Isla del Caño is a tropical island that can be found on the west coast of Costa Rica. This small, forested island is a very interesting place that is a must visit while in Costa Rica. Isla del Caño is not only a biological reserve, but also an archaeological site that has brought more questions than answers. Today I will tell you everything you need to know about this magical island.
The entire island area and surrounding waters are strictly protected. This is because a Biological Reserve was created in the area in 1978 to help protect an important part of Costa Rica’s natural and indigenous history. If you are considering a trip to Isla del Caño, be sure to read this article as it will make your visit even more tempting.
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Isla del Cano is the crown jewel among Costa Rica’s tourist attractions. It attracts not only divers and snorkeling enthusiasts, but also everyone interested in the island’s mysterious history and the discovered remains of our ancestors.
Surely, if you are reading this, you are considering visiting the island, so in this write-up I will give you everything you need to know about Isla del Cano on a golden plate. The history of the island, its location, available transportation options and attractions. Shall we?
Isla del Caño is located in Costa Rica in the province of Puntarenas near the Osa Peninsula. Geologists estimate that the island was formed about 40-50 million years ago as a result of tectonic plate movements.
During these geological changes, the so-called Caribbean Plate slid over the Cocos Plate. It was as a result of this event that this small and extremely unique island was formed. The total area of the island is only 3.26 km² and the highest point on the island is 123 meters above sea level.
The shore of the island are rocky but there are also sandy beaches. On one such beach there is a checkpoint for the park rangers who are constantly keeping the island safe. Everything under the water is also part of the protected area.
And there is a lot to see, as the island’s area covers 5800 hectares of the ocean. These waters contain some of the most extensive and best maintained coral reef formations on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Also five separate coral platforms are found here.
Unfortunately, the coral around Isla del Caño suffered greatly in 1982-83, due to warming ocean waters caused by the influence of the “el Nino” ocean current.
If you would like to see exactly where Isla del Cano is located on a map, below are the exact coordinates that you can enter into your navigation or Google maps.
Latitude in degrees, minutes and seconds: 8 ° 44 ’00 “N
Longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds: 83 ° 53 ’00 “W
The island was “discovered” in 1519 by Captain Juan de Castañeda who explored the Nicoya Bay area. For archaeologists, Isla del Caño has a special significance and is important evidence of Costa Rica’s history. Much evidence of human presence in pre-Columbian times has been found on the island.
Scientists studying the island have found evidence that there was a cemetery on the island in the 700s and 1500s BC. Most interesting, however, is that mysterious stone spheres were found here, which are now a well-known part of Costa Rican history.
These spheres are made of stone and have almost perfect shape and their diameter reaches up to 2,5 meters. To this day, we have no confirmed answers to the questions of how they were made and for what purpose. Of course, there are many hypotheses, but the lack of answers to them adds a certain mystery. And you want to hear an even bigger riddle? These stone spheres were brought from the mainland… Even today, transporting multi-ton stone spheres would be quite a challenge. So how did our ancestors accomplish this with only primitive tools and wooden boats?
In addition, it is worth mentioning that the island also served as a trading post by way of ships. During excavations, remains of pottery and carved stone artifacts were discovered. These finds have led archaeologists to speculate that indigenous cultures used the island as a key trading post along the Pacific coast.
The island area is mostly covered with tropical forests and secondary stands of various ages. 158 different plant species have been identified in the park. Among them, you can find banana trees, orange trees, mango trees, and ferns.
Some of the trees reach a height of 50 meters. One of the interesting species is the milk tree, also called “palo de vaca”. It is named after the white sap that is obtained from this tree. This sap is also called milkweed because it was used by the indigenous people of Central and South America as a substitute for cow’s milk.
The sap from this tree contains up to 7% protein and can be used for food. Interestingly, the taste of the sap can vary and can be sweet or bitter. Other characteristic plants on Isla del Caño include orchids, wild cacao and figs.
The fauna on the island is not very numerous, but species such as boa snakes, foxes, gannets, bats, frogs and eagles are found here. Mahi-Mahi fish, also known as Dorado, are found in the coastal waters. Another popular species in the waters surrounding the island is angelfish.
