Cocos Island National Park encompasses 199,700 hectares (493,469 acres), including the island and surrounding protected ocean areas. Cocos Island itself is 2383 hectares (5888 acres). The elevation range of the park is from sea level to 634 meters at Cerro Iglesias. The habitat of the island is mountainous tropical rainforest, filled with ferns, bromeliads, mosses and fungi, living in a landscape abundant in rivers, streams, waterfalls, valleys and cliffs. In the surrounding marine ecosystem there is rich coral reef, volcanic tunnels, caves and deeper waters, home to a breathtaking array of species. Due to strong ocean currents and steep drop offs, scuba diving is recommended only for experienced divers. The only way to access the island is by live-aboard boat tour. With permission of park rangers, who are the only inhabitants of the island, visitors may come ashore to explore, however no camping or collecting of flora, fauna or minerals is allowed.
In the waters surrounding Cocos Island, scuba divers will be thrilled to spot white-tip reef sharks and whale sharks, in addition to hammerheads. Hundreds of species of coral, crustaceans, mollusks and over 300 species of fish including yellowfin tuna, giant manta ray and sailfish share the marine ecosystem. Other large marine animals that pass through the area include humpback whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, as well as hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles.
Wildlife on the island include many migratory seabirds (Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Great Frigatebird, White Tern and Brown Noddy), as well as seven species of land birds, including the endemic Cocos Cuckoo, Flycatcher and Finch, a cousin to Darwin’s famous finches in the Galapagos. There are two endemic lizard species, an anole and gecko, but no amphibians have been reported. Over 400 species of insects inhabit the island as well. The wildlife of Cocos Island National Park has evolved over years and over time, forming new species that are unique to Cocos Island. Such species are known as endemic and can be found nowhere else in the world.
More about Cocos Island
Due to the abundance of documented pirate activity in the area, Cocos Island is believed by many to hold buried pirate treasure. Perhaps hundreds of expeditions have gone in search of treasure, as small caches have been found there. It is thought that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the desert island in Robinson Crusoe and the fictitious Isla Nubar in Jurrasic Park were all inspired by Cocos Island. Sadly, one of the biggest problems on Cocos Island is the loss of native species due to the pigs, goats and rats introduced by whale hunters back in the 18th century. Whale boats would stop at Cocos Island to stock up on fresh water and coconuts; pigs and goats were left on the island to provide food for future travelers.
Region: Pacific island
Closest town: None
Size in hectares: 199,700 (493,469 acres)
Year established: 1978
Elevation in meters: 0 – 634 (0 – 2,080 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: no
Public restrooms: no
Entrance fee: $50
Hours: 08:00 - 15:30
Hiking trails: no
Boat tours: yes
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 90
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 7,000
Habitat: coral reef, rainforest, beach
From the port of Puntarenas, it is a 32-36 hour boat ride to Cocos Island. Live-aboard boat tours often incude transport to Puntarenas from your hotel in San Jose.
Weather and packing
The climate of Cocos Island is humid and tropical. Temperatures remain the same nearly year round with average day time highs in the upper 80s to low 90s and night time lows in the 70s. Average annual rainfall is 700cm/ 275 inches. Precipitation is high throughout the year, although lower from January through March and slightly lower during late September and October. Depending on your diving preference, calmer seas and better visibility are found between January and May. However the rainier months of June through December are a better time to dive with hammerhead sharks. Annual visitation to Cocos Island is about 1100 people, mainly between March and May.
Visitors should pack a bathing suit, towel, shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block, and insect repellent.
Fun Fact: Due to the abundance of documented Pirate activity in the area, Cocos Island is believed by many to be a place to find pirate treasure.