Visitors go south to heed the call of the wild. The jewels in the South Pacific crown are the idyllic Golfo Dulce and the wild Osa Peninsula, brimming with wildlife and natural adventures. There is no place like it, especially when you travel off the grid, far from the sounds of modern civilization. With miles of undulating Pacific coastline, there is rarely a crowded beach. Up in the highlands, the hiking and bird-watching are unsurpassed.
The South Pacific encompasses everything south of San José, down to the border with Panama, and all the territory west of the Talamanca Mountains, sloping down to the Pacific coast. Adventures abound in this rugged region. On land, hiking, bird-watching, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing are the main activities, along with some thrilling tree-climbing, zip-lining, and waterfall-rappelling opportunities. On the water, there's surfing, snorkeling, diving, fishing, sea kayaking, and whale- and dolphin-watching, as well as swimming and beachcombing.
What makes many of these activities special is that, given the wildness of the locations, the focus is more on nature than on entertainment. No matter what you're doing, you'll come across interesting flora and fauna and natural phenomena. Another key to what sets this area apart is the large number of trained naturalist guides. Most eco-lodges have resident guides who know not only where to find the birds and wildlife, but also how to interpret the hidden workings of the natural world around you.
The hiking in the south is simply spectacular, so don't leave home without your hiking boots. The most challenging hike in the country is Chirripó Mountain, a 6- to 10-hour haul up to the national-park hostel, a base camp for exploring surrounding peaks. Dramatic but less challenging hikes include the well-maintained, wide trails in the cool high-altitude forests of the Savegre Valley; the dramatic Coastal Path south of Drake; and forest trails to waterfalls and swimming holes in the Golfo Dulce, Osa Peninsula, and around Dominical.