All of a sudden, the world seems to be teeming with yachts opting to cruise off the beaten path. The pandemic spawned interest in all things boating, with a consequent spike in the superyacht world’s desire to provide the ultimate getaway and tap into a thirst for discovery among a new breed of yacht owners and charter clients.
Located in Central America with coastlines on both the Caribbean and the Pacific, Costa Rica was always a paradise in waiting but, following a change in legislation, it’s now firmly on the map among owners and guests keen to experience nature off the beaten track.
The pivotal moment came as Costa Rica was thrust into the limelight in April 2021 when President Carlos Alvarado signed the ‘Law of Promotion of Tourist Marinas and Coastal Development’ passed by the Costa Rica Legislative Assembly, opening the door to foreign-flagged charter yachts over 24-meters with one year renewable charter licenses. And with news circulating of tax increases in other regions, the low rate of 2.5 per cent VAT on charters in Costa Rica only adds to its appeal.
IGY Marina Bahia Golfito’s Charter Concierge team are on the ground to welcome yachts, coordinating a streamlined application process encompassing all aspects of the new charter rules and regulations (forms, customs, immigration, taxation, and licensing). More so, charter managers and charter brokers will be pleased to hear there are 20, 30 and 60-day superyacht berthing packages specifically designed to support charter operations aligned with the new charter law.
Commenting on the impact on nautical tourism in Costa Rica, Pedro Abdalla, Director General and MD at IGY Marina Bahia Golfito says: “The approval of the law that will allow charters in Costa Rica from November 2022 is great news for yacht owners and their crew and has generated great expectations among charter brokers with clients looking for the types of experience we can offer.
“Marina Bahia Golfito occupies a pristine naturally protected destination harbour with central access to Costa Rica’s most vibrant superyacht cruising grounds. Due to its proximity to Cocos Island, the Osa Peninsula, the Golfo Dulce and other spectacular destinations, Marina Bahía Golfito is the best place to start these adventures and take advantage of our services, amenities and the expertise of our onsite itinerary team who are available to support extraordinary destination experience planning.”
The appeal of unspoilt nature
Hand in hand with a desire to get close to nature, yacht owners, crew and charter guests are increasingly concerned with the health of the planet, and nowhere sets a better example. Costa Rica is a shining light in conservation and rewilding, with numerous initiatives set up to safeguard the environment and local ecosystems.
Examples include The Raising Coral Costa Rica group and The University of Costa Rica’s Ocean and Freshwater Science Division (CIMAR) who are actively restoring coral reefs in the Golfo Dulce where charter guests can witness snorkelling zones replenishing marine life. Costa Rica is also home to numerous eco-sensitive lodges where guests can participate in tree planting or wildlife research.
Most notably, in 2021 Costa Rica was awarded the Earthshot Prize in the Protect and Restore Nature category. Following massive deforestation in the 1990s, the people of Costa Rica and the Ministry for the Environment devised a recovery plan which involved paying citizens to protect the forests, plant trees, and restore ecosystems. Costa Rica has since doubled the number of its trees and revived its rainforests, and once again its flora and fauna are thriving.
Catering to the next generation’s appetite for ecotourism is also seriously good for business - in Costa Rica alone it generates in excess of 4 billion USD for the local economy every year.
Exploring rich wildlife and biodiversity
Abundant in wild national parks, jungle-fringed beaches and volcanic landscapes, Costa Rica is teaming with wildlife and it’s not unusual to spot the raccoon-like coati, scarlet macaws, basilisk lizards, silky anteaters, jaguarundi and Morpho butterflies. It’s also worth visiting The Curú National Wildlife Refuge, a protected region blessed with pastures, tropical rainforest, rivers and beaches where you can see capuchin and spider monkeys, armadillos and vast species of bird life, insects and reptiles.
Accessible by boat from the Nicoya Peninsula, visitors can snorkel at Isla Tortuga and spot turtles or manta rays, while the palm-fringed shoreline hosts deer, iguanas and numerous species of birds. Also by boat, you can discover the Osa Peninsula where Corcovado National Park is believed to house 2.5% of the biodiversity of the entire world, including monkeys, silky anteaters, tapirs, jaguars and hundreds of species of birds and insects.
Located west of the Osa Peninsula, Isla del Caño will awaken your olfactory senses with the scents of mango, orchids, wild cacao and banana plantations, and it’s also here that you’ll find the ancient ruins of stone spheres created by pre-Columbian civilizations.
Marine life and exceptional diving
Marine wildlife is a major draw for Costa Rica. Isla del Caño is also a breeding ground for humpback whales and the perfect place to spot spinner dolphin pods. The Tortuguero National Park in the Limón Province of Costa Rica is also home to humpback whales, sharks, manta rays and green sea turtles, while Las Baulas Marine National Park is the place to see leatherback turtles.
For exceptional diving head to the World Heritage-listed Cocos Island, situated 300 miles southwest of Costa Rica’s mainland and home to pelagic species such as sailfish, giant manta rays, and the world’s largest aggregations of the near-threatened silky sharks.
Other activities not to be missed
Grab a board and go surfing at Tamarindo or head for Ollie’s Point - accessible only by boat and a top notch right point break.
Zip line through the lush canopy of the high-altitude Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve situated in the Puntarenas province, and catch a glimpse of bird life, giant ferns, purple orchids and hanging bridges.
Join a white water rafting excursion down the Pacuare River that has everything from class II to class V rapids, as well as multiple waterfalls.
Go hiking in the Los Quetzales National Park just 1.5 hours from San José, where you might spot the iridescent but shy Quetzels, a Baird’s Tapir or pumas.
IGY Marina Bahia Golfito
Located in the Puntarenas region of Costa Rica, IGY Marina Bahia Golfito puts the customer experience front and center, providing world-class service for owners, captains, charter managers, charter brokers and crew. The team is on hand with local knowledge and advice around the many highlights and activities available to guests.
Lying in a protected basin, Bahia Golfito’s Amenities and Services include:
45 slips, including nine customized superyacht berths for vessels up to 350’ with 29’ max draft
24-hour security with onsite transportation services
Proximity for transport options - the marina is a ten-minute drive from the local airstrip with a helipad onsite at the marina
Local, regional, and international fast tracked provisioning and parts services
Restaurant and bar
A corporate event space
When to visit Costa Rica by yacht
Costa Rica’s tropical and subtropical climate is tempered by wet and dry seasons. There are regional microclimates but generally the best time to visit by yacht is the dry season between December and April, or from July to October when humpback whales migrate to Costa Rican waters.
“With the new yachting law, we expect a big rise in the number of yachts visiting Costa Rica,” said Pedro Abdalla. “Due to the facilities and natural beauty that our country offers, as well as its reputation in sustainability and environmental care, we look forward to welcoming vessels of all types and sizes.”