Caño Island


By, Steve Linder

Caño Island Biological Reserve is one of Costa Rica’s well known national parks.  The island is located off the Osa Peninsula in the Pacific ocean directly west of Drake Bay.  It’s the exposed part of an underwater mountain thrown up by an ancient collision of the two tectonic plates on either side of Costa Rica.  The center of the island features a plateau 295 feet high, covered by evergreen trees reaching heights of 164 feet.  The border consists of white sandy beaches.  There is a wide and well maintained trail going up to a lookout and an archaeological site.  Caño Island harbors a pre-Columbian cemetery and many tombs and artifacts are found in the undergrowth including granite spheres (bolas) which have remained a mystery since their discovery.  The sizes of these ancient relics range from that of a baseball to a Volkswagen bus and can weigh as much as 16 tons.  The stones are believed to have been carved between 200 BC and 1500 AD. Nobody knows exactly how they were constructed or what they were used for.  Since being discovered in 1940 they’ve been relocated throughout the country (there are even a couple in US museums) adding to the difficulty in decyphiring their purpose.

Only about ten species of birds call Caño Island home, including cattle egret, common black hawk, osprey, brown booby and northern phalarope.  The mammals that can be found here include: opossum, paca, boa constrictor, brown tree frog and the transparent tree frog.  Also found here are locust, wild fig, wild cocoa, rubber trees, wild strangler, cow trees, fern B, trumpet trees, plus more than 158 varieties of plants.

The real beauty of Caño Island is not found on its land, but underwater. The Caño Island’s waters are some of the bluest in the country and are home to a spectacular variety of stunning marine flora and fauna as well as coral reefs. The island is surrounded by five platforms of low coral reefs and has recently moved into the spotlight as one of the world’s best diving locations.  Both snorkeling and scuba diving found here are some of the best in all of Costa Rica.  During the dry season, visibility can be up to eighty feet enabling visitors to see the amazing amount and variety of sea life thriving there. With fantastic underwater visibility you may see turtles, dolphins, stingrays, manta rays, moray eels, barracudas, tuna, snapper and grouper swimming alongside a variety sharks and humpback or pilot whales.  In 1973 the island was leased to a Spanish developer with plans to build a mega-resort.  The island, however, was heroically saved by an outburst of popular displeasure and named Reserva Biológica Isla Cańo.  It’s currently administered as part of Corcovado National Park.