Cano Island National Park Biological Reserve: A Tropical Paradise of Biodiversity in Costa Rica

Discover the breathtaking wonders of Cano Island National Park Biological Reserve in Costa Rica, a paradise of lush rainforests, vibrant marine life, and rich cultural experiences of Central America

Costa Rica, a land of incredible biodiversity, has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. Finally, I had the chance to experience this paradise up close when I visited the Cano Island National Park Biological Reserve.

This hidden gem of Costa Rica is a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, and my journey through this tropical paradise left an indelible mark on my soul.

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cano island costa rica
Costa Rica has many beaches, it’s a paradise but the beaches on Cano Island are pristine, almost untouched, and offer the true off-beaten-path experience.


LocationSouth Pacific Island 
Nearest Town Drake Bay
EstablishedSince 1978
Size2,900 hectares (7,166 acres)
Elevation Range0 to 123 meters (1 to 404 feet)
ManagementGovernment oversight
Opening Hours08:00 AM–04:00 PM
Boat ToursAvailable
Climate70°F to 90°F
PrecipitationAround 4,000 millimeters (157 inches)

Historical Outline of Cano Island

Cano Island, located on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is historically significant for its connection to pre-Columbian indigenous cultures. It served as a burial ground for the Diquis people, who lived in the region around 500 AD.

Archaeological excavations on the island have uncovered stone spheres and other artifacts associated with these ancient cultures. 

In more recent history, Cano Island has become a protected biological reserve and a popular destination for snorkeling and diving due to its rich marine life and coral reefs. It continues to be a place of historical and ecological importance in Costa Rica.

Getting to Cano Island

My journey commenced in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. From there, I took a domestic flight to Palmar Sur and embarked on a two-hour scenic drive to reach Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.

Drake Bay serves as the entry point to Cano Island, and the drive itself was an adventure, winding through lush jungles and picturesque landscapes.

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, book your tickets to ensure a hassle-free and smooth journey.

Drake Bay

Drake Bay is a charming, laid-back village that exudes the pure essence of Costa Rica. It is a great place to unwind before embarking on an adventure because it is surrounded by dense rainforest and the soothing sound of the ocean. 

The rustic lodges and eco-friendly accommodations put you in touch with nature. 

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Tips for the Journey

Before setting off for Cano Island, I made sure to gather all the essentials for a rainforest adventure. This included comfortable hiking gear, insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, and, most importantly, a waterproof camera to capture the breathtaking beauty of the park.

To ensure a safe and worry-free journey, it’s a smart move to look into travel insurance.

Exploring the Marine Wonderland

Scenic view of Cano Island, surrounded by turquoise waters and lush greenery
A truly diverse place packed with outdoor fun, animals to watch, and endless water activities to try, from snorkeling to boat rides and scuba diving.

Snorkeling at Cano Island

Cano Island is known for its pristine waters and vibrant marine life. I couldn’t wait to dive into this underwater wonderland. Snorkeling at Cano Island was a surreal experience.

The crystal-clear waters revealed a kaleidoscope of colors as I swam alongside parrotfish, sea turtles, and countless other species. The coral reefs were alive with activity, and I felt like I was part of a National Geographic documentary.

Stone Spheres

One of the highlights of the snorkeling trip was discovering hidden treasures such as the ancient submerged pre-Columbian stone spheres, which have baffled archaeologists for years. These mysterious relics added an intriguing dimension to the natural beauty of Cano Island.

Trekking Through Lush Rainforests

Biological Reserve

The heart of Cano Island National Park is its biological reserve. The trek to the reserve took us through a dense rainforest teeming with life. Monkeys swung through the trees, colorful birds sang from the treetops, and the air was thick with the fragrance of exotic flowers. It was like stepping into another world.

Person snorkeling in clear blue waters near Cano Island
Cano Island is a great destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, since the visibility underwater is fairly good, and you can spot dolphins and other marine life.

The Archaeological Site

While trekking, we stumbled upon an archaeological site, revealing the ancient history of the region. It was a humbling experience to stand amidst the remnants of a civilization that once thrived in this pristine rainforest.

A Closer Look at Biodiversity

Avian Wonders

Cano Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The park is home to over 200 species of birds, including toucans, scarlet macaws, and resplendent quetzals. I was fortunate to spot many of them during my trek, and their vibrant plumage and melodious calls were unforgettable.

Mammalian Marvels

The rainforest also hosts an array of mammals, from the elusive jaguar to playful capuchin monkeys. While I didn’t spot a jaguar, I was treated to see a family of capuchin monkeys, their antics providing endless entertainment.

The Reptilian Realm

The reptilian realm is just as diverse. I was fascinated by the colorful tree frogs, the slithering snakes, the tortoises, and the giant iguanas sunning themselves on the forest floor. The park is home to several species of sea turtles, which come ashore to nest during certain times of the year.

Ethical and Sustainable Tourism

It’s heartening to see that Cano Island National Park Biological Reserve places a strong emphasis on ethical and sustainable tourism. The guides are knowledgeable about the local ecology and take care to minimize the environmental impact of visitors.

Strict rules are enforced to protect the fragile ecosystem, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy this natural wonder.

A Glimpse into Local Culture

Meeting the Locals

The Osa Peninsula is not just about its natural beauty; it’s also a place to connect with the warm and welcoming locals. I had the privilege of interacting with the indigenous people, learning about their traditions, and enjoying their cuisine, which includes exotic fruits and fresh seafood.

Local Crafts and Souvenirs

Drake Bay offers a range of local crafts and souvenirs, including delicious Costa Rican cuisine, handmade jewelry, woven baskets, and traditional clothing. These make for great trip mementos and help support the local economy.

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How long was the boat ride to Cana Island?

The boat ride to Cana Island takes approximately 30 minutes.

What are the primary activities on Cano Island?

The main activities on Cano Island include snorkeling and scuba diving, whale and dolphin viewing, and guided hikes to explore archaeological sites.

Are there any cities near Cano Island?

The closest mainland towns or cities are 

  • Drake Bay
  • Sierpe
  • Dominical

But there are no major cities on or immediately near the island itself.

Best Season to Visit a Biological Reserve?

The best season to visit Cano Island Biological Reserve is during the dry season, which typically runs from December to April.


The Cano Island National Park Biological Reserve in Costa Rica is a true testament to the beauty of the natural world. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in rainforests, explore the mysteries of the sea, and connect with the vibrant local culture.

My visit to Cano Island was a life-changing experience, and I can only hope that more people have the opportunity to discover and protect this ecological treasure for generations to come.

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Last Updated on December 12, 2023

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