Golfito Costa Rica and its Nearby Attractions

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Golfito took its name from the small gulf that expands into the bigger Dulce Gulf in the western region of Panama. It is the most important town in the southern region of Costa Rica, being a port area and a center of commerce.

golfito-areaGolfito has emerged as a popular tourist attraction due to its surrounding landscape consisting of luscious hills, forested mountains, a deep bay and the view of the Osa Peninsula in the far distance. You can find the town laid along the main road between the gulf and the lush mountains. And while it does not have too many attractions in its center, Golfito makes a perfect jumping off point for the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, sitting just on the town’s outskirts.

Outdoor lovers and nature enthusiasts usually flock to Golfito to grab the opportunity of exploring this reserve. The more than 1300 hectares (3200 acres) of land that encompasses the refuge was primarily established to protect the Golfito watershed and conserve the animals and rare plant species inhabiting the area.

golfito-costa-rica-03Birdwatching is exciting at the reserve as you can easily spot trogons, toucans, hummingbirds and parrots! If you are in quest of finding the rarest plant in Central America, then head here and seek out the Asian plant species called Caryodaphnopsis. Another primitive plant to look for is Zamia, a type of cycad often referred to as the “living fossils” for being abundant during the era of the dinosaurs.

The best way to enjoy the refuge is to take one of the many hiking trails within the area. Golfito National Wildlife Refuge gets a lot of rain, especially during the month of October. If you would like to visit at its driest, come between January to mid-April.

Deposito-libre-Golfito-Judesur_LTJIMA20150715_0001_3Golfito is also an excellent spot for some serious shopping experiences! A duty-free zone has been established here and called Zona Americana. This massive shopping center attracts not only international tourists but also people from around the country who love to go for at least a one-day shopping spree.

Taking a boat trip to discover the beauty of Golf Dulce is one of the popular things to do while in Golfito. If you are a fan of sport fishing, then you’re in luck as the waters surrounding town are abundant with game fish like sailfish, roosterfish, and blue and black marlin which can be caught year round. You can easily arrange fishing excursions from the various operators in town. The excursions can come in packages that include the fishing trip and accommodation. If you are up for a more laidback fun in the sun, then consider hiring a boat taxi to get you across to Cacao Beach (Playa Cacao), the nearest swimming beach to the town. Cacao offers great views of the bay, Golfito port and the rainforest backdrop.

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Another favorite boat destination from Golfito is the Casa Orquídeas . The cruise to this private botanical garden complex from the town’s public dock is around 30 minutes. Most hotels in Golfito offer a 2-hour tour package to this garden that includes transportation. You may also visit the gardens on your own but take note that you will have to pay an entrance fee and the guided tour around the area, aside from the boat ride. The Casa Orquídeas Botanical Gardens is open daily from 8am to 4pm, except on Fridays.

*For a reference map of Costa Rica, click Here. For a Travel Atlas of Costa Rica, click Here.

The Special Seaside Village of Sapzurro Colombia

3005902825_a8c54c1c43_zA peaceful little village in the Darien region of Colombia, Sapzurro offers something special to intrepid travelers. The town itself is located in the shallow bay shaped like a horseshoe, and is teeming with coral reef. The setting for Sapzurro suggests a stay filled with swimming, snorkeling and relaxing under the sun.

The town ís white sand beach and crystal waters is enough reason to spend a couple of day here. But don’t forget that this Colombian town is in a remote spot with no roads, and thus, no cars. It is home to less than only 1000 people. But it is the simple houses, intersecting pathways adorned by flowers and the laidback living that truly makes Sapzurro special.

bestvalueSapzurro is located very close to the bigger town of Capurgana. Most visitors tend to choose Capurgana the base for their exploration of the Caribbean side of Colombia. But Sapzurro makes a nice alternative home base, especially if you really want the feeling of getting away from it all. As you may have imagined, there are no large resorts around the village. There are adequate restaurants that feature home cooked meals, most of which are seafood-based. But this simple yet very fresh food is one of the best things about visiting Sapzurro. While here, don’t miss out the chance to partner your seafood with the arroz de coco, which is coconut blended rice. As for accommodation, you will most likely have to stay in small yet cozy hostels.

From Sapzurro, you can arrange a day trip to the neighboring tiny village of La Miel by boat. However if you are feeling more adventurous, it is also possible to just hike through a forested hill to reach the village that is just over the border of Panama. And since you are going over the hill, you will be greeted by nice views of the countryside and the Caribbean.

By stepping in La Miel you are literally coming into another country. The border crossing experience is quite unique as you will have to check through a hut shared by the Colombian and Panamanian immigration officials. Take note that if you plan to do such excursion, remember to bring your passport with you on the journey. So why should you bother going to La Miel? The main reason is its outstanding white-sand beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful in South America. La Miel Beach is bigger than the ones in Sapzurro. It is ideally fringed with palm and coconut trees. The surprise is that this beach has remained low-key and uncrowded, unlike other beaches in the Caribbean, because of its remote location.

waterfallAs mentioned, one of the major activities in Sapzurro is hiking. If you are up for a challenge, you can take on the jungle trail that goes all the way to Capurgana. The journey takes about an hour and a half and goes over the mountain. Another hiking destination, which features a shorter route is Cabo Tiburon or Shark Cape. The route takes you along the coast and can be completed in half an hour. Cabo Tiburon offers plenty of snorkeling and freediving opportunities. It is also extra special because this is the coastal border between South and Central America. If a nice set of cascades is something that you would like to see, then the Diana Waterfall definitely a place you to visit while here!

One of the most important things to remember when traveling to Sapzurro is that the village has no ATMs. It is also hard to find one in the surrounding region. Businesses in town do not accept credit cards, so the safest thing to do is to bring enough cash in local currency or USD to last you during your stay.

