Home Environment & Wildlife Costa Rica’s Caño Island Biological Reserve

Costa Rica’s Caño Island Biological Reserve

Caño Island, Costa Rica
Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico Times

Out into the Pacific waters, near the bio-diverse and mysterious Corcovado National Park is one of Costa Rica’s true wonders and setting for amazing discoveries.

Situated near the Osa Peninsula offshore Drake Bay, this biological reserve was designated in 1978 in order to preserve Costa Rica’s important natural and indigenous history, intricate coral reefs, and underwater environment.

Caño Island Biological Reserve has an interesting and rich past originating 40 to 50 million years ago with its creation, emerging as a result of tectonic plate movement. This island has significant archeological importance as well as geographical dating to the pre-Columbian era as it was formerly a cemetery or burial ground.

Throughout time, these 300 hectares of land have turned up thought-provoking excavations revealing pieces of pottery and carved stone artifacts. It’s believed from these artifacts and research that this interesting island was used as a trading point for indigenous cultures along the Pacific Coast.

Getting to Cano Island

In order to reach these intriguing shores and marine paradise, you will need to arrive by boat. If you are located closer to the South Pacific side, you can find boat transportation in Uvita taking about an hour and a half to reach your destination. If at the Osa Peninsula you can make your way to Drake Bay for a faster boat ride.

Part of the adventure is your journey to Caño Island Biological Reserve, riding across the water. Depending on the time of year, you may even experience the amazing marine wildlife before arriving, spotting the graceful sea turtles, playful dolphins or even majestic humpback whales. It is just the start of what you are about to experience.

Caño Island is considered one of the best diving and snorkeling locations in Costa Rica and is well known for its coral-building organisms. With clear, stunning visibility you will feel like you have been transformed into the tiniest minnow as everything becomes larger than life sprawling miles around you in this underwater adventure.

As you transcend below the surface exploring what lays beneath, you are transported into what seems like another living realm surrounded by unbelievable marine flora and fauna, countless rocky formations with volcanic origins, and elaborate reefs. Time slows down as you effortlessly glide along with your rhythmic breathing, your eyes becoming wide mesmerized by the beauty of you are now a part.

Swim alongside tranquil turtles as they effortlessly float along the reefs, having the rare opportunity to see them in their natural serene habitat. Large groups of fish surround you as you become a part of their school. The water is filled with both Pacific reef fish and open ocean fish granting you the chance to see so many different species.

Observe the colorful and mesmerizing parrotfish looking for algae with their parrot-like beaks, puffers, grunt fish, tuna and snapper. Two-meter-long moray eels, large barracudas, a variety of sharks including the white tip reef shark and the graceful and curious manta rays call this paradise their home. Marine life is thriving and abundant in this biological reserve.

Stone Spheres

Stone spheres have been discovered on the island, often referred to as “las bolas” and have been found throughout various locations in Costa Rica as well. These enigmatic stone spheres are rounded and most believe to be hand-carved.

Many have been moved from their original locations, making it difficult to date them accurately, but are considered to be from 200 BC to AD 800. There is much speculation and stories as to the purpose of these stone spheres — whether they were part of religious ceremonies or symbols, representing various tribal rankings or burial plots.

Their creation and shaping are clothed in many educated guesses, some saying they were formed naturally while others are in the belief that indigenous communities used hot and cold application techniques, chiseling the formation to near-perfect spheres. The size of these scattered spheres is not consistent, some being small in nature to upwards of 10 tons.

At one point, it was thought they contained treasure or even gold as they were surrounded with such mystery and intrigue. Many were drilled into, smashed, and blown up in hopes of discovering what riches hide within, only to be disappointed to find they were not laden with hidden treasures at all.

As a result, countless were destroyed and some losing their original shape before the protection of them from the authorities. Others have been rolled into the waters, one area being that of Caño Island taking their secrets with them deep beneath the sea.

Is there Wildlife on Cano Island?

Unlike Corcovado National Park, Caño Island is not rich and bursting with land wildlife and extensive flora and fauna. However, migratory birds do find it as a refuge during their passage in search of warmer climates from the northern hemisphere. Although it is not a bird watcher’s paradise with minimal species to be spotted, there is an abundance of sea birds.

Opposed to tall swaying palms, the island’s terrain hosts wild cocoa and rubber trees with some foliage of bushes and shrubs. It does provide a home to some wildlife such as pigs and pacas and smaller animals like little tree frogs or lizards.

The government does oversee the protection and preservation of this important area, restricting the number of boats permitted to anchor for snorkeling as well as the number of daily visitors. Ensure you have your reservations in advance with the company you choose to tour with to prevent missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime marine adventure.

Final Thoughts

Remember that you cannot remove any of the marine life you encounter; the underwater photos and memories are the only treasure you should be taking back with you. Visiting Caño Island Biological Reserve gives you the chance to explore Costa Rica in a whole new way, taking you to new underwater levels seeing this amazing country from below and with a new enchanted perspective.

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