Cocos Island National Park
From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips
Cocos Island National Park
This tiny piece of land known as Isla del Coco, is located some 300 miles off the Pacific coast. The Cocos Ridge, an underwater mountain range, extends from Costa Rica in a southwesterly direction to just short of reaching the Galapagos Islands. Cocos Island is the only portion that emerged above sea level from this underwater mountain range. At its highest point (Iglesias Peak), Cocos Island is 634 meters above sea level and its terrain is of volcanic origin. The perimeter of Isla del Coco is ringed by steep, forested cliffs characterized by dozens of majestic waterfalls cascading down in stages or steady streams for hundreds of feet. This must be why the helicopter scene in Jurassic Park was shot here. Inland, a thick green forest covers the mountainous terrain with its infinite number of rivers and streams, many of which plunge over cliffs culminating in spectacular waterfalls. Also inland, is a series of trails that climb its steep hills and wind through its rain-forested interior.
Although Cocos Island is a place of immense scenic beauty it is also known for its marine life and the clear, warm waters around Cocos are widely regarded as one of the most rewarding dive destinations on the planet. The greatest thrill for most divers is witnessing the huge schools of Hammerhead Sharks that are notoriously famous in these waters, although fortunately not known to be aggressive towards humans. The visibility in the waters is exceptional and the quantity and variety of marine life is simply astounding. The waters around the islands are also teeming with white-tipped sharks, tuna, parrotfish, mantas and crevalle jacks and well over 200 other types of fish. Numerous species of crustaceans, mollusks, and coral can also be found in the waters around Cocos.
Among the endemic creatures of Cocos Island are 2 species of small lizards, 65 insects, various types of freshwater fishes, and three birds, the Cocos Cuckoo, Cocos Flycatcher, and Cocos Finch. This last species is related to the famous Darwin's finches of the Galapagos Islands, several hundred kilometers to the south.
Unfortunately, one way that some species reach remote islands is through introductions by man. In the case of Cocos, humans have been responsible for bringing pigs, cats, goats, and white-tailed deer to the island, as well as plants such as coffee and guava. These non-native species can often cause great damage to the existing flora and fauna, which has happened on Cocos, especially with the pigs and cats.
The greatest thrill for most divers is witnessing the huge schools of Hammerhead Sharks that are notoriously famous in these waters, although fortunately not known to be aggressive towards humans.
Cocos Island can be reached by boat from the port of Puntarenas. Easy anchorage is available in Bahia Wafer and Bahia Chatham. There are also dining huts, rest areas, restrooms and showers available in the park. With just a small ranger station housing a handful of national park guards, Cocos Island is by and large uninhabited. Visitors come on private or charter yachts, fishing boats, or one of the few live-abroad dive vessels that make regular voyages out here.