Lighthouses of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country of Central America, located between Nicaragua and Panama. The country has a lengthy coastline on the Pacific Ocean and a much shorter one on the Caribbean Sea. The principal ports are Puntarenas and Caldera on the Pacific and Limón on the Caribbean. Very little is known about lighthouses in Costa Rica, so additional information from visitors would be very welcome.

Aids to navigation in Costa Rica are regulated by the División Marítimo Portuaria, an agency of MOPT (Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Tranportes), the public works and transportation ministry. On the Pacific coast, the lighthouses are operated by INCOP (Instituto Costaricense de Puertos del Pacífico), a relatively new agency managing all the Pacific ports. Atlantic coast lights are presumably maintained by JAPDEVA, the port and development authority for Limón.

The Spanish word for a lighthouse is faro. In Spanish-speaking America, this word is used generally for all navigational lights, large and small, although smaller lights are also called balizas (beacons).

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals for Caribbean lights and from volume G for Pacific lights. Light List numbers are from NGA Publication 110 for Caribbean lights and from Publication 111 for Pacific lights.

General Sources
Online List of Lights - Costa Rica Pacific
Photos by various photographers posted by Alex Trabas.
Leuchttürme Mittelamerikas auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Faro Punta Quepos
Punta Quepos Light, Puerto Quepos, 2010
MOPT photo

Puntarenas Province (Pacific Coast) Lighthouses

Golfito Canton Lighthouses
Punta Curupacha (Golfito)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 91 m (299 ft); white flash every 4 s. Steel skeletal tower, painted yellow. No photo available, and Bing's satellite view of the point shows only dense forest; Google's satellite view is similar. This light shines southward over the length of the Golfo Dulce. Located on a remote headland about 15 km (9 mi) west of Golfito. Site status unknown. Admiralty G3284; NGA 111-15472.
Cabo Matapalo
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; white flash every 10 s. No information is available on this station; Bing's satellite view probably shows a skeletal tower that carries the light. Located high on the cape at the southeastern tip of the Osa Peninsula and the west side of the the entrance to the Golfo Dulce. Site status unknown. Admiralty G3282; NGA 111-15469.

Osa Canton Lighthouse
* Isla del Caño (2?)
Date unknown (station established 1940). Active (?); focal plane 63 m (207 ft); white flash every 4 s. 22 m (72 ft) steel skeletal tower with a red lantern. No photo available, but Google's satellite view shows only dense forest with no sign of the tower. The lighthouse was built and originally operated by the United Fruit Company. It was deactivated in 1961, and we don't know if the present light is on the original tower or a new one. The Isla del Caño is a 300 ha (740 acre) island located about 20 km (13 mi) west of the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica. It is now a national park and is a popular destination for day trips. The lighthouse is located at the western end of the island and is accessible by a hiking trail. Site open, and visitors can climb to the gallery. Site manager: Reserva Biológica Isla del Caño. ARLHS COS-003; Admiralty G3306; NGA 111-15468.

Aguirre Canton Lighthouse
Punta Quepos (2)
2010 (station establishment date unknown). Active; focal plane 156 m (512 ft); white flash every 3 s. 12 m (39 ft) skeletal tower with gallery. Lighthouse painted with horizontal bands, white, red, white and gray. An MOPT photo is at the top of this page, Susan Forshner has a distant view, and the tower barely pokes above dense forest in Google's satellite view. The new tower replaced an older skeletal tower of the same height. This location is in the Manuel Antonio National Park; there is a large resort, the Hotel Parador, nearby. Located on a very prominent cape about 8 km (5 mi) south of Puerto Quepos on the central west coast of Costa Rica. Site status unknown, very possibly open. Admiralty G3310; NGA 111-15464.

