Corcovado National Park
Exotic and wild, and mostly untouched due to its isolation and inaccessibility, the Corcovado National Park protects 43,735 hectares on the Osa Peninsula of shallow lagoons, swamps, mangroves, rivers, rainforests and low-altitude cloud forests, as well as 46 km of sandy coastline. It is one of the most unique ecosystems in Central America, receiving naturalists from all over the world who come to study in its vast territory. In Corcovado, you can experience the biological diversity of one of the last virgin natural areas, and the largest remaining tract of Pacific Tropical Wet Forest, in Central America. Its trees are comparable in grandeur to those in the Amazon Basin. In the park coexist 140 kinds of mammals, 400 bird species, 117 reptile and amphibian species, 40 kinds of freshwater fish, 6,000 different insects, 220 types of butterflies, and 750 tree species. Some of the most commonly viewed wildlife includes jaguars, tapirs, many species of snakes, four types of sea turtles, anteaters, sloths, crocodiles, poison-arrow frogs, and all four species of monkeys. Besides Manuel Antonio, the Corcovado National Park is one of the only other areas in Costa Rica where you can find the endangered squirrel monkey. It also has the largest concentration of Scarlet Macaws in the country. The park’s trail system is extensive, and it takes hikers usually two to three days to trek from one side to another; Corcovado allows camping.
- Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve: Serving as a biological corridor between the Corcovado and the Piedras Blancas national parks, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve is an amazing place to observe nature at its most pristine. Its 70,000 hectares protect forests, rivers, mangrove estuaries, and sandy strips along the spectacular Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf).
- Piedras Blancas National Park: Together with the Corcovado National Park and the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve, the Piedras Blancas National Park forms an important biological corridor that protects a vast array of species of flora and fauna along the Golfo Dulce. The park’s 14,000 hectares are home to rugged mountains, the Esquinas and Piedras Blancas rivers, and the remaining lowland tropical rainforest of the Golfo Dulce area, which provides a habitat for the increasingly rare jaguar.
- Golfito National Wildlife Refuge: The 1,309 hectares of the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge nearly surround the town of Golfito and protect the community's water supply. It borders the Piedras Blancas National Park to the north, and is part of the Osa Conservation Area.
- Golfito: Golfito is the only town in Costa Rica that is located in the middle of a protected area. Set on a small cove on Golfo Dulce, the port town of Golfito runs in a long strip along the water and features the architectural highlight of the tropical wooden houses of the United Fruit banana company. In the 1950s, 90 percent of Costa Rica’s bananas came from Golfito. The town has commercial and tourist services, a hospital, domestic airport, boat dock, and government services. Various tourist companies provide lodging and tours in the area. Another town highlight is the Duty-Free Commercial Shopping Centre, where you can buy various products exempted from taxes. Golfito is the gateway to visit other coastal communities such as Puerto Jiménez, Zancudo and Pavones, and to tour the Golfo Dulce and its beaches.
- Las Tablas Protected Zone: As part of La Amistad National Park, the Las Tablas Protected Zone is also part of the UNESCO declared area of the La Amistad Biosphere. Located near the town of San Vito, its 19,602 hectares cover the upper basins of the Cotón, Coto Brus and Negro rivers. Six species of felines identified in Costa Rica, howler monkeys, spider and white-faced monkeys, as well as coatis and sloths are protected here.
- Las Cruces Biological Station: The main attraction of the Las Cruces Biological Station is the Wilson Botanical Garden, comprising about 8 hectares of beautiful tropical and subtropical ornamental plants, and little-known and endangered plant species of Costa Rica and other locales. It is a place specially equipped for research and science education.
- Stone Spheres of the South Pacific: The mysterious stone spheres of Costa Rica are only located in the South Pacific region of the country, and are unique in the world. Indigenous relics dating to Pre-Columbian times, their size varies from a few centimetres to 2.5 meters in diameter; some present figures of humans or animals from the area.
- Indigenous Reserves: Costa Rica’s South Pacific is home to several indigenous groups, including the Cabécars, Guaymies and Borucas. You may visit several reservations; however, few of them have kept their traditions. An exception is the Borucas, an indigenous tribe that successfully fought off the Spanish conquistadors of the 15th century. Their large reservation is near the town of Buenos Aires, extending into the foothills of the Talamanca Mountains above the Térraba River. The crafts of the Borucas are famous in Costa Rica, and include fantastic masks made of balsa or cedar wood, expertly woven textiles, and musical instruments such as drums, maracas and flutes. In the indigenous villages of Boruca and Rey Curre, you can buy such traditional handicrafts. These villages maintain their native language and host traditional ceremonies, such as the annual “Festival de los Diablitos” (Festival of the Devils) at the New Year.
- Piedra del Indio (Indian Stone) Archaeological Site: This site reveals a petroglyph depicting a “rock map” detailing the Talamanca Mountain Range with its diverse landforms; it is a national historical heritage site, located at the town of Piedra del Indio.
- General River (Rio General): Beginning in the Chirripó National Park, and flowing into the Pacific Ocean, the General River becomes the Grand Térraba River and is the longest (196 km) and one of the largest rivers of Costa Rica. In some areas, whitewater rafting trips are offered on the river’s rapids.