Regions: South Pacific

The South Pacific region is a unique experience of contact with beautiful beaches and virgin primary rainforest. The Corcovado National Park will remind you of the marvels of nature. Step inside this world of wonders.

Costa Rica’s South Pacific region is best known for its immense biological diversity and natural beauty. It’s also characterized by a blend of ethnic influences and clearly defined microclimates that go from highlands to interesting and desolate beaches. All these differences fill the area with dramatic sights and endless adventure possibilities.

The best time of year to drop by is between January and April, since it rains less during this period. However, any of the other months are great if you don’t mind a few rain showers, since the water makes flowers and all the green around the forest come alive.

You can take an hour flight or drive along a paved coastal road, and take advantage of the good road network that connects the entire area. Several upscale hotels and resorts are spread out all over this region, and provide visitors with everything from one day guided tours, to scuba diving and horseback riding. There also other kinds of cozy accommodations fitting for every lifestyle.

There’s almost no creature that you won’t be able to see as you move through the region. Prepare yourself for the sight of monkeys, coatimundis, agoutis, armadillos, squirrels, sloths, deer, iguanas, crocodiles, hawks, ducks, flycatchers, toucans, parrots, jungle cats, tapirs, quetzals and a wide variety of insects. What more could one ask for?

The South Pacific is ideal for anyone who wishes to practice water sports, like rafting in the General and Coto Brus rivers. In Pavones, surfers are greeted by the second longest left wave in the world. Professional fishing is done in Golfito, Pavones and Puerto Jimenez. World records have been established, given the large size of the sailfish in these areas. Chirripo, the highest peak in the country, presents a great opportunity for visitors who accept the challenge of climbing to the top.

Rural and tropical

There are two very different ways to enjoy Costa Rica’s South Pacific region. The Pan-American highway, will take you along small villages, like Perez Zeledon.

These towns are filled with the country’ tradition and the friendliness of its people, and are great stops before venturing into the wonder of the wild.

The coastal road allows visitors to absorb the scenery of long beaches, quiet bays and ideal surfing spots. The Osa Peninsula is a virtually untouched section of the region, with nature in the most amazing, pristine state.

The Golfito National Wildlife refuge protects a primary evergreen forest, inside which 125 species of trees alone have been identified. Piedras Blancas (white Stones) National Park is located deep in the rain forest, and serves for great bird watching. Along transport you to a full state of relaxation. Near Golfito, Gallardo, Cacao, Puntarenitas and Atrocho are perfect. Further South, the find, gray sand and abundant vegetation of Zancudo is quite unique.

Plenty of life

It’s no wonder that most of the country’s protection zones are located in this region. Specifically, there are nine national parks and protected areas, as well as half of the country’s nature reserves.

But perhaps the most intriguing of all destinations within the South Pacific is the Osa Peninsula. It just into the Pacific Ocean for more than 31 miles, forming Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) and creating a magnificent natural harbor. Some of the country’s most imposing forests cover the hills and line the valley of this peninsula.

Inside, the Corcovado National Park covers more than 99,000 acres and is a perfect example of a primary forest. It protects the last portion of Tropical Humid Forest of the Mesoamerican Pacific, and given its geographical location, climate, soil and topography, an amazing diversity of species thrive here.

Great potential

All of these qualities have awakened great interest among scientists, local and foreign, and have put the area under continuous study. The discoveries could bring great benefit to agriculture, medicine and other related fields of study. Several plant species found here don’t exist in other parks, and anyone who visits will come face to face with a wealth of animals: over 400 birds species; over 100 species of amphibians; and 100 of mammals.

Up until the arrival of the Spanish, indigenous groups inhabited the area. It’s believed that they settled here due to the abundance of wildlife. Archaeologists show interest in the region, as they try to go deeper into the natives’ relationship with nature and understand their use of resources. Even though a lot of the area has been virtually unexplored, important evidence that points to the relevance of this lifestyle has been found.

A hidden wonder

The Corcovado National Park was created in 1975. At this time, the 300 farmers living in the area were compensated for their land relocated elsewhere. Until 1978, there was no access by land to the Peninsula and the population in the region was scarce. Since then, the park has been destined exclusively for conversation, scientific investigation, environmental education and an environmentally conscious tourism.

In Corcovado visitors can witness the unique combination of marine and land ecosystems. The area holds thousands of species of flora, many unique to the area and others which have disappeared from other regions.

Several of the animal species in Corcovado are in danger of extinction.

The guacamaya or red macaw; wild boar; jaguar and the crocodile are some of them. Among the many memories you can take with you, the perfect one is the community of scarlet macaws, flying over the treetops two at a time. These noisy birds aren’t too hard to see, as long as you keep your eyes open and learn to recognize their call. There are exotic nature trails, drinking water and camping areas.

