Playa Zancudo


Although Golfito is the central focus of the area, most North? Americans do not actually live here, their homes and business interests are in nearby communities or on isolated bays around the Golfo Dulce. Playa Zancudo is one community that attracts many foreigners and is especially popular with North Americans.
Those who live here are convinced it is the best place on the entire coast.
A long, black sand beach with widely spaced homes, small hotels and cabin rentals, Playa Zancudo promises someday to be the largest traditional tourist development of the golfito area
Unlike Pavones, the famous surfing beach just to the south, Zancudo's beaches are very swimmable and its land ownership free of the legal nightmares that plague Pavones.
Property isn't cheap here, not by any means, but not exor?bitant either. In 2004, the going rate for Zancudo beach front property was around $250,000 for a lot with a house, and $135,000 for undeveloped property?up many percentage points from my visit two years previously. In the case of one property I inspected, this included a generous stretch of beach front, with perhaps 150 feet of land between the road and the high tide level, and the land on the other side of the road, ending at a small river which parallels the road. Along the beach the usual coconut and strangler fig trees concealed the property from view of swimmers and surfers. The rest of the property was in varied tropical trees, shrubs and flowers.


Several bars and restaurants serve as social centers, with occasional weekend dances. A stop at Susy's bar-restaurant will usually find a table or so of North Americans or Europeans discussing local news and making plans for the development of their properties. Paving the road is a common topic. Those who own homes along the beach shudder in horror at the image of the throngs of tourists, property-buyers and developers a paved highway will surely bring. They feel that since they have dis?covered this part of Costa Rica, it is rightly theirs, and it would be downright rude for others to crowd in. On the other hand, those who have businesses, who depend on tourists and new residents to make their enterprises grow, eagerly look forward to the road and the increased prosperity it will bring.
Several folks I spoke with routinely come here for three months and longer every year. A cabin with a small kitchen, right on the beach can often be found for as little as $450 a month during the off season. Others are available from $700 to $1000. By all means, stay for a couple of months before deciding to invest or build.
Bob and Monica Hara, who moved here from San Francisco many ?years ago, own ?a pleasant and comfortable facility, the Cabins Sol y Mar. The restaurant, as all of the other buildings, is absolutely immaculate, with an employee constantly cleaning, sweeping and mopping. This maybe the only restaurant in Costa Rica where you're asked to take off your shoes before entering; no sand on those polished floors, please!
"Everyone wants to come here in the winter months," Bob remarked, referring to winter and summer in the North American sense. "People seem to think that summer is a total monsoon. But the weather is wonderful then. It's actually a little cooler during June, July and August. Every morning is sunny and at least part of the afternoon is usually rain- free. Often it doesn't rain at all." The hottest month of the year is March, according to local resi?dents. This is just before the rainy season gets started.
Another Zancudo booster is Susan Robertson, an artist who lives nearby and who handles rental cabins. Boats to Golfito can arranged by Susan and her husband Andrew. They also offer jungle, river and beach excursions. Originally from England, Susan fell in love with this part of the country and decided to become a permanent resident. When speaking about Zancudo's potential as a tourist development, she said, "Something people overlook is that our waves are excellent for surfing. When the surf is right, our beach is almost as good as Pavones. The waves aren't as long, of course, but fine surf just the same."
Buses and stake-bed trucks bring families from nearby towns on weekends, loaded with children eager to enjoy the beach. The waves are gentle, the water warm, and kids are in no danger of anything worse than sunburn. An easier way to get here is by water-taxi from Golfito. Schedules vary with the tides.
The shortest way to the beach is a two-hour drive over a gravel and sometimes rocky trail. This same road splits off and goes to Zancudo's sister beach to the south, Pavones. During rainy season, this route requires a four-wheel-drive, and it's not all that great in the summer. Maps don't help much in finding either Zancudo or Pavones. I have three different maps; for all practical purposes they might as well have been of three different countries, because each has a different version of the road system, none approaching reality. It's best to stop often and make in?quiries. The road is paved from where you turn from the Golfito highway (10 km from Rio Claro) until you come to a quaint little ferry across the Coto River. On my last trip, the old automobile engine that powers the ferry wasn't working, so they used a canoe with an outboard motor to move! If nobody's around, honk your horns and the operators come running. (It takes two: one to manage the ferry, one to work the canoe.)
A longer route to Zancudo which offers much smoother roads and is easier on your rental cartakes about the same time and is usually passable during the rainy season. Follow the Panamerican highway all the way to the border town of Canoas, then along a paved road (one side Panama, the other Costa Rica) to the town of Laurel, and from there a gravel road north to the village of Conte and on to Zancudo.

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