Everything You Need to Know About Isla del Coco

Coldwell Banker Pacific Realty | 28th May 2024 | Share
Everything You Need to Know About Isla del Coco

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on Isla del Coco, Costa Rica's hidden gem and paradise for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, approximately 550 kilometers off the mainland coast, Islas del Coco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its stunning biodiversity, rich marine life, and lush tropical landscapes.

In this blog, we will take you on a journey through the unique features and attractions of Islas del Coco. From its history and ecological significance to practical travel tips and must-see spots, we've got you covered. Whether you're planning a visit or simply curious about this remote island, our guide will provide you with all the information you need to appreciate the beauty and importance of Isla del Coco. Get ready to explore the wonders of one of the world's most fascinating natural treasures!



The island was first discovered by Spanish navigators in the early 16th century. The exact date of its discovery is debated, but it is generally believed that Juan Cabezas sighted the island in 1526. Its name, "Cocos," likely derives from the abundance of coconut trees found on the island, although these were probably introduced by early visitors.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Isla del Coco gained notoriety as a hideout for pirates and privateers. The island's secluded bays and dense forests provided the perfect cover for buccaneers seeking refuge and a place to bury their treasure. Legends abound of hidden pirate loot, including the infamous treasure of Lima, which was allegedly buried on the island by Captain William Thompson in 1820. Despite numerous expeditions, no substantial treasure has ever been found, but the legends continue to captivate treasure hunters and adventurers.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw a shift from piracy to scientific exploration. The island's rich biodiversity began to attract naturalists and researchers. One of the most notable visitors was the renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, who visited the island multiple times in the 1970s and 1980s. Cousteau's explorations helped to highlight the ecological significance of Islas del Coco, particularly its vibrant marine life.

Recognizing its unique ecological value, the Costa Rican government declared Islas del Coco a national park in 1978. This designation provided legal protection to the island's terrestrial and marine environments. In 1997, the island was further honored by being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These protections have been crucial in preserving the island's pristine condition and supporting ongoing scientific research.


What can you find on the island?

Isla del Coco is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, many of which are endemic to the island including but not limited to birds like the Cocos Cuckoo and the Cocos Finch, or reptiles like Cocos Island Anole and the Cocos Island Boa. In addition, the Island’s waters are protected for up to 12 nautical miles which are teeming with marine life, making it a top destination for divers. With its famous diving sites of Dirty Rock, Bajo Alcyone, and Dos Amigos, divers can swim amongst numerous species of sharks, rays, and fish, and even explore coral reefs.

The island also features several rainforests and spectacular waterfalls, with the most famous being the 20-meter-high "Genio Waterfall" and the picturesque "La Sirena Waterfall." These waterfalls add to the island's natural beauty and provide fresh water sources for its wildlife.

Finally, more unconventional animals including pigs, cats, goats, rats, and deer can also be found wandering throughout the island. At the end of the 18th century, the ship Rattler anchored at Cocos Island and Captain James Colnett, who commanded the vessel, left pigs, goats, and planted crops on the island that could provide food upon his return. Today, however, these animals have become invasive species with a very negative impact on the island's ecosystems and native biodiversity.


How to visit the island?

Visiting Isla del Coco requires careful planning due to its protected status and the logistical challenges involved. The journey can take more than a day, and the cost can rise to thousands of dollars, however, here’s a short guide to help you navigate the process:


  1. Application: Since Isla del Coco is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors need special permits to visit. These permits are issued by the Costa Rican National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC). Through the permit, you must provide details about your trip and the purpose of your visit, as well as pay the park entry fees that contribute to conservation efforts (non-residents pay $50 per day, while nationals pay $25 per day).
  2. Choosing a Tour: You can choose to bring your own boat or hydroplane to visit the island, however, there are many challenges and additional fees involved in doing so, therefore most travelers book their visit through a touring company. There are many regular operators that organize trips to the island and offer liveaboard accommodations (i.e., staying on the boat) the most famous include Aventuras Marítimas Okeanos and Undersea Hunter. Tours usually include an 11 day, 10-night trip with 7 whole days on the island and a tour guide of your choosing: whether that be birdwatching, sightseeing, or snorkeling. Tours can range from around $3,500 to $7,500 depending on the preferences of your accommodation.
  3. Follow Conservation Guidelines: Respect the conservation efforts in place to protect Isla del Coco's unique ecosystem including a strict leave-no-trade policy and adhering to all guidelines provided by park rangers and tour operators and restrictions on certain areas to minimize human impact.



Isla del Coco, Costa Rica, is an unparalleled destination for those seeking adventure, natural beauty, and a deep connection with one of the world's most pristine ecosystems. Whether you're drawn by the island's legendary past, its scientific importance, or its natural wonders, Isla del Coco promises an unforgettable experience. By following the necessary guidelines and respecting the island's fragile ecosystem, you can help preserve this extraordinary place while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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