I'm starting to research for a third trip to the Osa early next year, and thought it might be helpful to start a thread detailing ways to visit the Osa (Puerto Jimenez side or Drake Bay side) while sticking to a fairly reasonable budget. Due to its remoteness, a trip to the Osa can be an expensive undertaking -- as most people quickly find out when they start to research for their trip.
We've visited the Puerto Jimenez side twice and had two very different vacations. Both were excellent while being fairly budget conscious.
In early December of last year, we did a combination of four nights at Iguana Lodge and three nights at Encanta La Vida in Matapalo. At Iguana Lodge, we stayed in a Club Room, which runs about $120 per night and includes an excellent breakfast. Lunch and dinner are available at the Pearl of the Osa, the on-site restaurant, and the food is excellent. The beach that fronts the lodge is AMAZING, and perfect for swimming and boogie boarding. You can also take a taxi into town (on the very bumpy road) for about $10 each way and eat at one of the restaurants in PJ.
Encanta La Vida, like most places in Matapalo, is full-board and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner -- and the food is amazing. We stayed in the upstairs Deluxe Cabina (very recommended) which has four queen beds and two decks. The rate at Encanta was $120 per person, so for the two of us it was $240 per night. Encanta, unlike Bosque del Cabo, Lapa Rios, etc., is near the beach, but is set back into the jungle enough to have great wildlife sightings.
Our second trip to the area was this past April, and we decided to rent a house near Matapalo. We settled on Casa Dos Rios, which is actually on Playa Carbonera, and is very close to Martina's (Buena Esperanza restaurant). Renting a house for the week is very different experience of course, as you have to do your own shopping, cooking, etc., but we had a great time. The owners of the house live next door and are great people and very helpful. The house is huge with four bedrooms, and I think the rental rate was right at $1000 for the week. Having Martina's next door is a enormous benefit, as it's the only stand-alone restaurant in the area so it's easy to pop in for a few drinks or a meal when you're tired of cooking for yourself (and the food is outstanding). Martina's is kind of the social hub for the area, and it's great fun.
I know these are not the least expensive options in the area (and everyone's idea of budget travel is different) but when compared to the rates at the the major eco-lodges (Bosque, Lapa Rios, El Remanso), I think they're very good for middle-of-the-road travelers. And I'm not knocking the other eco-lodges at all -- we had lunch at Bosque and drinks at Lapa Rios, and they both look amazing.
If anyone else has other budget suggestions for this area or for the Drake Bay side of the Osa, please post them -- I'm sure lots of people would be interested! Thanks and if anyone has questions about any of the above locations, please let me know.