Matapalo, South Puntarenas

Plan a Sustainable Vacation to Matapalo

Cabo Matapalo or just Matapalo is a small, laid-back beach village located at the tip of the Osa Peninsula in the southern portion of Puntarenas, filled with small cabinas and eco-friendly bungalows that prompts guests to enjoy an all-encompassing experience with nature.

This community is dedicated to eco-friendly habits, and the majority of lodges here depend on solar energy.

Matapalo has actually earned the Blue Ecological Flag for its dedication to conservation and preserving the surrounding environment - it's the perfect place to visit without leaving a carbon footprint behind.

The area is also filled with eco-lodges and other environmentally-conscious accommodation options, many of which are nestled under the jungle canopy or in the sands of the beaches. Fall asleep to the calming sound of waves, and wake up to the soundscape of birds, monkeys, and other animals native to the Osa Peninsula.

Matapalo is known for being remote, as it’s about 240 miles (390 kilometers) from San José. The route takes about 7 hours and there are a few toll booths on the way, so have about 2,000 colones in cash on hand. Alternatively, take a 45 minute flight from San José to Puerto Jiménez, then drive the remaining 30 to 45 minutes.

While the travel time to Matapalo may seem intimidating, this seclusion only enhances the connection with nature visitors are sure to feel. With picturesque beaches and practically untouched forests, Matapalo is a paradise for those who want to experience the Costa Rican wilderness first-hand.

Matapalo is also known for its gorgeous sandy beaches where you can sunbathe or go for a stroll. Take a swim and dive under the waves or head further out for world-class surfing.

Whether you’re planning an adventurous excursion into the jungle or a relaxing stay beachside, Matapalo makes it easy to leave your cares behind and live pura vida!

Things to Do in Matapalo and Nearby

Matapalo is, above all else, somewhere for visitors to let their hair down and relax. With plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors, there’s little need for the bars and nightclubs of Costa Rica’s bigger cities, though there are still a few dining and entertainment options nearby.

Most tourists prefer to kick back with a good book and get some sun during their stay. The consistently warm and humid weather lends itself to year-round beachdays and comfortable hiking conditions. Let your worries float away in the wind as you immerse yourself in the area’s natural beauty.

Surf the Osa Peninsula

Like other surf spots around the tip of the Osa Peninsula, Matapalo beaches are a dream come true for experienced surfers. The three surf breaks here can be somewhat inconsistent, as some surfing beaches face the gulf while others face open ocean. However, when the conditions are right, Matapalo surfing is excellent!

Larger waves can be found closer to the point, with the best conditions at mid tide with a west / southwest swell. The best waves at Pan Dulce are large swells from the south at mid-tide. These can reach up to 500-yard tube rides with multiple fast sections.

Another popular surf break, Backwash, is at its best from mid- to low-tide with a south / southwest swell. Some sections of the beach are steep, so this point is best for longboarding. While Backwash doesn’t have picturesque waves every day, if you catch it just right, this is one of the region’s best surfing spots!

Enjoy the Beaches

Matapalo is exceptionally remote, which keeps the beaches clean and free of crowds. They’re the perfect spot for a leisurely day of fun in the sun on the 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of brown sand. Make sure to bring a picnic lunch, plenty of water, and sunscreen.

In addition to surfing, another popular beach activity is swimming in the calm and clear waters. Try diving and snorkeling, or take up sportfishing on the coast or at Portalon River.

Go Hiking & Visit the King Louis Waterfall

Break up an extended stay on the beach with some light exercise. Hike into the forests of Matapalo to see its stunning plant biodiversity, from towering trees to brightly colored tropical flowers. Matapalo is also home to dozens of unique species of animals; it’s not uncommon to find a monkey swinging overhead or a sloth dozing in a tree.

For unspoiled wildlife and beaches, be sure to plan a trip to Corcovado National Park. Hike the trails and take in the plant and wildlife. This is a prime spot for birdwatching, as visitors can catch glimpses of rare species like Resplendent Quetzals and Scarlet Macaws.

For a truly spectacular sight, hike to the King Louis Waterfall. This fall is nearly 100 feet tall, which makes it an incredible backdrop for commemorative photos. The King Louis Waterfall is also the perfect spot for both tree climbing and waterfall rappelling for thrill seekers!

The Best Eco-Lodges in Matapalo

Matapalo’s remoteness and its location on the Osa Peninsula lend themselves well to a focus on local wildlife. The area’s hotels are eco-conscious and work to minimize the impact that tourism has on the environment. As a result, the vast majority of the hotels in Matapalo are eco-lodges!

Costa Rica’s eco-lodges combine luxurious accommodations with ecologically friendly practices. They also prioritize getting to live and sleep in nature during your stay. Many of these lodges are situated on the beach or within the jungle, so you’re never far from stunning views and immersive surroundings.

Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

It’s easy to see why Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge has received the distinction of one of the best eco-lodges and best hotels in Costa Rica overall. It stands among 700 acres of unspoiled rainforest. Many rooms overlook the jungle or the hotel gardens, but some are cliffside bungalows that provide exceptional views of the ocean.

In addition to top-quality accommodations and amenities like an on-site pool and bar, Bosque del Cabo also works closely with forest preservationists to protect local wildlife. This includes a commitment to maintaining the Osa Peninsula’s forests and beaches, plus sustainable practices that don’t leave a carbon footprint on the environment.

