Friends had told us that Golfito was the highlight of their Costa Rican cruising experience, and we now see why. Although we are visiting during a different season, the charm of this small town, rich with biodiversity just steps outside the marina make it a memorable experience. The town just celebrated its 73rd birthday with a carnival, boat light parade, and spectacular fireworks display that we thoroughly enjoyed from our boat. This isolated town, just 20 miles north of Panama is our final stop in Costa Rica and boasts a fascinating, complicated, and somewhat twisted history. It began as a flourishing banana port in 1938 when American owned United Fruit Company (more familiarly known as Chiquita Brands International) converted the rugged, uninhabited wilderness of southwestern Costa Rica into their domain consisting of plantations, an extensive railway system and an international banana export operation centered around a port in the calm waters of the Golfo Dulce. The port town of Golfito was established and a bustling community grew around it. The history of its creation is one of disease, harsh working conditions for both local and immigrant workers and deforestation alongside innovation and economic growth. Everything comes at a cost. Business boomed until the 80s when a combination of rising export fees and labor disputes led to the company’s mass exodus and relocation to Ecuador. The residents of Golfito were suddenly left in a state of poverty until the Costa Rican government stepped in to establish a duty-free zone, hoping to bring commerce and local tourism. The duty-free zone still exists today and caters to both international and Costa Rican visitors seeking a good bargain. Remnants of this prosperous yet tumultuous era in history still exist throughout the town today.
Beyond the history of banana exportation, the people of Golfito make it a place you want to visit. We joke about “pura vida” as the response for anything and everything in Costa Rica, even on your worst days, but I’m thoroughly convinced the residents of Golfito define this term and possess the secret to living the good life. People cross the street or stop long enough to chat on morning walks with Quincy, they smile when we talk about Costa Rica’s recent win in the World Cup qualifier, a local fisherman has brought us TONS of fresh tuna twice now because he had extra to share, and the people are just kind, welcoming, and generous.
All creatures, large and small
Ecotourism has now become a major draw to this area. Sport fishing, duty-free shopping, and surfing at nearby Pavones also draws in visitors, but the remote wilderness in the surrounding areas that house 50% of all species found in Costa Rica makes this area a unique gem in the modern world. Staying at Banana Bay Marina means easy access to get out and about for us, and beautiful rainforest hikes are never far away.
With a keen eye and some patience, it is not difficult to find unique flora and fauna. Iridescent blue morpho butterflies lead the way through the lush rainforest as I hike to a lookout point for a view of the peaceful gulf below. If I look in the trees too long I’ll most certainly misstep and interrupt a trail of busy leaf cutter ants carrying leaves back to their farms. They are impressive to watch! Aside from a few trucks and mopeds, it is just me and wilderness out here. Breathtaking. Every time leaves rustle, I look up, but these creatures are masters of camouflage. It could be a velociraptor or just a tiny bird making that noise…who knows. I’m still hiking to the top! The monkeys are the only ones who dare to come close, their curiosity is of course fueled by hunger – nope, no handouts for you guys!
Golfito and the Osa Peninsula boast some of the most rainfall in Costa Rica. Everything is freshly kissed with rain and the streams are rushing with vibrance. We are here at the beginning of rainy season so daily afternoon rainfall is to be expected. We’ll be challenged to take in sufficient solar power soon enough, but for now we’re happy to have all tarps up on the boat plugged into power.
This post was entirely published from a cruising sailboat by the HelmsMistress, who often sees stories from an entirely different point of view from the rest of us.
We hope you love this story and stick with us as we’ll be on the move the next few weeks. Have a great Thursday.
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