What to See in Costa Rica Southern Zone
If you have lots of money, time, and a taste for adventure, or if you just love a challenge, Costa Rica Southern Zone is your dream destination. In many ways Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is the nation’s last true frontier, with wild jungle lowlands, heavily forested mountains, and isolated seaside vistas and islands where very few human inhabitants can be found.
In fact, most of the destinations and national parks in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone are so isolated and wild that the only way to reach them is by small plane. A four-wheeled vehicle and some hiking expertise will get you to some of spots if you are determined to go, but you’ll want to map out your journey in advance.
Drake Bay is the single major city in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone, but it is only major by comparison with the wilder, smaller settlements sprinkled sparsely around the rest of the area. Located at the northern end of the Osa peninsula just north of Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay is accessible only by plane.
If you are headed for Drake Bay, make sure you have a reservation and transportation to your lodgings arranged before arriving. The hotels and nature resorts in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone are located in lush, fairly isolated spots that are far away from each other. Hopping from one to another looking for an open room isn’t really an option here.
Corcovado National Park, home to the largest expanse of tropical rain forest in Central America, remains one of the premiere eco-tourism destinations in the world. Accommodations here range from rustic to the truly luxurious. Any hotel anywhere in Costa Rica can arrange a tour and accommodations for you.
Another popular destination in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is Cano Island and the Cano Island Biological Reserve. Located about 12 miles offshore from Drake Bay, Cano Island was home to a mysterious pre-Columbian culture about which very little is known. Day-trippers to the island will be able to see some of the mysterious stone spheres they left behind, as well as go snorkeling and scuba diving in the crystal clear waters surrounding the island.
Across the Golfo Dulce from Corcovado lies the city of Golfito, one of the most famous sport fishing destinations anywhere on earth. Here you can set out for marlin, sailfish, and just about any other kind of deepwater fishing imaginable. Sport fishing is not an inexpensive hobby, however, so unless this has been a lifelong dream or you already are equipped for the task, you might want to just be a tourist here instead.
As a tourist in Golfito, you can head over to Playa Cacao to swim and sun (a short boat ride away from the city), or Playa Zancudo, which has a nicer beach. You can also watch birds and explore the flora and fauna at the nearby Wilson Botanical Gardens and the Las Cruces Biological Station. Half day walking tours of the Las Cruces Biological Station will set you back only about $10 USD.
The beaches that surround the small villages of Zancudo and Pavones south of Golfito are so wild and undeveloped that they make a perfect ‘get away from it all’ destination. Don’t expect anything beyond raw natural beauty and the colorful surfers and iconoclasts who appreciate it.
You could well find that you are one of them.
Although by no means easy to reach, Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is worth the extra effort. One of earth’s last remaining truly wild places, Costa Rica’s Southern Zone holds adventures and discoveries that will linger for a lifetime.
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