The island’s natural beauty and important cultural heritage, was seriously threatened in the 1970s. According to the law at the time, you could lease any land and get a building permit at the same time. And it was in the 1970s that the Costa Rican government leased the entire island to a private company. The company had only one goal – to create an exclusive resort for the rich on the island and thus destroy everything that would stand in its way. Fortunately for the country, and indeed all of humanity, the Costa Rican Association of Biologists started a fight to ban construction and did not agree with such a plan to develop the island.
Ultimately, the company was banned from any construction work and the island was incorporated into Corcovado National Park in 1976. Two years later, a separate protected area was created called the Cano Island Biological Reserve. So to answer the question from the headline – no, there is no hotel on the island 🙂
Isla del Caño is located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. There are two main seasons in this region. Dry and warm season begins in December and lasts until April. This is when there is the most tourist traffic, but also the best conditions for diving.
Starting in May, the rainy season begins and lasts into the fall. However, this does not mean that it rains every day! Some tourists even believe that the rainy season is better for visiting Costa Rica. It is slightly cooler, and thanks to the rainfall, the vegetation here grows quickly.
This can be seen especially in the national parks, which turn into a “green ocean” during this time. When it comes to underwater conditions, visibility gets a little worse during the rainy season, but still, diving and snorkeling can be very enjoyable.
Also, around September, the whales arrive in Costa Rica on their annual trip. This is a great time to see these animals in their natural habitat.
A trip to this wonderful tropical island is a great attraction and it is one of the most recommended destinations. Still, you don’t have to worry about meeting crowds of tourists there. The number of people who can stay on the island is limited.
Park rangers make sure that the rules are followed. Therefore, it’s a good idea to book your trip in advance to make sure there’s room for you. What can you do on the island? The attractions are many, let’s start with the most interesting ones:
If you have never scuba dived, Costa Rica will be a great place to start this wonderful adventure. The warm ocean waters and abundance of underwater life is a great way to start your scuba diving adventure. I assure you that it will be one of the greatest memories of your trip to Costa Rica.
All you have to do is decide to jump into the water. Of course, you have several options, but the best one would be to do a basic scuba diving course. After completing such a course, you will receive a diver’s license, which entitles you to dive all over the world. You can also take part in a try dive, which lasts one day and is guided by an instructor. This is a good way to see if scuba diving is for you.
No matter what you choose, diving on Isla del Cano will definitely be your best option. There are many advantages to diving in Costa Rica and you can choose from a number of sites, which you can read more about here: Guide to Scuba Diving in Costa Rica.
An equally popular activity on Isla del Caño is snorkeling in the shallow parts of the ocean. This is a great way to entertain the whole family. With a mask and snorkel, you’ll be able to look in and admire the underwater world. There is no age limit here, whether a child or an older person is sure to enjoy snorkeling at Isla del Cano.
You really don’t have to dive deep to see beautiful things! Tropical fish, coral, and clear water are all waiting for you on a snorkeling trip. If you can’t swim well but want to see these wonderful things, I have good news for you! You don’t have to be a great swimmer to go on a snorkeling trip to Isla del Caño.
The vest you will receive will keep you safe on the water, and your guide will keep an eye on you at all times. Whenever you want, you can get back on board the boat or even go down to the beach. If you want to know more about snorkeling and the equipment used, we invite you to read this text: snorkeling in Costa Rica.
In addition to water activities, you can also take a tour of the island. There are trails and even a view point for tourists visiting Caño Island. You can also lay on the beach and enjoy the view of the tropical island. The section provided is large enough that you are sure to find a corner on the beach where no one will disturb you. In this way, you can feel the magic of this island.
As you already know, the whole area of Isla del Cano is a protected area, and being there comes with some rules. First of all, to get to the island, you need to have a reservation, which is made in advance. This reservation can only be made by a tour operator registered with the park. Of course, due to the fact that it is an island, water transportation is needed. These two things make it impossible to get to the island on your own and you need to use a legitimate tour operator.
