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By Staff writter

Nestled between the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica’s south Pacific Coast is Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), a large bay ringed by secluded beaches and the wonderful biodiversity of the region. Of the many tourist attractions Costa Rica has to offer, Golfo Dulce is the perfect destination for nature lovers, both those seeking adventure and those who want only to relax under a palm tree on the beach.

Circling the warm blue waters of Golfo Dulce is a tropical rain forest where one may encounter four species of monkey (spider, white-faced, squirrel and howler), Poison Dart frogs, Morpho butterflies, anteaters, agoutis, coati mundis, jaguars, ocelots and margays.

Beautiful birds abound, such as scarlet macaws, toucans, hummingbirds, great curassows, crested guans, trogons, aracaris, honey creepers, herons, tinamous, woodpeckers, wood creepers, ant birds and manikins.

During a 1996 visit by the Greenpeace ship Moby Dick, Captain Joel Stewart commented that there is "so much biodiversity... so many species, that one is almost forced to defend it."

Prophetically, a new national Park was recently declared in the area: the Piedras Blancas National Park. It takes its place alongside the Golfito Wildlife National Refuge and the Golfo Dulce Forestry Reserve.

Conscious that nature and sustainable tourism can complement each other, the area features eco-friendly lodges as well as some of the country’s best sportfishing and surfing.

Among the best of the former is Golfo Dulce Lodge, a small bungalow settlement about 300 meters from San Josecito Beach, surrounded by undisturbed first-growth lowland rainforest, right beside Piedras Blancas National Park.

Swiss-owned and operated, Golfo Dulce Lodge (German/English/Spanish) is only accessible via a 20-minute boat ride from either Golfito or Puerto Jimenez. Golfo Dulce Lodge encompasses more than 300 hectares (750 acres), acquired to conserve the existing virgin rainforest, and to establish a haven where nature and animal lovers can experience an almost untouched environment. The 300 hectares feature ecosystems such as primary and secondary forest, an extensive heliconia field, and pasture.

The eco-friendly philosophy of Golfo Dulce Lodge includes support for the official ‘Profelis’ wildcat rehabilitation center, and for the scarlet macaw release program of the world-renowned ‘Zoo Ave’. Visitors to the lodge will have first-hand views of these beautiful birds, which make their homes in the trees surrounding the comfortable guest bungalows.

Profelis has helped reintroduce captured margays (Leopardus wiedii) and ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) into their natural habitat. In 1999 Zoo Ave released a group of highly endangered scarlet macaws (Ara macao) into Piedras Blancas National Park as the first stage of a long-term project to establish a third self-sustaining scarlet macaw population in addition to the two existing groups in the Corcovado National Park and the Carara Biological Reserve.

On the western shore of Golfo Dulce is the Osa Peninsula, which National Geographic has called "the most ecologically intense place on earth."

There, near the town of Puerto Jiménez, is Crocodile Bay Lodge, a resort spread over 44 acres of tropical gardens, with restaurant, bar, pool, tackle & gift shop, roof-top observation deck and spacious air-conditioned rooms, each with a private deck. Sportfishing is a specialty at Crocodile Bay Lodge; its 10 boats and experienced captains are available year-round for anglers to enjoy fishing for sails and marlin in peak season, and plenty of jack, runners, mackerel, amberjack, roosterfish, and big snapper inshore.

Nearby is the Bahia Esmeralda hotel, located on a lush hillside overlooking the gulf and surrounded by 70 acres of primary and secondary rain forest, filled with exotic plants, birds and animals unique to the region. This lodge also features a natural spring-fed pool, barbecue area, and numerous trails where one can explore virgin forests.

Within minutes’ walk are deserted tropical beaches and world class waves, a favorite with surfers, both amateur and professional, because of the warm tropical water throughout the year and numerous, challenging point and reef breaks.

Surfing is only one of the many activities available in the area. There is sea-kayaking, horseback riding, snorkeling, hiking, swimming and, of course, sportfishing. The waters off Puerto Jiménez, Golfito and Zancudo also abound with sail sand marlins. Inshore, one can find jacks, runners, mackerel, amberjack, roosterfish and large snapper.

There are two modern marinas in Golfito, both offering fishing charters and slip facilities for incoming yachts.

Golfo Dulce, with its profusion of small coves and rocky islats and shoreline, is also excellent for small barracuda, snapper and corvina (sea bass). Snook there sometimes run over 40 pounds. Inside the Zancudo peninsula, and farther north, at the mouth of the Esquinas river are also great places for snook.

On the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula is the beautiful Lapa Rios hotel, set in a private nature reserve spread over 1,000 acres.

How to get there:

There are two airports in Golfo Dulce: Golfito and Puerto Jiménez. From San José, it’s a 45-minute flight to either. One can also take the Inter-American Highway, but the drive will take several hours.

Once in Golfito or Puerto Jiménez, local transportation by boat to the lodges, hotels and beaches is available.

The Osa Peninsula
With Drake Bay, Corcovado National Park, and Golfo Dulce, it's worth the trek. BAHÍA DRAKE. The Osa Peninsula's Drake Bay was named after Sir Francis Drake (1540-96), the British explorer who, legend has it, anchored here more than four centuries ago. The rugged coast that stretches south from the mouth of the Río Sierpe to Corcovado has small beaches backed by thick jungle, ending in rocky points and dark, igneous islets. The tiny villages and nature lodges scattered along the coast are hemmed in by the rain forest, which is home to monkeys, sloths, scarlet macaws, and hundreds of bird species. A trip here is a true tropical adventure, with plenty of hiking and some rough boat rides. Most people reach this isolated area by boat via the Río Sierpe, though direct flights are available, and hardy backpackers occasionally hike north out of Corcovado (two hours to Marenco, four to Drake Bay).

  • DOMINICAL
    Once a sleepy fishing village, Dominical is slowly being "discovered." Its magic lies in its combination of terrestrial and marine wonders: the rain forest grows right up to the beach in some places, and the sea offers world-class surfing. The beaches here are long, practically empty, and perfect for strolling and shell collecting.

  • PARQUE NACIONAL CORCOVADO
    Comprising 435 sq km (168 sq mi) on the tip of the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is one of the largest and wildest protected areas in the country. Much of the park is covered with virgin rain forest, where massive espavel and nazareno trees tower over the trails, thick lianas hang from their branches, and toucans, spider monkeys, scarlet macaws, and poison dart frogs abound. There are no roads in the park, and the ones that approach it are dirt tracks that require four-wheel-drive vehicles most of the year. Visitors often arrive by boat on day trips from the nature lodges in Drake Bay, but the best way to explore the park is to sling on a backpack and hike into the wilderness. There are three entrances to Corcovado: San Pedrillo to the north, Los Patos to the east, and La Leona to the south. From Puerto Jiménez to La Leona, take a four-wheel-drive vehicle 1 hr to Carate and hike 20 mins; to Los Patos, take 20-min drive to the Río Rincón and count on 2- to 3-hr hike to entrance.

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For more information on visiting Costa Rica to view this spectacular event please visit Costa Rica’s TravelWEB @ www.crica.com, or by calling our toll free number at 1-800-788-7857 or 1-866-822-2269 .


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