Lapa Rios Lodge

Stay at a resort that has been awarded the highest possible award for sustainable tourism when you book a few nights at Lapa Rios Lodge. This eco-lodge lies within 1,000 acres of natural forest, and it’s very close to Corcovado National Park with many opportunities for adventurous and educational guided tours.

Lapa Rios offers guests a truly immersive experience that includes hands-on experience with the region’s landmarks and natural amenities, as well as Tico culture. Enjoy traditional Costa Rican dishes made with locally harvested food, and relax in rooms designed with locally made bamboo furniture.

El Remanso Lodge

Sustainability meets indulgence at El Remanso Lodge, an upscale eco-lodge surrounded by untamed wildlife. Located inside a tropical lowland rainforest, El Remanso Lodge achieves the perfect balance between luxurious accommodations and an enticing showcase of natural beauty.

Kick back in the lodge’s eco-luxury villas, rooms, and bungalows which have all the comforts of modernity plus floor-length windows and balconies perfect for looking out over the jungle. All of these comforts are achieved while still maintaining a commitment to the environment through practices like building bungalows out of fallen timber and certified plantation wood and powering the lodge through sustainable, self-generated electricity.

Ojo del Mar

Journey to the rainforests of Matapalo when you stay at Ojo del Mar. Guests need only look out the windows of their lodges to see the beauty of the surrounding jungle, complete with native species of birds, monkeys, and reptiles living mere feet from your door.

Ojo del Mar offers a sense of seclusion that enhances the effect of the eco-lodge’s wellness retreat. Feel like you’re living off the grid as you practice activities that nourish the mind, body, and soul. Wellness retreat packages include access to an on-site library and yoga classes, while the kitchen serves up delicious, homemade local dishes.

Encanta La Vida Beach Jungle Lodge

Unlike the other hotels here, Encanta La Vida Beach Jungle Lodge isn’t an eco-hotel. However, it is a well-known surfer’s hotel that’s popular with anyone looking to ride the waves at Matapalo’s beach. This is the only hotel located right along the shore, making it easy to access the various world-class surf spots of Matapalo.

This gorgeous jungle lodge also features luxury amenities like a large pool with a swim-up bar, a spa, and a yoga center. All cabinas offer views of the jungle and coast in a natural setting, ensuring nothing will disturb guests from experiencing the region’s natural beauty.

The Beaches in Matapalo, Costa Rica

Sun and surf await at each of Matapalo’s beaches. Each one offers a relaxing experience on a secluded stretch of coastline, surrounded by the backdrop of idyllic jungle.

There are 4 different beaches in the region. These are Playa Pan Dulce, Backwash, Playa Carbonera, and Playa Matapalo.

Playa Pan Dulce

Playa Pan Dulce is sandy but not very wide. Luckily, since every beach in Matapalo has low traffic, this isn’t an issue when finding a spot to lay out beach towels.

While there’s room for sunbathing and enjoying the tropical atmosphere, the main attraction here is surfing. Just be wary of the rocky ocean floor in this area, which can be dangerous if wipeouts occur. Playa Pan Dulce is best suited to experienced surfers who can navigate the world-class surf breaks here.


Backwash is tucked next to Playa Pan Dulce. It’s almost exclusively a surfing beach, and it’s very popular with longboarders. It has a slow right at low tide that breaks over a reef in the middle of the bay.

In addition to the surf, Backwash Bay is also a great showcase of Costa Rica’s biodiversity. The jungle is just a few steps from the ocean.

Playa Carbonera

Playa Carbonera is a more laid-back beach that's perfect for a traditional beach day. The waters are clear and calm, making this a popular spot for swimming rather than surfing.

During low tide, you can find tide pools along the shore of Playa Carbonera. These tide pools contain sea creatures including shellfish, sea urchins, and some smaller species of fish.

Playa Matapalo

Playa Matapalo is located at the southernmost end of Cabo Matapalo, toward the tip of the peninsula. This makes it the most secluded beach in the region, and one of the most secluded beaches in all of Costa Rica.

If you’re looking for a true getaway, you can’t do better than a visit to Playa Matapalo. This is a quiet beach that gets very minimal traffic from tourism. If you visit during the shoulder season, you may even have the beach to yourself!

Tips for Planning the Perfect Trip to Matapalo, Costa Rica

Plan an exceptional vacation to the beaches of Matapalo with these handy travel tips.

How Do You Get to Matapalo?

Matapalo is located in an extremely remote part of Costa Rica. The solitude is part of the charm and allure but can also pose challenges in transit. You can drive about 7 hours from San José or take a bus that may take even longer!

However a quick 45 minute domestic flight to Puerto Jiménez will leave you just 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) from Matapalo on the highway that connects to Carate. The trip usually takes about 30 minutes. The turnoff is about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) past Buena Esperanza.

The surrounding roads can be difficult to traverse, so avoid driving at night or during rainy weather. Traveling in a vehicle with four-wheel-drive is also recommended.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Matapalo?

While Matapalo is humid year-round and does get some rainfall during the high season, it’s typically sunny. For optimal conditions, the best time to visit is from January-April when there’s the lowest chance of rain.

If you decide to visit during the rainy season, just be sure to pack rain gear and rent a four wheel drive vehicle if possible.

Costa Rica Eco-Adventure Tour
12 Days / 11 Nights or 10 Days / 9 Nights
Starting at $2,352 per person
Eco Experience: A Costa Rican Adventure
11 Days / 10 Nights
Starting at $3,874 per person