Classics author Robert Louis Stevenson modeled Treasure Island on the tiny Isla del Cocos Costa Rica, a lush, uninhabited island 300 miles off the nation’s central Pacific Coast. Isla del Cocos Costa Rica, also known popularly as Cocos Island, enjoys the well-deserved reputation of being one of the most spectacular and historic diving destinations in the world.
Costa Rica first raised its flag on Isla del Cocos in 1869. Over the years the island has been visited by such esteemed historical figures as Sir Francis Drake, Captain Edward Davis, William Dampier, Mary Welch, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A known pirate haunt during most of 19th century, Cocos Island is believed to contain undiscovered buried treasure and unclaimed pirate booty. Since Cocos Island was declared a national park and a protected area in 1978, most of this treasure will remain undiscovered forever.
Not to worry: The real treasure of Isla del Cocos Island Costa Rica can be found in the warm waters surrounding the tiny land mass. Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, moray and spotted eels, octopi, trigger fish, angel fish, hawksbill turtles, spiny lobsters, red-lipped batfish, and frogfish are just a few of the rare specimens divers can observe swimming about in their native habitat.
The diving off Isla del Cocos Costa Rica is not for novices, however. The waters are deep and choppy, and strong currents and large waves are par for the course. Sharks, (not generally dangerous to humans who are experienced divers) are plentiful here, so visitors who are frightened by them should be forewarned.
Cocos Island is not easy to reach, either. The only sure way to get there is to charter a boat out of Puntarenas or sign up for one of the many guided diving excursions offered, or to set sail on your own yacht. The trip takes about 36 hours one way; even longer by sailboat—but it’s well worth it for the diving and wildlife alone.
Non-divers and shark phobic hikers will enjoy the many trails that wind around the steep hills and cliffs that ring Cocos Island’s perimeter and its lush interior. Spectacular waterfalls abound, and land explorers can easily observe animals and rare plants found nowhere else on earth. Some of these include the ever-present Cocos finch, the Cocos wild pig, and a variety of exotic plants and reptiles. Dense tropical rain forest covers the center portion of Isla del Cocos Costa Rica, and a single ranger station houses its only year round human inhabitants.
Isla del Cocos Costa Rica may not be number one on the itinerary of tourists with a limited amount of time, but that fact is also one its most enduring charms. Travelers who want to get away from it all and enjoy a leisurely tropical experience far from the things of man will find all they ever wanted and more on a journey to Cocos Island.
Finally, Isla del Cocos Costa Rica is so remote that no overnight facilities or accommodations are available on land. Most visitors who do not own their own yacht or sailing vessel choose one of many all-inclusive 10-day excursions on a live-aboard boat; where they sleep, eat, and relax onboard between excursions to the island itself and diving adventures in its jeweled waters.