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golfito riverfront
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    Zancudo Snapshot

  • Summary: A relatively undeveloped beach town on the Golfo Dulce; known for sport fishing, good surf and mangrove tours.
  • Landscape: Beaches, Lowland Rainforest, Rainforest, River
  • Attractions: Secluded Beaches
  • Activities: Mangrove Tours, Sport Fishing, Surfing
  • Caters to: Families, Independent Travelers, Wildlife Enthusiasts
  • Quick Facts: 218 miles from San Jose; 8 miles south of Golfito ; Sea level ; Warm and humid ; 70-95 F

Playa Zancudo is a grey sand beach located on the Golfo Dulce just eight miles south of Golfito. From an aerial perspective, the winding sliver of land jutting out into the Pacific Ocean looks a bit like a zancudo, or mosquito. The northern section of coastline is characterized by gentle surf and bright blue waters. Waves grow larger and stronger as they move south along the shore, which is backed by jungle and mangrove forests lining the Coto Colorado River.

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A nice point break and fairly consistent waves make surfing a popular activity at Playa Zancudo – although not quite as legendary as at neighboring Playa Pavones, which is said to be home to the longest left break in the world. Conditions at Zancudo are normally best around mid-tide, and when the swell direction is southwest and the wind is blowing from the northeast.

This part of the Golfo Dulce attracts more than just surfers. Bird and wildlife watchers frequently spot monkeys, sloths and seas otters along the beach and riverbanks, and anglers take advantage of the area’s wonderful sport fishing – mahi mahi, marlin and wahoo can be fished from chartered boats. Other catches include rainbow runner, mackerel and triple tail.

Mangrove tours along the Esquinas and Coto Rivers are also popular in Zancudo. Adventurers search the riverbanks and waters for crocodiles, caimans and bright green basilisk lizards. Trogans, tiger herons and snowy egrets are just a few of the bird species commonly spotted up and down these channels.

While Zancudo’s shore stretches for about four miles, the town is the epitome of small: it is home to only about 450 people. Because of its size, everything is within walking distance – but accommodations are limited and fill quickly in the high season. Most hotels are mid-range to upscale, with a few backpacker lodges that offer camping. Zancudo features many modern conveniences, including a supermarket and Internet access, but no bank. Visitors should take note that the nearest ATM is in Golfito.

Getting There:

Air: Both Sansa and Nature Air offer daily flights to Golfito. From Golfito, a boat or taxi is necessary to reach Zancudo.

Boat: Boat taxis depart from Golfito at 5:00 a.m. and cost $6. They run Monday through Saturday. The taxi boat returns to Golfito at 1:00 p.m., and also costs $6. The trip takes 25 minutes.

Bus: The bus journey from Golfito to Zancudo is hot, bumpy and tiring – locals recommend taking the boat taxi. Buses depart Golfito for Pavones at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The cost is $2 plus the ferry fee, which is about $.50. Get off at Conte (you’ll see a clinic and a high school), and another bus will be waiting to take you to Zancudo for $1. Total duration is about three hours. There is no bus returning to Golfito, only to the town of Neily. This bus departs at 5:30 a.m. and costs $2.

Car: From San Jose, take the Interamerican highway south through San Pedro and Cartago. At San Isidro de El General, follow the sign toward Dominical. Once in Dominical take the Southern Highway (Costanera Sur) to Palmar Norte. Then get back on the Interamerican highway and turn off at El Rodeo, 2.5 miles before Golfito. About 20 minutes later you will arrive at the ferry (which costs $.50 and takes about three minutes) to Pavones and Zancudo. The ferry cannot run at low tide, and schedules are not always reliable. On the other side, follow the signs to Zancudo.

Zancudo in Pictures

Zancudo Travel Guide

Zancudo Tides

Wednesday, April 24, 2024
High 3:08 a.m. 8.07 ft. (2.46 m.)
Low 8:43 a.m. 0.69 ft. (0.21 m.)

Two-week Tide Forecast >