In the last stretch of land south on the Caribbean side in Costa Rica, before the river Sixaola flows into Panama, is situated a teeny-tiny town called Gandoca. Life runs very slow in this remote area and its 150 inhabitants know each other well. There are a couple of places to stay over here, but tourism isn’t really developing due to the remote location of the town. The best thing in here is to sit on the beach with a coconut and relax, together with the locals. However, if you are in the mood for some action, here are three things to do:
Kayaking in Laguna Gandoca
Right before you hit the beach there’s is a small ‘shop’ in town with a kayak outside at Cabinas Kaniki on your right side. The kayak’s for rent! If I remember correctly it’s about $15,- rent for a couple of hours, a very decent price. It fits two persons. Behind the little village is a nice river with lots of mangroves (the only natural mangrove oyster bank on the Caribbean coast), crabs, raccoons and birds. If you’re in high luck you might even see a manatee, a highly endangered species in Costa Rica.
The current is not strong, so it’s actually quite easy to peddle along. However, this activity is only suited for the very fit ones since it takes a LOT of effort to get the kayak to the creek. Take some gloves with you, because it ain’t easy lifting this fellow all the way through the soft sand on the beach.
Volunteer at the turtle center
Gandoca has a turtle conservation project that tries to protect the eggs of sea turtles. The leatherback turtles come to the beaches near Gandoca every year to lay their eggs in the sand. It is a truly spectacular thing to behold. Biologists in Costa Rica are concerned with protecting this turtle species. Turtle eggs are unfortunately considered a delicacy in Costa Rica and that’s why conservation centers throughout the country work to replace the eggs from the beach to a safe site, before poachers can get to them.
The turtle center in Gandoca welcomes volunteers to help them with this task. Responsibilities of volunteers include night patrols, egg relocation, turtle release, documentation and more. The main turtle nesting season in Gandoca is from March to June and the hatching months are in July and August. Do turtles have your attention? Click here to see if volunteering in here might be something for you!
From Gandoca it’s an easy walk to Punta Mona – ‘monkey point’ in Spanish – a learning center that has hosted thousands of visitors interested in sustainable living, mainly permaculture. All of Punta Mona’s buildings are built from fallen trees, the electricity comes from solar panels, and there’s plenty of fresh food to pluck and pick in the garden if one looks closely enough.
If you’re not in the mood for this kind of free living spirit, it’s still worth going there. The beach in front of the area is extremely pristine too. With the view of an overgrown uninhabited island in front of you, this beach mirrors a perfect postcard setting. No need to tell you it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
Cut a coconut or two and snorkel the reef right before the beach. In case you don’t want to go back to Gandoca: from up here, at 4pm daily you can take the boat back to Manzanillo. Inform in town for the current schedule before you leave. Want to know more about hiking the Gandoca-Manzanillo park? Read my previous article here!