Cocos Island: Costa Rica’s Giant Treasure Chest

Cocos Island (Isla de Coco) is a national park of Costa Rica located 340 miles off of the country’s Pacific shore. Beyond the few park rangers that keep watch, the 11,500 acre island is uninhabited. The island was formed by “a single hot-spot which pushed up volcanic material from deep below the Earth’s crust.”[1] Cocos Island is in a chain of underwater volcanoes that links it to the Galapagos Islands.

Cocos Island

Cocos Island is one of Costa Rica’s most stunning national parks!

Tourists can take an amazing tour of the island and its surrounding waters through specific tour guides. It is known to be one of the best scuba diving spots in the world, but is recommended for experienced divers only, due to the abundance of hammerhead sharks and other marine life. However, folks of all ages can hike, snorkel, and take a deep sea submersible hundreds of meters underwater to view the reefs, fish, and sharks.

In the late 19th century, ornery prisoners were taken to Cocos Island for detainment. In 1978, it was declared a national park of Costa Rica in order to protect its magical biodiversity, especially its endemic species. Almost 100 insects, various fish, 2 lizards, and an array of birds are found only on this island! [2] From the time of its discovery in the 1500s and into the 20th century, large ships amidst ocean voyages frequented Cocos Island to replenish water supplies. Over 6.5 meters of rain falls on the island annually, creating rivers, waterfalls, and pools of fresh water.

Folklore speaks of pirate ships escaping to the island to bury stolen treasures. In the process, it is believed they introduced wild pigs and goats as a food source for future quests to recover the stolen treasure. Feral pigs, goats, and rats – all introduced by humans – interfere with the natural habitat and still roam the island. However, there haven’t been any sightings of pirates searching for buried treasure or cooking bacon. (Though millions of dollars worth of loot could be hidden deep within the island’s obstructive jungles, straying from a tour group is not recommended.  For those who dislike recommendations, rumor has it that there’s a treasure map of Cocos Island floating around!)

Scuba Diving Isla de Coco

A school of Hammerhead sharks in Cocos Island’s surrounding waters.

Cocos Island is the suspected inspiration for many works of fiction, most notably the Costa Rican Island “Isla Nublar” that was used as the pretend setting in Jurassic Park Series.  Some claim that Treasure Island drew inspiration from its pirate tales as well.  Small hauls of treasure have been uncovered over the years; however, most claim that Cocos Island itself is the real treasure.


[1] http://www.anywherecostarica.com/destinations/isla-de-coco-costa-rica
[2] http://costa-rica-guide.com/Natural/Coco.html

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