Golfito is a strange beast – as its name suggests, it’s a little gulf in the bigger Golfo Dulce, a very sheltered anchorage on the east side of the bay. There is room for many many boats at anchor, and the facilities for cruising boats are as good as we have seen them anywhere. There are two full service (and expensive) marinas, which are populated by large power yachts and cruising boats who are undergoing the bonding process which allows the boat to remain in Costa Rica over 3 months.
However, most boats in transit use the facilities at Land Sea, which has a handful of moorings, as well as a dinghy dock and clubhouse for boats on the hook. We kept Scream on one of their moorings and had Tim, the owner, keep an eye on the boat when we traveled inland. Tim also has a great book exchange, wifi, and a work area that cruisers can use for mucky jobs (we painted our oars there).
The town of Golfito is mostly laid out along one road that follows the shore. From Land Sea, it’s a bit of a walk to “downtown,” where a couple of supermarkets can be found, along with the inevitable hardware stores, shoe shops, restaurants and the post office. Further along is the port captain, coast guard facility, some hotels and then the very odd new raison d’être of Golfito: the Deposito Libre.
The story goes that when the banana exportation business died, Golfito was on the ropes as a town. So to bring some economic life back, it was allowed to build a duty-free zone, that is a large area of warehouse sized stores, selling cheap appliances, booze, imported food, electronics, kitchen goods and clothes. It’s free to shop there, but you need a permit which becomes valid 24 hours after you get it, necessitating an overnight stay in town. You can see how the economic stimulus works, considering that many of the products available at the Deposito are much less expensive than at local stores in Costa Rica. There were many people shopping when we visited.
As a stop for cruisers, Golfito is a classic meeting point. Between the marinas, economical services at Land Sea, great anchorage and full shopping, it would be a cruisers’ paradise even if it weren’t almost right on the Costa Rica/Panama border and a Port of Entry.