The day before Christmas found us in Costa Rica. We docked in the Port of Golfito for customs, restocking, and our morning activities.

The city of Golfito is located in a sheltered inlet in the Golfo Dulce, the southernmost gulf of the Costa Rican Pacific coastline. Surrounded by steep hills, the region’s heavy rainfall supports deep and dense tropical rainforest vegetation. Golfito was built in the 1930s as a company town, and it provided housing and facilities for the employees of the United Fruit Company (UFC). At the time, the UFC was moving operations from the Caribbean to the Pacific Coast to avoid diseases associated with banana plantations. Until 1985, Golfito was the main banana port for the UFC for over four decades. Higher production costs and labor conflicts due to unfair wages and poor treatment of local people made the company abandon the area. Nowadays, Golfito is the only free port in the country, and it supports jobs, income, and prosperity in the area. The free port allows Costa Ricans the ability to purchase imported items cheaper than anywhere else in the country.

During the early part of the day, our group chose between exploring the mangrove/coastal area via kayak or Zodiac. Both options were excellent. In a kayak, guests had the chance to explore on their own and spend some quality alone time. In a Zodiac, naturalists pointed out and interpreted the flora and fauna. Guests on both outings were rewarded with different wildlife sightings and experiences.

Later in the day, National Geographic Quest repositioned a few miles north of Golfito to visit Dolphin Quest, a privately owned wildlife refuge known by locals as Rio Seco. Owned and operated by the Klochko family, the refuge offers an array of trails and a wonderful garden that we explored. Long and medium walks opened our eyes to the wonders of the rainforest. We were welcomed into the very hot and humid realm by scarlet macaws, yellow-throated toucans, agoutis, and spectacled caimans. We observed ylang-ylang trees, fig trees, and leafcutter ants, and we left with many happy memories and photos. As the sun set on the horizon, we said goodnight to our first day in Costa Rica.