BAHÍA DRAKE (pronounced “Dra-kay”) is named after Sir Francis Drake, who anchored here in 1579. Today a favourite spot for sailors, the calm waters of the bay are dotted with flotillas of swish-looking yachts. This is one of the most stunning areas in Costa Rica, with the blue wedge of Isla del Caño floating just off the coast, and fiery-orange Pacific sunsets. The bay is rich in marine life, and a number of boat trips offer opportunities for spotting manta rays, marine turtles, porpoises and even whales. The bay’s lone settlement of any size is the sprawling village of Aguijitas, which acts as the area’s main transport hub.
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Isla del Caño
Isla del Caño
The tiny RESERVA BIOLÓGICA ISLA DEL CAÑO sits placidly in the ocean some 20km due west of Bahía Drake. Just 3km long by 2km wide, the uninhabited island is the exposed part of an underwater mountain, thrown up by an ancient collision of the two tectonic plates on either side of Costa Rica. It’s a pretty sight in the distance, and going there is even better – if you can afford it. You can’t get there on your own, but a tour is usually included in the package price of the Bahía Drake lodges. Alternatively, tours are increasingly run by operators in Dominical.
The island is thought to have been a burial ground of the Diquis, who brought their famed lithic spheres here from the mainland in large, ocean-going canoes. Your guide can take you hiking into the thick rainforest interior to look for examples near the top of the 110-metre-high crest, and you’ll probably see some en route too, as the trail passes a few groups of them. Caño is also a prime snorkelling and diving destination; there are six dive sites around the island. Underwater you’ll see coral beds and a variety of marine life, including spiny lobsters and sea cucumber, snapper, sea urchins, manta rays, octopus and the occasional barracuda. On the surface, porpoises and olive ridley turtles are often spotted, along with less frequent sightings of humpback and even sperm whales.