The Southern Zone of Cosa Rica
The small town of Golfito
Golfito is named after a tiny gulf that emerges into the much larger Golfo Dulce. It is the most important port in the far southern part of Costa Rica, although its maritime importance has declined greatly in recent years. From 1938 to 1985 Golfito was the center of a major banana-growing region, and for many years the headquarters of the United Fruit Company. A combination of declining foreign markets, rising Costa Rican export taxes, worker unrest, and banana diseases led to the closing in 1985. Some of the plantations have since been turned to African palm-oil production, but this didn‘t alleviate the high unemployment and economic loss caused by United‘s departure.
In an attempt to boost the economy of the region, Costa Rica in 1990 has built a duty-free facility where annually some 14‘000 residents come in search of relatively inexpensive household appliances and other imported goods as import taxes in the rest of the country are prohibitively high. However, in order to do shopping the customers must spend at least one night in Golfito, which helped to reduce unemployment due to the many new jobs created in the local tourism industry.
Golfito is strung out along a coastal road with a backdrop of steep thickly forested hills. The southern part is where you find most of the bars and businesses – this sector feels pleasantly decrepit in the way tropical seaports tend to be, but without the usual hustle and danger. In fact, Warner Brothers chose this site to film Chico Mendes, the true story of a Brazilian rubber taper’s efforts to preserve the rainforest.
The town, surrounded by steep hills, is protecting the Golfito watershed and is a splendid rainforest backdrop to explore. While keeping Golfito‘s water clean and flowing, it also has the side effect of conserving a number of rare and interesting plant species as well as the endemic Golfo Dulce Dart Frog (phyllobates vittatus).
There are many facilities in Golfito such as private and public medical care including a hospital, financial institutions, a rent-a-car subsidiary, small hotels and lots of restaurants serving fresh seafood and typical local dishes.
Golfito is the embarking town for tourists visiting sustainable rainforest lodges out in the Golfo Dulce area surrounded by the Piedras Blancas National Park or to the beach village of Zancudo and also to Pavones, one of the world most famous surfing destinations or to Punto Banco at the edge of the border to Panama. Additional to various taxi boats offering their services, there is a public ferry to Puerto Jimenez on the Peninsula de Osa from where the Southern entrance of .the Corcovado National Park can be reached by land in about 3 hours.
There are various ways to get from San Jose to Golfito; it can either be reached by car within 4 to 5 hours driving time along the scenic coastal road or in about 7 hours on the Panamerican Highway passing by the Sierra de la Muerte, by public bus services (www.tracopacr.com) within 7 to 8 hours or by plane within 45 minutes by Sansa (www.flysansa.com) or Nature Air (www.natureair.com) who offer various daily in- and out-going flights.