Fishing Destination: Costa Rica’s Crocodile Bay Resort

The famous Crocodile Bay fishing lodge has been reinvented as a luxury eco-resort, but it remains a dream destination for anglers.

I reach the palm trees at the base of Crocodile Bay’s famous ¼-mile dock, face greasy with sunscreen and sweat, hands and shirt stained with tuna blood, and am greeted by a smiling man wearing a clean, dry polo shirt. Eyes adjusting to the shade, I blink at him as he offers a platter stacked with tightly rolled white washcloths.

This, I think to myself, is a bit too much.

I’m a fisherman in the remote rainforest of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, not a pampered guest of The White Lotus. I reluctantly accept the pre-moistened and chilled terrycloth, press it to my face, and inhale. The scent is light but refreshing. Eucalyptus and mint, I would guess.

Face clean and refreshed, I climb into the air-conditioned shuttle van with the rest of the group for the two-minute ride that drops us at the glass door of the super-stylish new lobby. More smiles greet us when we enter, and a fresh mango juice cocktail is placed in my hand. (Optional splash of rum? Yes, please.) As we fill the lobby with fishing chatter, another smiling host politely interrupts with an important question for the group.

Would we want the day’s tuna prepared as a sashimi appetizer for the table, or added to the menu as an optional grilled entrée? We fall silent for a beat before a solution is offered.

“Or, I could ask the chef to prepare it both ways.”

Spared a difficult choice, the group unanimously supports the third option. We hand back our empty glasses and disband to our suites with plans to meet back at the poolside bar in 30 minutes for a round of pre-dinner cocktails.

This, I think to myself, is amazing.

Crocodile Bay’s spectacular pool area, viewed from the balcony of a guest suite.

A Destination Fishing Lodge Reimagined

My first visit to Crocodile Bay Resort was in 2015. The fishing at the renowned lodge, at that point in its 16th year of operation, was all I had imagined it would be—roosterfish, snappers, and jacks smashing topwater plugs and devouring live baits. The resort itself was comfortable for a fishing lodge, especially one in such a remote location. It was charming and authentic, and the staff was warm and friendly, but the indisputable draw was the fishing.

In 2022, Crocodile Bay underwent major renovations and expansion, relaunching as Botánika Resort, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. A basic fishing lodge no more, Botanika offers luxury in the rainforest, with a 2,000 square-foot fitness center, a spa, and multiple dining options, including a “flagship culinary destination,” a wine bar, and an outdoor bar and grill next to the lagoon-style pool.

Everything is brand-new, flawless, and luxurious. Yet, through thoughtful organic design and thanks to impeccable but relaxed and friendly service, it feels unfussy. The sense of being in a wild place on the edge of the Corcovado Rainforest remains, as the manicured landscaping seamlessly flows into native plantings and wild buffers.

While being pampered and indulged is nice (and easy to get used to), I was there for the fishing. While blown away upon entering the renovated resort, I was struck with concern that, as is the case at many resorts, the “fishing charter” would be a glorified sunset cruise with a couple of trolling rods. Thankfully, the moment I stepped onto the dock, I was back at the old Crocodile Bay fishing lodge. The boats have received some upgrades, but they are equipped for fishing first, with top-of-the-line PENN gear. The captains and mates are talented, knowledgeable, and serious about fishing.

The approach to fishing remains serious, with talented captains and mates running the sportfishing fleet.

The first day was a half day, so we stayed inshore and fished along the “Jurassic Park” shoreline of the Gulfo Dulce. Against a backdrop of heaving surf crashing against sheer rock shoreline and sending ocean mist into jungle green slopes, we battled jacks, snappers, and roosterfish that rose from the rocky structure below and smashed our live baits.

A large roosterfish was handled with care and quickly released to preserve Golfo Dulce’s legendary inshore fishery.

On days two and three, we ran offshore to find massive pods of spinner dolphin churning the surface to white water and corkscrewing into the air. Among the dolphin were yellowfin tuna, ranging in size from 8 pounds to 80 pounds. We caught them trolling diving plugs and live baits, and throwing topwater poppers into surface feeds.

On The Water’s Chris Megan with a yellowfin tuna caught among spinner dolphin pods.

When the surface-busting tuna got picky on the last day, I dared to pick up a rig we had been using to catch small mahi—a 3000-size PENN Authority on a medium-heavy spinning rod—and launched a 7/8-ounce Joe Baggs resin jig I’d brought from home toward tuna that had ignored everything else. I was tight in an instant, and after a 30-minute battle of give and take landed my best fish of the trip.

Any concerns that Crocodile Bay would lose its fishy soul in the process of reinvention as a luxury resort were put to rest. Amenities are nice, but the elements that make Crocodile Bay a special place—the splendor of the Osa Peninsula, the warmth of the people who staff the resort, and the spectacular fishing—remain as I remembered.

The unspoiled scenery of the Osa Peninsula remains spectacular.

1 thought on “Fishing Destination: Costa Rica’s Crocodile Bay Resort

  1. Karen Lynn Lutto

    So glad to hear your comments. I was there in 2015 & 16. I am going back next month. Fishing has always been amazing. I have been two other times, but am coming back here for the fishing – and to get married. Crocodile Bay is a very special place for me. I hope it still has some of its old charm.

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