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Golfito Costa Rica: Southern Pacific Fishing Hot Spot

Golfito Costa Rica is located on the southern Pacific coast, overlooking a small bay - it's name means "little gulf." The town used to be the largest hub for banana exportation until the United Fruit Company shut down in the 1980s due to labor strikes. Since then the town of Golfito has made a resurgence as a sport fishing center. The government also made it a duty free zone for Costa Ricans, making it a popular weekend spot for Ticos. Still, the town is a bit ramshackle since the loss of its previous industry, but it retains a rustic, funky charm.

Entrance to Golfito Costa Rica is from the southeast and the town stretches down a long single road. The fist section of town you'll pass through is the Pueblo Civil, a blue-collar area full of shaky houses, many of which suspended over the water on stilts. Past this area you'll enter the small town center with its unimpressive plaza and host of cheap watering holes. If you like shells, check out the little Museo Marino at the Hotel Centro Turistico Samoa, which features a large assortment of corals and shells.

Another 2km up the road you'll find the Muelle de Golfito, the dock formerly used to load bananas for the United Fruit Company. From the dock you enter the more well kept Zona Americana where most of the fruit companies administrative staff used to live. The houses here are two levels and come in bright colors. They have lovely gardens and feature large verandas on stilts. This is also the duty free area, or Deposito Libre, but it's just for Costa Ricans. They are required to stay the night if they want to partake in the shopping, so hotels and cabinas here tend to fill up through the weekend.

While the town doesn't have it's own beach, there is a nice option just across the tiny gulf at Playa Cacao. You can either drive the 5km southwest from the north end of town, or alternatively hire a boat at the city dock to take you across. It's a short five minute boat ride. The beach here offers a much nicer view of Golfito and features a couple casual restaurants as well as some cabinas for rent. This can be a nice escape from the Golfito when it gets really hot and busy, as the playa is a bit cooler.

Directly east of town is the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, which is open from dawn til dusk daily. This 1,309 hectare refuge protects primary rainforest on the steep mountains that back Golfito, and just as importantly, to protect the town's watershed. Trails within the reserve head north towards the Piedras Blancas National Park, which offers excellent birding and is the habitat of many endemic plants and wildlife. Piedras Blancas also serves as a corridor for animal migration between this region and Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.

Golfito Fishing

Sport fishing is the name of the game in Golfito Costa Rica, and there are numerous charter fishing companies available to help you chase down a giant trophy fish. The best season for sailfish is from December to May, while marlin are most abundant from June to December. Bottom fishing is generally good year round, but May to December is best for snook. During the rainy months, you can find plenty of mahi mahi (dorado), wahoo, and tuna. Charter fishing captains are very good about sharing their location when the fishing is hot for the benefit of all anglers.

Getting to Golfito Costa Rica

If you're going to drive your rental car to Golfito from San Jose, be prepared for a rough, eight hour long drive.

If speed and comfort are more important, take one of SANSA or Nature Air's daily flights.

For budget travelers, there is the Tracopa bus (506/2222-2666 & 506/2775-0365) which leaves San Jose from Calle 5, Avenidas 18/20 at 7am, 3pm, 6pm, and 10:15pm daily. Return trips from Golfito depart at 5am and 1pm daily. The fare is about $5.

People coming from Puerto Jimenez can take a water taxi or lancha across the Golfo Dulce for around $6 to $14 per person, depending on the boat.

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