The Sweet Gulf

Golfo Dulce takes its name from the large amount of freshwater flowing into it, mainly from four large rivers whose mouths harbour many hectares of protected mangroves. Golfo Dulce is a large bay ringed by secluded beaches which lies between the Osa Peninsula and the southern end of the Pacific Coast. Due to the regions' tremendous biodiversity, the Golfo Dulce region with its virgin rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park is the perfect destination for nature lovers, those seeking soft adventure and those who want to escape from crowded tourist destinations. During a visit by the Greenpeace ship Moby Dick, Captain Joel Stewart commented in 1996 that there is "so much biodiversity... so many species, that one is almost forced to defend it."

The Golfo Dulce is one of only four tropical fjord-like estuaries in the whole world. The depth exceeds 200m in the inner basin and it is sheltered against the open Pacific by a shallow sill (60m) at the southern end. Water depths increase rapidly along fault scarp faces on the eastern side of the gulf and tidal ranges are as great as 6m. Due to this morphology, there is only limited water exchange with the ocean.

This area of pristine tropical wilderness is home to resident and migratory communities of bottlenose, spotted and spinner dolphins as well as the occasionally-seen false-killer whales. The bottlenose dolphins can often be seen in groups of 5-10 individuals swimming lazily along the coasts, whilst spinner and spotted dolphins are normally found swimming in deeper waters in large groups that can easily exceed 100 individuals.


From January to April, Humpback Whales from the Northern Hemisphere pass by and those from the Southern Hemisphere in August and September. August is when whale watching season begins with the endangered Pacific Humpbacks breeding and giving birth in the gulf. Bryde’s whales are residents of the gulf and where the gulf meets the Pacific, Cuvier’s Beaked Whales and Pygmy Sperm Whales can also be seen. 


As well as hosting more than 25 species of dolphins and whales, Golfo Dulce is home to four of the world's 8 different sea turtles including the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle, along with manta rays, sailfish, marlin, tuna and sharks including endangered hammerhead and whale sharks.

The mangrove systems found within the gulf which are composed of red and black mangrove species, grow in the intertidal region where salt and fresh water meet. They serve as a buffer from storms reducing erosion of shorelines and improve the quality and clarity of the water. The mangroves are a crucial nursery for hammerhead sharks, shrimp, crabs, corvina (sea bass) and other fish. A great variety of other animals reside within this habitat, including caimans, snakes, monkeys, iguanas, and around 100 species of birds including the endemic mangrove hummingbird.

Golfo Dulce's marine environment is not only very unique and rich, but also very fragile. Coral reefs are slowly recovering after having been heavily damaged in the past by sedimentation caused by illegal logging and the construction of a coastal road on the opposite side of the gulf. The reefs present harbour a remarkable variety of fish species that provide a colourful snorkelling experience; these fish include parrotfish, needlefish, triggerfish, pufferfish, surgeon fish, rainbow wrasse, angel and butterfly fish.

Another secret harboured by Golfo Dulce's waters awaits to be discovered at night. Bioluminescent plankton lights up the ocean with sparkles that can be seen when the water is disturbed by the movement of boats or larger organisms such as fish and humans. This can be seen due to the lack of light pollution and creates a magical experience for swimming under the stars.

One of the most memorable parts of your trip while staying at Golfo Dulce Retreat will be exploring our amazing Golfo Dulce on our boat, visiting remote beaches, looking for dolphins and exploring the mangroves.