You also need to remember that smoking and drinking alcohol is absolutely prohibited in any protected area of Costa Rica. Therefore, bringing them into the park is not a good idea and could end up with a hefty fine. In addition, single-use packaging, especially plastic bottles and cups, is prohibited in Marino Ballena and Isla del Cano. Therefore, you should stock up on a reusable bottle.
Another issue that often comes as a big surprise to visitors is the complete ban on bringing in and using drones and other flying devices. You must have special written permission from the park manager to use such devices. Therefore, there’s no point in bringing your drone with you on a trip because you won’t be able to use it, and you might not even be allowed into the park.
If you’ve already decided on a trip to Isla del Caño, the question of how to get there remains to be answered. As you already know, it is an island located near Corcovado National Park and it’s definitely worth the trip.
For this reason, you will need boat transportation to get to the island. There are only a few places from where you can go to the island and I will list them all for you here.
Uvita is a small tourist town, located at the entrance of the Marino Ballena National Park. Surely you have seen pictures of this distinctive whale-shaped beach. It’s right here. Trips to Isla del Caño from Uvita start right in this park, and passing through the park is part of every trip.
This is a great opportunity to visit two national parks on one trip! Trips to Caño Island from Uvita start in the morning, around 7 o’clock, and return is usually scheduled for early afternoon. The journey to the island takes about 1 hour or less and during this trip you have the chance to meet dolphins and even whales.
There are several paid parking lots in Uvita where you can safely leave your car. There are also restaurants and hotels located here. If you are looking for a good trip to Isla del Caño from Uvita, be sure to contact us.
Siepre is a small village located in a bend of the Sierpe River. It is here that you will find the largest mangroves in Costa Rica. Any trip to Caño from Sierpe is also an opportunity to see these magnificent plants with your own eyes.
The trip to Isla del Caño from Sierpe takes about two hours, but almost half of that time is going down the river towards the ocean. This is definitely a more enjoyable way and an opportunity to admire the mangroves. Several restaurants and small motels can be found in Sierpe, so if you want to spend the night there, you can also find such an option. There is no secure parking, but by using a good tour operator, you are assured of safe parking.
Bahía Drake is a small bay in the northern part of the Osa Peninsula. It is named after the famous pirate Sir Francis Drake, who is said to have hidden here one of his looted treasures. To this day, the treasure has not been found, but this does not change the fact that the bay has become a popular tourist destination.
There are hotels here that offer accommodation of different classes and prices. A trip to Isla del Caño from Drake’s Bay is also an offer that can be found.
Tour to the island Drake’s Bay takes about an hour or less. Unfortunately, access to the bay itself is very difficult and there are actually only two ways to get there. Often tourists choose to take a boat from Uvita to get to Drake Bay because it is a relatively quick option. By car, it is actually a full day’s drive…
In fact, there are only these three options for getting to the island, and there is no shorter or faster way than a tour from Uvita. You’ll save time and money because Uvita is the best option for getting to the island while not being too far from it.
You’re probably wondering how much a trip to Isla del Cano costs and if it’s money well spent. If you want to see a tropical island a bit like from the movies, and at the same time feel the magical atmosphere of a place important to our ancestors, then price does not play a role here and it is definitely worth it. If you want to see current prices then check out this page: tour price list.
Snorkeling and diving tours cost about the same in each destination and looking for the cheapest one is a waste of time. Of course, I should be trying to convince you to take our tours from Uvita and we actually have several reasons to believe that our offer is very attractive. Small groups, fast boats and the fact that we are the only accredited dive center in the area are our strengths. But really, choose what suits you, I just want you to visit the magical Isla del Cano at least once in your life.
One thing is for sure, I can definitely recommend a trip to Isla del Caño to anyone who has the opportunity. Don’t hesitate any longer if it’s worth it. This island is one of the few evidences of how our earth looked thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, human activity makes everything change. We cannot guarantee that our children will see Isla del Caño in the same condition that we see it today. And of course we contribute to it every day, but at the same time we try to protect such precious resources for us and I hope you will appreciate it when you visit our magical island.