The Southern Zone of Cosa Rica
The Golfo Dulce
The Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), a large bay ringed by secluded beaches, lies between the Osa Peninsula and the southern end of the Pacific Coast. Due to the regions tremendous biodiversity the Golfo Dulce area with its virgin rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park is the perfect destination for nature lovers and for those who are seeking soft adventure surrounded by dense jungle or just want to get away some days from hustling and crowded tourism places.
During a visit by the Greenpeace ship Moby Dick, Captain Joel Stewart commented in 1996 that there is "so much biodiversity... so many species, that one is almost forced to defend it."
The Golfo Dulce is one of only three tropical fjord-like estuaries in the whole world. The depth exceeds 200 m in the inner basin and is sheltered against the open Pacific by a shallow sill (60 m) at the southern end. Water depths increase rapidly along fault scarp faces on the eastern side of the gulf and tidal ranges are as great as 6 m. Due to this morphology only a limited water exchange with the ocean takes place.
Its’ marine environment is not only very unique and rich, it is also very fragile. The mangroves within the gulf are a crucial nursery for corvina (sea brass), shrimp and other marine life forms. The coral reefs are unfortunately threatened by sedimentation from logging.
The Golfo Dulce is the habitat of bottlenose dolphins (tursiops truncatus), commonly known as Flipper, and spinner dolphins (stenella longirostris). Risso’s dolphins (grampus griseus) sometimes can be seen at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce.
Humpback Whales (megaptera novaeangliae) from the Northern Hemisphere are passing by in January to April and in August and September from the Southern Hemisphere. Bryde’s Whales (balaenoptera edeni) and False Killer Whales (pseudorca crassidens) are residents.
Occasional visitors are Orca Killer Whales (orcinus orca). At the mouth of the Golfo Dulce, Cuvier’s Beaked Whales (ziphius cavirostris) and Pygmy Sperm Whales (kogia breviceps) can be seen.
A tuna fish farming project which was planned in the past has meanwhile been successfully declined. The fecal and other organic waste of any kind of artificial marine farming projects would surely have destroyed the rich biodiversity of the Golfo Dulce and threatened the livelihoods of all who depend on it. The delicate ecology and unique status as a tropical fjord the Golfo Dulce is the last place on earth where such projects should be developed.
The intense, diverse tropical flora and fauna of the primary rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park add to the attraction of the region. One may encounter an abundance of wildlife such as four species of monkey (spider, white-faced, squirrel and howler), poison dart frogs, morpho butterflies, anteaters, agoutis, coati mundis, jaguars, ocelots, pumas and margays. It is also a great birding destination; amongst others scarlet macaws, toucans, hummingbirds, great curassows, crested guans, trogons, aracaris, honey creepers, herons, tinamous, woodpeckers, wood creepers, antbirds and manikins can easily been seen.
The Piedras Blancas National Park was established in 1992 as an extension of the Corcovado National Park. In the east the park borders the Golfito Forest Reserve and connects in the west with the Corcovado National Park by the forest corridor of Rincon. The Piedras Blancas National Park covers 30’000 acres of undisturbed humid tropical lowland primary rainforest and 5’000 acres of secondary forests, pasture land and rivers consisting primarily of hills of varied steepness, over one hundred stream valleys, a river plateau and coastal cliffs and beaches.
On the western shore of the Golfo Dulce is the Osa Peninsula with the Corcovado National Park, which National Geographic has called "the most ecologically intense place on earth."
There are two airports in the Golfo Dulce area with various daily flights of about 45 minutes from San Jose either to Golfito or to Puerto Jiménez. Once in Golfito or Puerto Jiménez, local transportation by boat to sustainable rainforest lodges such as the Golfo Dulce Lodge on Playa San Josecito and to secluded beaches is available.