Puntarenas Canton (Gulf of Nicoya Area) Lighthouses
Isla Herradura (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 99 m (325 ft); white flash every 10 s. 18 m (59 ft) skeletal tower adjacent to a 1-story equipment building. Lighthouse painted with red and white horizontal bands. A photo is an right, and Trabas has a very distant view by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, but Google's satellite view has no detail on the island. There is a reference (halfway down the page) to an "old lighthouse" on the crest of Isla Herradura; this may refer to an older lighthouse. The island, a popular site for surfing, is just off the coast at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Nicoya. Located on the crest of the island, near the west end, about 5 km (3 mi) southwest of Los Sueños. Site status unknown. ARLHS COS-004; Admiralty G3316; NGA 111-15460.
Isla Herradura Light
Isla Herradura Light, Los Sueños, 2010
MOPT photo
* Los Sueños
Date unknown (recent). Active (privately maintained and unofficial); continuous white light. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) conical concrete (?) tower with gallery and a small lantern. Access to the gallery is by an external stairway that winds around the tower. The lighthouse is painted a light brick red color. Jennifer Hensley has a closeup photo, Sergio Quesada has a photo, a nighttime photo shows the lighthouse in action, and Google has a satellite view. According to visitors, the light operates during the evening hours only and is extinguished after midnight. Located at a modern resort on the east side of the entrance to the Golfo de Nicoya, about 65 km (40 mi) south of Puntarenas. Site open, tower closed (the stairway is not accessible to visitors). Site manager: Los Sueños Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort. ARLHS COS-008.
Puerto Caldera
Date unknown. Active; focal plane and characteristics unknown. Approx. 40 m (131 ft) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, also seen at right, a distant view is available, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Caldera is on the east side of the Gulf of Nicoya in northwestern Costa Rica, about 30 km (19 mi) southeast of Puntarenas. Located on a steep slope behind the harbor. Site and tower closed, but the tower can be seen from anywhere in the area. Admiralty G3321.
* [Puntarenas (Barrio del Carmen) (4?)]
Date unknown (station established 1856). Active; focal plane 16 m (52 ft) (?); red occulting four times every 10 s. 14 m (46 ft) (?) "silver iron tower," according to NGA, "north of a small customs office." Trabas has Capt. Peter Mosselberger's photo, which shows a simple post light at the end of the pier. Google has an indistinct satellite view. This is Costa Rica's oldest light station. Michel Forand has a postcard view of the 1914 light station, and Huelse has a larger image of the same postcard. Puntarenas is located on a long spit pointing westward into the Gulf of Nicoya. Located on the long cruise ship pier on the south side of the spit. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS COS-007; Admiralty G3320; NGA 111-15456.
Isla Negritos (2)
2011 (station establishment date unknown). Active; focal plane 48 m (157 ft); four white flashes every 20 s. Approx. 8 m (26 ft) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. No photo available, and the light is not seen in Bing's satellite view. The two Islas Negritos are part of a dangerous reef system extending from the west side of the Gulf of Nicoya east of Paquera. Located at the eastern end of the island. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS COS-005; Admiralty G3344; NGA 111-15452.
Isla Cabo Blanco
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; two white flashes every 18 s. No information is available on this light. A 2008 distant view shows a small tower and a possible keeper's house atop the giant rock. Bing's satellite view is not very informative. Located on an island about 1.6 km (1 mi) south of a very prominent cape at the end of the Nicoya Peninsula and the western entrance to the Gulf of Nicoya. Site and tower closed (bird sanctuary). ARLHS COS-001; Admiralty G3346; NGA 15462.

Puerto Caldera Light, Caldera
photo copyright Capt. Peter Mosselberger
used by permission

Limón Province (Caribbean Coast) Lighthouses

Limón Canton Lighthouses
Isla Pájaros (Bahía Móin)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; white flash every 2.5 s. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Luís Alvarado has a distant view, but Google's satellite view has only a very distant satellite view of the island. Located on an island about 500 m (0.3 mi) offshore and 5 km (3 mi) northwest of Limón. Accessible only by boat. Admiralty J6067; NGA 110-16516.
Limón (Isla Uvita, Isla Quiribri) (?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 41 m (135 ft); white flash every 10 s. 25 m (82 ft) skeletal tower, painted white. No photo available. This is the landfall light for Puerto Limón, Costa Rica's only major port on the Caribbean Sea. Although photos of the island do not show it, there are recent references to this lighthouse. An indistinct Google satellite view may show the lighthouse. Huelse has a historic (but very distant) postcard view. Located on an island about 3 km (2 mi) east of Puerto Limón. Accessible only by boat. ARLHS COS-006; Admiralty J6068; NGA 110-16504.
[Puerto Limón (Container Pier)]
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 15 m (49 ft); continuous red light. Approx. 14 m (46 ft) steel (?) post light with a small gallery. The light is seen in an aerial photo, and Google has an indistinct satellite view of the location. Located at the south end of the breakwater pier at Puerto Limón. Site status unknown. Admiralty J6069; NGA 110-16508.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Nicaragua | Southeast: Northern Panama | South: Southern Panama

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Posted (Central America page) January 24, 2005. Checked and revised November 17, 2013. Lighthouses: 11. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.