The borders of the peninsula guard the beautiful beaches of Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread); Carate and Carbonara. The way to get to them is on a boat, and don’t forget your sun block, hat and insect repellent.

A word of advice: Although making the drive to the South Pacific can be an adventurous experience, there’s also the possibility of taking one of the many daily flights into the heart of this region.

Ancestral wonderland

During the 1930’s a great archaeological mystery was discovered in the delta of the Terraba River (also known as the Sierpe, Diquis, and General River). Near the towns of Palmar Sur and Palmar Norte, several impressive stone spheres were found. They ranged in size from a few centimeters to over 6.5 feet in diameter. Some weigh 16 tones, and almost all of them are made of granodiorite, a hard, igneous stone.

The theories surrounding these stone wonders are many. Some archaeologists believe that the spheres were created by the ancient and beligerant Chibcha tribe. They might have used war prisoners as slaves to work the stone, to symbolize power between groups. The size of the spheres might have been related to the status each group.

Another theory believes that the spheres were an astronomical representation, whit a ceremonial objective or as an orientation calendar. Together with other astronomical instruments, the spheres could have provided detailed information on the dates of solstices, the longest day of the year and the duration of the rainy season.

However, even after years of research, the same questions remain. Who exactly created the stone spheres? How was the round shape accomplished? What was their meaning? The mystery lingers.

Off the coast

Caño Island is an exquisite gift for everyone. It’s 13 miles off the coast of the Osa Peninsula and is paradise for nature lovers. Those who prefer hiking have many trails to explored, and the virgin white sand beaches and crystal clear water is ideal for diving and snorkeling. It’s also a great observation point for dolphins, turtles, sailfish and coral reef.

Perhaps the most interesting of the attractions are the archaeological sites found throughout the island. As you walk through the primary forest, there’s a good chance that you’ll see some ancient pieces on the ground, which shouldn’t be moved or touched. Artifacts for preparing corn and for making certain instruments have been uncovered.

Some of the most interesting, however, are the solid stone spheres, measuring up to 6.5 feet in diameter. The spheres, tombs with statues and gold and ceramic offerings led to believe that the island might have been an indigenous burial ground before the Spanish conquest. However, remains of ceramics for domestic use and artifacts believed to have been used in agriculture suggest otherwise.

Surf Information

The surf season in Costa Rica’s South Pacific Coast is from April through November.

Quepos – Left break located front of the town of Quepos. Needs a large swell to work well. Lots of restaurants and hotels. This town is popular, so you’ll find good night life too.

Playita Manuel Antonio – Lefts and rights beach break, located north of Manuel Antonio. This break needs a large swell or it’s too small for good surfing.

Playa El Rey – Beach break with right and left, a lot like Playa Hermosa. No accommodations but a good place for camping and surfing; you’ll have to ask the locals from Quepos how to get there, because the entrance is in a palm plantation.

Playa Dominical – If you’re lucky enough you will surf along with the dolphins in a wonderful experience, they’ll jump along right next to you. A good place to stay. Here you’ll surf rights and lefts; like a beach break but some rocks below. Lots of restaurants and places to stay.

Drake Bay – This point is located at Peninsula de Osa, and you’ll have to take a boat and bring all your things, because there are no accommodations. This area is full of points, but because of its difficult access it’s not a well known area.

Matapalo – Powerful right, located in front of Pavones. A rocky point and also a rocky way out; be careful going out because the wave can push you into the shore rocks. You can get there by boat (From Pavones, Puerto Jimenez) or by road from Puerto Jimenez (20 minutes). Few accommodations nearby, and no restaurant. When it gets big you better have a big board or go surfing Back Wash. In some cases the local families can give you food — you’ll have to ask them if you didn’t bring your stuff.

Back Wash – Located South of Matapalo, very nice right rocky point, wonderful white sand beach. When Matapalo is too big to surf, Backwash is the place to go; it has huge swells. No accommodations at the beach, but you’ll find some places nearby, but they can be expensive, so be prepared.

Pan Dulce – Located South of Backwash, this would be the longest left of this three points (Matapalo, Backwash, Pan Dulce), but it’s only surfable with big swells — if you’re lucky you can have a great time, but if you’re not, head for Backwash or Matapalo.

Pavones – This wave is considered one of the longest in the world, about 1. 3 KM when the conditions are good. Here you’ll find plenty of surfer accommodations, restaurants, and places to stay or camp, but because this beach is famous it’s sometimes very crowded. About 400KM of San Jose, you can get there from Golfito, or via the southern border (Panama). If you go by Golfito, the ferry closes at 5:30PM.

Punta Banco – Reef breaks with rights and lefts. Located 2 miles south of Pavones by road. Good place to go when Pavones is too small, or crowded. Accommodations nearby.

Punta Burica – The last beach south on the Pacific coast, there’s no road, so you’ll have to take a boat and ride this great break alone with your friends.

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