Some 30km south of Playa Tortuga, where Highway 34 joins the Interamericana, and about 100km north of the Panamá border, the small, prefab town of PALMAR serves as the hub for the area’s banana plantations. This is a good place to see lithic spheres, which are scattered on the lands of several nearby plantations and on the way to Sierpe, 15km south on the Río Sierpe. Ask politely for the “esferas de piedra”; if the banana workers are not too busy they may be able to show you where to look. Palmar also makes a useful jumping-off point for visiting the nearby Reserva Indígena Boruca, where you can buy local crafts from the indigenous population.
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Aside from goldworking, the Diquis are known for their precise fashioning of large stone spheres, most of them exactly spherical to within a centimetre or two – an astounding feat for a culture without technology. Thousands have been found in southwestern Costa Rica and a few in northern Panamá. Some are located in sites of obvious significance, like burial mounds, while others are found in the middle of nowhere; they range in size from that of a tennis ball up to about two metres in diameter.
The spheres’ original function and meaning remain obscure, although they sometimes seem to have been arranged in positions mirroring those of the constellations. In many cases the Diquis transported them a considerable distance, rafting them across rivers or the open sea (the only explanation for their presence on Isla del Caño), indicating that their placement was deliberate and significant. (Ironically, some of the posher Valle Central residences now have stone spheres – purchased at a great price – sitting in their front gardens as lawn sculpture.)
You can see lithic spheres in and around Palmar (there are a few sizeable ones in the park across from the airport) and also on Isla del Caño, which is mostly easily accessed on a tour run by one of the lodges in Bahía Drake.