Cano Island Biological Reserve
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2013
Cano Island is a biological and archaeological reserve located just 45 minutes from Drake Bay, off the Osa Peninsula. This landmass is the exposed part of an underwater mountain thrown up by the ancient collision of the two tectonic plates on either side of Costa Rica.
Location : 7 miles from Corcovado National Park
Area : 494 land acres; 6,669 maritime acres
Hours : 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Telephone : 2735-5036
Entrance Fee : $10.00
Surrounded by fifteen species of coral reef, Cano Island supports a colorful array of marine life. Diving and snorkeling opportunities here are nothing short of spectacular – it is commonly acknowledged that Cano’s underwater exploration is second only to Cocos Island to the northeast. Large schools of jacks, along with parrotfish, damsels and a variety of eels, can be found hiding among the coral-lined rock formations. Sightings of manta rays, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks are also common.
Terrain above water is covered with evergreen trees that reach staggering heights of up to 164 feet. The island protects the remains of its Pre-Columbian inhabitants, the Diquis tribe. Several mysterious granite spheres mark the island. Such evidence suggests that Isla del Cano was previously used as an ancient burial ground.
In an effort to protect the local biodiversity, tourist activity is only permitted on the north face of the island. This leaves three-quarters of the land and its surrounding waters largely unaffected.
Bird and Wildlife Watching: Species variation above water is extremely limited. A few types of reptiles and only three kinds of mammals (one of which was introduced by humans) call Cano Island their home. Wildlife includes the four-eyed opossum, paca, boa constrictor, brown tree frog and the transparent tree frog. A few species of rats, bats, small snakes and lizards can also be observed here.
Fewer than 20 types of birds live on Cano, including the cattle egret, common black hawk, osprey, brown booby and northern phalarope. Plant life is much more extensive; the reserve hosts over 158 species such as locust, fig, wild cacao, strangler, and trumpet trees.
Snorkeling and Diving: Tours normally include snorkeling or two dives, lunch and a few hours of relaxing on the beach – or a hike to the park’s archeological site. During the dry season months of December-April, visibility can reach up to eighty feet.
This enables divers to observe the incredible abundance of marine life thriving here: large schools of fish (blackjack, barracudas, snapper, and rainbow fish), white-tipped reef sharks, king angel, Moorish idol, puffers, surgeonfish, and more. Dolphins, sea turtles, and rays are often spotted en route to the island. The boat trip takes 45 minutes from Drake Bay and 90 minutes from Sierpe.
Hiking: The Mirador/Archeological Area Trail is the sole hiking path on the island, and it only takes one hour roundtrip to complete. The trail splits after a half mile. One leg leads to a stunning vista and another to an ancient graveyard. Due to theft of pottery shards and other artifacts, backpacks are technically not allowed – however, this rule is not commonly enforced.
Cano Island’s beach features one ranger station with a restaurant and bathroom. Reservations to the reserve are required, as a limited number of visitors are permitted entry each day. Camping and overnight stays are not allowed.
Cano Island is accessible only by boat. Day trips depart from both Drake Bay and Sierpe.