Golfito has long been known to surfers as the gateway to Pavones, just to the south, and to sport fishermen as the year round sport fishing Mecca. Golfito is also the gateway to Costa Rica's eco-lodges. Eco-lodges are all about being a small hotel or lodge that blends into its environment while offering its visitors an opportunity to view its natural surroundings with the least amount of impact to the environment.
The history of Golfito is an interesting one because the conquest of Costa Rica started here in 1519, when the Spaniards arrived from Panama. During colonial times, it was a small, quiet, fishing town few people cared about. Until 1919, most inhabitants where of Colombian (later Panamanian) origin. The town of Golfito, and surrounding communities, boomed during the banana business years (1935-1985), but it fell victim to its mono-business dependency, when United Brands (formerly United Fruit) closed its banana operations, and concentrated only in African oil palm. A major labor strike prompted United Brands to switch completely to palm, which requires substantially less labor. The city is now slowly recovering partly due to tourism. Five years after United Brands's departure the Costa Rican government opened a duty free shopping center in an effort to bring the city back to life.
Today Golfito is a popular destination for Ticos (Costa Ricans) who are looking for a bargain on large appliances and electronics.
- Paso Canoas border with Panama (2 hr, ₡650).
Taxi Golfito[dead link] 4X4 provides comfortable and reliable 4x4 taxis with A/C. The posted phone number is +506 8874-9325 English and Spanish.
- Steam Engine from Banana Railway, On the road to Marina Bahia Golfito. Old steam engine remaining from the railway built by the United Fruit Company to carry bananas and pineapples down from the central valley. The large commercial pier here was originally built for the banana boat steamers who arrived to to export fruit to the United States. Free.
- Playa Cacao, Across the bay from Golfito Town (it can be reached by road, or by regular shuttle boats on the weekend). Golfito’s local beach. Reachable from the municipal pier in Golfito town on the weekends by regular boats that run over. Playa Cacao has a few small restaurants and bars. Shuttle ₡2000.
- La Playa, In Marina Bahia Golfito (Inside Marina Bahia Golfito), ☏ . 12:00 - 22:00. The main restaurant inside the Marina Bahia Golfito. Serves a variety of dishes, both local (chifrijo, carne mechada) and international (hamburgers, pizza, etc). A little more expensive than some of the restaurants in town but probably the nicest in Golfito, in terms of food, service and decor. Wonderful view of the bay, especially at sunset. Can usually accommodate larger groups. ₡8,000-16,000.
- El Chante Mexicano, Kilometro 0, Municipalidad de Golfito (200 m from the entrance to Marina Bahia Golfito, near the palm oil depot). Daily 12:00 - 22:00. Serves a wonderful variety of tacos (al pastor, birria, pescado, chicharron, cerdo ahumado, camaron) with fresh onions, cilantro, salsas. Also has quesadillas, nachos, aguachiles and nachos. Ice cold corona beers too. Has bar seating. Tacos ₡3,500-4,500.
Just to the north in Piedras Blancas National Park there are a handful of eco-lodges. The easiest way to get there is to have the lodge pick you up in Golfito and take you on a beautiful 30-minute boat ride to the lodge where you will be surrounded by nature.
- Saladero Lodge, Golfo Dulce (1/2 hour boat ride north of Golfito), ☏ . An environmentally sensitive 200-ha (480-acre) private preserve set in the undeveloped Golfo Dulce and Piedras Blancas National Park. It includes 800 m (½ mile) of coastline on the Golfo Dulce and 190 ha (465 acres) of primary rain forest. Established in harmony with the natural environment, the goal is to provide to travelers seeking a unique location and experience, the opportunity to observe wildlife and natural wonders in a pristine and sustainable fashion while enjoying the comfortable and spacious accommodations. 3-day minimum cabin rental includes boat transportation from Golfito or Puerto Jimenez, kayaks, snorkeling and fishing equipment. US$75 double and up.
Just to the south at Pavones and across the gulf at Cabo Matapalo surfers have long known of amazing waves that roll in. To get to Pavones you can either fly into Golfito Domestic Airport or drive to Golfito and continue south about one to one and a half hours.
Tricopa runs two buses a day to San José (₡5,800). They depart at 05:00 and 13:30.