Zona Sur – The South Pacific


Osa Peninsula – jutting into the Pacific Ocean off the Costa Rican coast, this area remains Costa Rica’s last wild frontier. You will find a remote paradise harboring a diversity of habitats and biological richness rarely found in such a small geographic area. This is where the jungle meets the sea. Lowland tropical rain forest lines pristine white-sand beaches, and mangroves front freshwater lagoons are all found here. The peninsula’s inaccessibility spared it for many years from development.

The Osa Peninsula was once an island that later connected to the mainland of the Central American Isthmus. As a result, it has an extraordinary rate of endemism – species found nowhere else on Earth. The canopy of the rain forest ( greatest tree species diversity in all of Central America) harbors the country’s largest population of scarlet macaws and 52 species of nocturnal bats feeding on some 6,000 types of insects. Large cats such as jaguar and puma share the forest floor with tapir and anteaters while howler monkeys chatter overhead. Offshore, the deep blue waters of the Pacific and Golfo Dulce play host to migrating humpback whales and sea turtles that nest on Osa’s shores.

Drake Bay – As the legend goes, Sir Frances Drake buried a treasure somewhere along this coast in the 1570s. Gold, however, is not the priceless treasure you are going to find on a trip here. Drake’s magic is found in its intense natural beauty, where monkeys swing on mango trees and waves crash on jungle coasts. Drake (pronounced DRAH-kay by locals) is not conducive to budget traveling, but few who travel here regret the expense. The area’s wide, bending river, beaches, and extensive mangrove swamps also serve as a gateway to Parque Nacional Corcovado’s teeming wildlife. The isolation of this town (no telephone wires and almost exclusively boat access) is a huge draw. Drake may be one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can not only visit an undisturbed tropical paradise but also (comfortably) live amidst the breathtaking nature.

Corcovado National Park – covers one-third of the Osa Peninsula on the Pacific coast near the Panamanian border. Corcovado is one of the country’s wildest and most remote parks. With thick forests, deserted beaches, and swamps are home to most of the country’s endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs, scarlet macaws, four kinds of monkeys, poison dart frogs, and crocodiles, its no wonder this area is remote.

On the northern edge of the park, you’ll find the Marenco Biological Reserve. This private reserve is sometimes visited by ships after they cruise through the remote Golfo Dulce, and passengers are brought in on small motorized boats. Although the park is quite small(1,235 acres/500 hectares), its location near the immense Corcovado National Park means there are many more rain-forest animals than you’d expect in so few acres/hectares. The most popular trail is to Rio Claro’s cascades and beautiful swimming hole.

Dominical – a birdwatching, eco-tourism mecca. The area is deeply forested with a large amount of secondary growth (it has been cut down at least once and has regrown). You will also find some original growth forest. The area boasts some resident authorities in reforestation, sustainable tourist practices, and wildlife management.

Golfito – situated at the southeastern side of the Golfo Dulce, a big bay of the Pacific Ocean, just northwest of Panama. This port town was founded at the end of the twenties by the United Brand Banana Company. Within a short time, it was built into a prosperous trade center. Golfito was the most important port at the south end of Costa Rica.

Its importance has decreased dramatically in the last years since 1985 when the banana company left and gave all their real estate to the government. One year following the departure of that industry, the government established the Golfito Reserve or “Refugio National de Vida Silvestre” – establishing a kind of limited national park or wildlife refuge area.

In April 1990 a duty-free shopping zone was opened in Golfito. It attracts Ticos and foreigners from all over the country. This new duty-free tourism and a newly developing Eco-tourism industry around Golfito is helping to revive the region and boost the struggling local economy. More and more travelers are attracted to visit the nearby national parks, reserve areas, and botanical gardens or to take boat trips in the pristine “Golfo Dulce” (Sweet Bay) and the river “Rio Coto”.

San Vito – set in the heart of the breathtaking Coto Brus Valley, San Vito stands 980m above sea level, providing a break from the hot jungles of southern Costa Rica. Marked by warm days and crisp nights, this small, sloping village integrates culture, climate, and breathtaking views. Italians founded the town in the early 1950s, arriving in WWII jeeps and set up some of the coffee plantations for which the valley is known. San Vito is still home to many Italian-speaking families, and Italian restaurants are the highlight of the town.

Puerto Jimenez – the gateway to Parque Nacional Corcovado. This is where the main ranger station is and it is the last town of any size before you enter the park. You will also find a good place to relax on its beaches that are protected by the gulf. There is good surfing nearby in Cabo Matapalo and transportation arrangements can be easily made. This area has a final frontier feel to it because much of it was created from inhabitants originally coming to log and mine for gold. Since Corcovado National Park was established in 1975 much of the logging and mining has since diminished. You will still find the activity of logging and mining on the outskirts of the park west of Puerto Jimenez.