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Costa Rica - South Pacific

General information

The South Pacific in Costa Rica extends from the Baru River, next to Playa Dominical, to the borders of Panama. One of the many attractions in the region is the Peninsula de Osa. The South Pacific in Costa Rica offers unique real estate surrounded by tropical forests. There are domestic flights from San Jose to locations such as Puerto Jimenez, Coto, Palmar and Golfito.

The wilderness of Corcovado National Park is just one of the attractions at Drake Bay. This is a spot for hiking in the jungle, fishing, swimming and surfing on powerful waves. The town of Golfito is popular as it provides duty free shopping in Costa Rica. Golfito is the gateway to the languid waters of Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve and Playa Zancudo.

Most protected areas in Costa Rica are located in the South Pacific including 9 national parks. The southern region nestles Cerro Chirripo.

From the air, Costa Rica's South Pacific is like a sea of green and blue with a border of white sand between.

The Río Sierpe snakes through this imposing expanse, creating the sensation of a mini Amazon. To the north Cerro Chirripo borders the region, and as the highest peak in southern Central America at 12.603 feet, it's a formidable border indeed. La Amistad flows southward to Panama and the land falls eastward to the sea and coastal regions such as Dominical, Playa Ballena, and Playa Uvita and beyond. The Peninsula de Osa is one of the most remote areas in Costa Rica. The area is host to an incredibly rich array of wildlife and virgin rainforest, with nearly half of the peninsula comprising either National Park or other forms of protected land. It is also important to note that the region is also home to one of the largest concentrations of indigenous peoples, making it culturally rich as well.

The majority of visitors enter the region by either boat or plane. Drake Bay, which lies along the western shores of peninsula, is accessed by boat along the Rio Sierpe. This is a fascinating trip along nearly  37,000 acres of mangrove swamp, with ample opportunity for spotting water bird. As the boat approaches the mouth of the Pacific, it becomes clear why it is recommended to only takes this voyage with a local, experienced boatman. As you ease out into the open water, waiting for just the right opportunity to pass between large rocks and swirling current, there is a negotiation with the waves that's astounding to watch. Once out at sea the boat eases back into the calmer waters of the bay, where at different times of the year it's possible to see four types of whales and two types of dolphin. If you're travelling to this region in July, you might find yourself surrounded by a cloud of luminescent jade wings. 'Urania fulgens' is a migratory day flying moth, and it's difficult to describe the almost childlike joy at watching these green jewels flutter above the waves. The Drake Bay area boasts a variety of lodging for different styles and budgets.

All are built in a low impact style, and many offer services such as snorkeling and diving, guided trips to Corcovado National Park and Isla del Cano Biological Reserve, as well as world class sport fishing.

Corcovado National Park is located in one the richest and diverse tropical areas on the planet. This 108,022 acre park contains some of the highest rainforest canopy, due to the abundant rainfall and low elevations, and the region itself supports one of the two largest populations of scarlet macaws in the country. The most comfortable way to visit the park is on a day tour of hiking and snorkeling with one of the local lodges some of which are very luxurious indeed but it is possible to camp in the park near the ranger stations. It's extremely wet, buggy and primitive, so be prepared to carry everything in and out with you, including some very potent insect repellent.

Isla del Cano Biological Reserve is another fascinating place to visit.

Located 90 miles off the Peninsula de Osa's western coast, this large island has an enormous variety of activities to offer. Naturalist and archaeology buffs will enjoy hiking through the dense primary forest, as they step pass vine laden trees and the mysterious granite spheres fashioned by  pre Columbian inhabitants.

The island is believed to have had sacred status, and one theory is that the spheres were used as markers for graves. But the exploration of Isla del Cano doesn't stop on land. One of Costa Rica's prime dive destinations, the island boasts a large reef  system populated by a colorful variety of fish, including puffer fish and moray eels

The visibility is usually high, so even snorkelers can enjoy watching the fish dart along the sand and coral bottom.

Humpback and sperm whales join the resident pilots in December and January as they migrates south, so a day of island adventure could end as a whale watching expedition!

Visitors wanting to visit the Golf Dulce usually fly into Puerto Jimenez and head to various lodges located along the coast or into the interior. It is a noteworthy point that Lapa Rios, one of the most revered eco-resorts  in the world, lies within a private rainforest reserve of 1000 acres stretching from the Camino de Osa down to the Playa Pan Dulce on the gulf.

The Golfo Dulce can be the starting point for a great deal of nature related activities within the region. Both conventional boats and kayaks ply the Rio Esquinas, where visitors are likely to encounter a wide range of both flora and fauna. In fact, in nearby Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, the abundant rainfall has created the perfect climactic conditions to maintain large stands of exotic trees such as purple heart and plomo. These trees are commonly  found in this area, yet in country. Botanists, birders, students and tourists alike will also enjoy a visit to the Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Gardens. These gardens, containing 22 acres of cultivated area amid a 600 acre forest reserve form part of the Amistad Biosphere Reserve and are managed by the Organization of Tropical Studies a consortium of U.S. and Costa Rican universities.

The South Pacific region of Costa Rica provides visitors with an extensive range of nature related activities. Here you can hike through some of Costa Rica's richest and most untouched landscapes. Nearly every indigenous species of large mammal makes its home within the large tracts of protected land, and sometimes people are lucky  enough to see them. For many, just knowing that these beautiful creatures continue to thrive is satisfaction enough. This, combined with opportunities to explore marine life both above and below the water.s surface, makes a visit to the region an unforgettable one.

South Pacific map by Google

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Travel Tips

You may wish to brave the lengthy roads by taking the Pan American highway down toward the South Pacific in order  to visit the mountainous regions of Cerro de la Muerte and Chirripo National Park. Buses go through the San Isidro de El General. But if you wish to arrive further south fresh and energized for your travels, take one of the many daily flights that will take you into the heart of the region.


A truly  tropical climate awaits visitors to this region. High humidity and dense vegetation  form lush landscapes. Rains are frequent year round, but shouldn't  keep travelers off the trails, as they tend to be brief.

What to bring

Insect repellent and rain gears are necessary  when travelling in this region, although the rains are often more refreshing than disturbing. Keep clothing light and airy, as heavy items are more difficult to dry in the humid atmosphere. Snorkeling equipment is highly recommended, as many beaches offer beautiful reef systems right off shore.

Things to do

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Snorkeling
  • Walking
  • Kayaking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Swimming
  • Surfing

Places to go

Corcovado National Park - Pristine rainforest, home to jaguars, macaws and other rarely  seen wildlife.

Isla de Cano Biological Reserve - This island off of Drake Bay preserves pre-Columbian archaeological sites, as well as marine  and terrestrial habitats.

Wilson Botanical Garden - Beautifully landscaped gardens bordered by rainforest  containing an abundance of wildlife.

Chirripo National Park - Surrounds Costa Rica's highest peak. Spectacular hiking trails available.

San Gerardo de Dota - Numerous privates reserve that form habitat for the resplendent quetzal.

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