Ojochal is growing as a tourism destination, thanks to the numerous expats and snowbirds who have been visiting this hidden Costa Rica gem for decades! We are lucky to be off the beaten trail; in a part of the country that has only been accessible by paved highway for the last ten years. The jungle is a bit more green, the water is a bit more fresh, and the beaches are a bit less populated than anywhere else you’ll visit. So, if you’re ready for adventure and want to go somewhere that you’re friends probably haven’t been, here is a short list of our favorite things to do in Ojochal in 2019!
Cruise Up The Terraba River
Terraba Tours offers a variety of experiences in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. This is one of the largest virgin frontiers, encompassing around 10% of Costa Rica’s entire land mass. There are dense mangroves surrounding the Terraba River Basin where these large, shaded motor boats will take small to large groups (up to 15 people) through an isthmus of land between the Terraba River and Pacific Ocean.
As the guides take you on this relaxing tour, they will point our wildlife and even teach you about how local farmers can sustain themselves with what they grow and catch from the sea. See scarlet macaws, iguanas, monkeys and maybe even a crocodile.
The second part of the tour takes you to the other side of the isthmus—Garza Island. Here, you spend time on a remote beach and be fed a tropical lunch. Simply stunning, safe and fun for the whole family.
Take In A Waterfall And A Tilapia Farm
Cascada Pavon is one of the best known waterfalls in the region because it is truly spectacular. Nestled deep in the jungle and accessible only with 4×4, you will park near a Tilapia farm and restaurant after a 4km drive from the highway and hike about 100 meters on a cleared path to find this magical place. There is a sense of quiet here (when you’re alone and not with a big tour group) despite the immense force of the water beating down. The deepest part of this pool is about 5 meters and you will see with complete clarity in the water—that’s how clean this forest is!
This waterfall is free to visit, but afterwards, be sure to stop in for lunch at the Tilapia farm. You will have fresh, delicious, whole fried Tilapia casado, which is a traditional Costa Rican dish. Altogether, this is a nice place to visit when you want a day out of the full sunshine.
Be A Part Of A Baby Turtle Release
Our local sea turtle reserve, Reserva Playa Tortuga, is a non-profit organization that specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles and their offspring. Join the crew for a baby turtle release, which happen rather spontaneously. Best to ‘like’ their Facebook page and be ready when you see an alert. Baby turtle releases generally happen early in the mornings, but be sure to check out their reserve station any time to book a nocturnal reptile tour, or to learn a bit more about the cold-blooded species in this region—it’s great fun for the whole family.
Eating At The Best International Restaurants
TripAdvisor lists four ‘things to do’ in Ojochal, however there are 22 restaurants, many of which have 5 star ratings. Why is that? It’s because Ojochal is known as the culinary capital of Costa Rica. Decades ago, French and International restauranteurs came to this region to “get away from it all,” as we do. They eventually made names for themselves—here and abroad. Today, a few of those establishments remain, with many more coming to join in the delicious fun! Below are a few of our absolute go-tos when it comes to the fine-dining that Ojochal is known for:
Exotica — A long-established Ojochal staple with French cuisine, this is one of the most beautifully decorated restaurants with absolutely impeccable food, drinks and service. It is essential to save room for dessert.
Sud — Delectable home-made pastas, gorgeous jungle atmosphere, and excellent hosts. Also has cabins to rent.
Citrus — Hands-down one of the most tender and succulent steaks I have ever eaten in my life, which is quite the compliment for Costa Rica, which is not known for its beef. Chef Marcela is a local celebrity, creating exquisite menus for a number of restaurants, including her own Citrus, soon to reopen in her new Avenida Princepal location (look out for the plaza with the giant fork near the entrance to Ojochal). You will not be disappointed by her adventurous and delicious meals.
Heliconia — Tucked behind the red Grupo Materiales building just off the highway is this tiny pleasure center known as Heliconia, where every meal is a dining sensation in a lovely atmosphere.
El Castillo — Called ‘The Castle,’ this magnificent restaurant and luxury hotel is perched 200 meters above the Pacific Ocean with arguably the most dramatic view in all of Costa Rica. Castillo’s Kitchen offers a ‘chef’s table’ concept to showcase an evolution in Costa Rican cuisine, with a focus on seafood.
Hotel Three Sixty’s Kua Kua — One of the newest “classics” in Ojochal, this fan-favorite boasts 360 degree views of the mountain, valley and ocean vistas. The food and location here are sure to create an unforgettable experience.
The views from inside El Castillo (left) and ThreeSixty Hotel (right)
Getting Wild In The Evenings
Not everyone comes to Ojochal for fine dining and there’s nothing wrong with that! Another of our newest additions is La Mona Grita—for those who want to get wild like a screaming monkey (where the name derives!) American-style pub food that is excellent in quality and price, plus a fun and attentive staff with great music, great friends, dancing and more!
Live Entertainment Every Night Of The Week
Highly rated for their live entertainment in a lovely location, The Bamboo Room offers a lively ambiance, featuring a different musical performance nearly every night of the week (closed on Sundays). People love this destination for fun times with large groups of friends in the evenings and you’re bound to see a friendly face or two when you turn up here. Open for lunch and dinner but come early enough to nab a spot by the balcony to watch the sunset from their ocean view perch above the jungle.
Climbing Up (And Zipping Along) The Tree Tops
Not every monkey is screaming in Ojochal, and most of them are gathering fruits and nuts peacefully in the jungle’s canopy. Want to get a closer look? There’s possibly no where better to zip-line in Costa Rica than with Osa Canopy Tour. This adventure tour has 9 zip-lines between 14 platforms, all of which are sustainably suspended so as not to disturb wildlife or damage the trees. Many cables and platforms are relocated after a number of years to keep pace with the shifts of nature. There are also two repelling stations (where you can rapel upside-down), a suspension bridge, and a Tarzan Swing. See monkeys, sloths, morpho butterflies, toucans, and more.
Relaxing On One Of The Best Beaches In The World
Playa Ventanas is arguably one of the most spectacular beaches in South Pacific Costa Rica. I would argue perhaps in the whole world. This is a well-maintained public beach but if you manage to come early, you may be one of the only people on this beach, which is truly stunning to behold! Coconut palms mix with almond trees, providing shade, and the beach is a perfect cove, with spectacular sea caves all around that you can walk into at low tide. But the best thing is the view of the jungle covered mountains from in the water.
There are hardly any places like this left in the world and it is a natural wonder that we truly cherish. Costa Ricans come from all over the country to enjoy this beach during the holidays, so if you are wanting the more placid beach times, avoid Ventanas during Christmas, Easter or any weekend of the high season. Foreigners may not have found this beach yet, but the Ticos surely know where to go.