A rough-and-ready little city with a long and sordid history, Golfito is a ramshackle port that stretches out along the Golfo Dulce. The town was built on bananas – the United Fruit Company moved its regional headquarters here in the '30s. In the 1980s, declining markets, rising taxes, worker unrest and banana diseases forced the company’s departure.
In an attempt to boost the region’s economy, the federal government built a duty-free facility, the so-called Zona Americana, in Golfito. This surreal shopping center attracts Ticos from around the country, who descend on the otherwise dying town for 24-hour shopping sprees. Unless you count this shopping center, Golfito has no attractions whatsoever. And as charmless as it is by day, by night the place is home to surly ex-military men, boozy yachters, prostitutes and goons.
Still, as the largest town in Golfo Dulce, Golfito is a transportation hub for hikers heading to Corcovado, surfers heading to Pavones and sportfishers. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll want to stick around for any longer than you have to, there is a certain charm to the crooked buildings and long-faded facades of Golfito. Plus, the verdant slopes of the Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Golfito surround the town, providing a picturesque backdrop to the crumbling buildings.
The southern part of town is where you find most of the bars and businesses, including a seedy red-light district. Nearby is the so-called Muellecito (Small Dock), from where the daily ferry to Puerto Jiménez departs. The northern part of town was the old United Fruit Company headquarters, and it retains a languid, tropical air, with its large, veranda-decked homes. Now, the Zona Americana is home to the airport and the duty-free zone.