Cabo Matapalo, on the southern tip of Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, is a tiny outpost of rustic-but-romantic eco-lodges that sits within one of the largest untouched primary rainforests in the world. There's no downtown – there isn't even any pavement – and there's no electricity, so when the sun goes down, the town is lit up with candlelight. "It's a little easier to get to these days," says expat Trevor Brown, who's lived in Costa Rica since 2009. "But it still feels like the end of the Earth."
Much of the Osa Peninsula was designated a national park in 1975, and it still feels like uncharted territory; scientists flock to observe rare species like the puma and the tapir, the largest mammal in Central America. Whether you stay in a safari tent at Rafiki Beach camp or in a bungalow at the Encanta la Vida (which somehow found enough space for a swimming pool), locals recommend stocking up on things like snacks, candles, and mosquito netting before you arrive. At night, everyone retires to their room – or hammock – as the man-made world virtually disappears and the jungle comes alive with the roar of cicadas.
Wake up with a strong local brew and grab your board – a 10-minute stroll down a muddy path is where you'll find not only the best waves but also a thin crescent of sand that butts right up against the dense jungle. "And if you want to interact with the jungle on a more physical level," Brown says, "a local guide will take you to climb the huge trees or rappel down the King Louis waterfall."
Getting there: Fly to San José; connect to Puerto Jiménez.