For a map of Columbia, go here.

Glorious Casco Viejo Panama

Casco Viejo is not only the oldest district in Panama City, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that needs to be preserved for all its rich splendor and history.

images-17Located on the southwestern end of Panama City, The Casco provides views of the Panama Canal entrance on the Pacific Ocean side. This old district full of grand houses and abandoned buildings, has a very rustic appeal and is home to a vibrant community full of people from all walks of life. Founded in 1519, Casco Viejo now holds the title of being the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of South America. The district features excellent examples of Spanish Colonial architecture which dominated the 16th and 17th century. It is truly a historical gem worth seeing. Nowadays, Casco is still undergoing renovations and redevelopment. All of which are done following strict guidelines to preserve the district’s historical integrity.

When you explore Casco Viejo, you will find a neighborhood made dynamic because of the presence of many different cultures. Walk around the cobbled street of Casco Viejo and you will be charmed by its historical buildings, beautiful plazas, pretty gardens and friendly people. The district’s plazas are favorite social spots for both tourists and multicultural residents.

images-18Some of the most prominent plazas include Plaza Bolivar, Plaza de Francia, and Plaza de Cathedral. These plazas are simply ideal hangout areas when it comes to soaking in the night and culture. At the entrance of the district sits the Fish Market, locally known as El Mercado del Mariscos. You will find a magnificent display of all the fresh seafood catch of the day. Weekends are especially busy in this market but it is a great place to see locals in action.

The district has a number of notable buildings but one prominent one that you should definitely visit is the Presidential Palace, also called Palacia de la Garzas or Heron’s Palace. The Santo Domingo church and convent ruins is another prominent tourist landmark in this colonial old quarter. The site’s major feature is its flat arch, which serves as an excellent example of masonry construction and design.

If you are a fan of museums, then the Panama Canal Museum makes a great stopover during your Casco Viejo tour. Set in a magnificently restored building that faces the Plaza de la Cathedral, the museum features impressive exhibits depicting the historical and political importance of the canal. Other prominent landmarks in Casco Viejo include Casa Museo Endara, History Museum of Panama and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

R_Casa_Blanca_P_Bolivar_Panam_thumbAfter exploring the city on foot, you will find it easy to locate a cafè or restaurant in the area to relax in or have a nice meal. In fact, the district is considered to be home to some of the best eateries in all of Panama City. And you will not only find South American dishes being served here as you can also enjoy various cuisine like sushi, tapas and Italian. If you prefer street food, there is no shortage of local snacks and vendors selling them. Accommodation is varied in the district. You can spend your nights in luxurious hotels or rental apartments tucked in old buildings or save more money by staying in basic yet clean hostels.

*For a Reference map of Panama, click Here. For a Panama Travel Atlas, click Here.

Puerto Jimenez – The Perfect Costa Rican Gateway

There are a couple of towns that are possible jumping off points for Costa Rica’s dazzling Corcovado National Park. But the best gateway town title arguably goes to Puerto Jimenez. Situated on the east coast of the Osa Peninsula and sitting on the Dulce Gulf, Puerto Jimenez is the last town before you enter the lands of the magnificent Corcovado National Park.

wide-1000-5-dsc0006-2In the town, you will find the park’s administrative office, where you can acquire a map and get more valuable information about this outstanding national park. While many tourists use this town to stock up on supplies, Jimenez is also a place where you can relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the beach life. It offers an unhurried lifestyle as well as a plethora of activities and accommodation options.

Puerto Jimenez has grown fast over the last decade, and has now become the largest town on the peninsula. Since it attracts a lot of tourists, particularly those who love the outdoors; the town developed a flourishing tourism industry. Based here are a number of outfitters and tour operators that offer varied trips around the region. One of the popular destination is the remote and serene village of Cabo Matapalo (Cape Matapalo), which offers waves and breaks perfect for surfing. The short drive to Matapalo from Jimenez is very scenic as you will discover as you travel along the coastal route that highlights the clear blue sea.

Jungle trekking, powerboat cruises, scuba diving, and exotic wildlife watching are just some of the fun activities that can you arrange in Puerto Jimenez. Sport fishing excursions have also become a favorite activity as the waters around the peninsula are teeming with a range of huge fish species! If you desire a more tranquil yet memorable activity, take a dolphin watching tour around the Golfo Dulce and the Pacific Ocean.

352You don’t have to wander really far from here to experience what Mother Nature has to offer. In town there is a nice beach where you can relax and enjoy the seascape. Puerto Jimenez also boasts one of the best sunsets in Costa Rica. If you head south of town, along the picturesque coast, you will encounter a series of beautiful white sand beaches perfect for swimming and aqua sports like sea kayaking and snorkeling. Playa Sombrero and Playa Tamalas are two prominent sandy stretches in this region. These beaches are tranquil and don’t usually have a beach crowd, although you will see a couple of lodges and vacation homes overlooking them.

The accommodation options available at Puerto Jimenez range from luxurious to affordable and this is the reason it is such an excellent gateway destination. The downtown area is filled with fine hotels and boarding houses. If you like to be closer to nature, there are also some eco-lodges located in a lush verdant forests setting. The nightlife here is vibrant but can get a rowdy in some places.

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The fastest and most convenient way to get here is to fly to the town’s domestic airport from the San Jose International Airport or from the airport in Pavas. The flight from San Jose only takes about an hour. The other alternative to get to Jimenez by bus and car; but be prepared to endure a 9 to 10-hour drive from San Jose.

*For a reference map of Costa Rica, click Here. For a Travel Atlas of Costa Rica, click Here.