Indian villages occupied the site where Golfito is now located. The establishment of plantations for the cultivation of bananas has created a lot of changes in that region of Costa Rica.
Golfito Bay is very protected and only a small gap connects to the open ocean, it is a perfect location for a harbor. This is where the main port for the export of bananas was built. The banana plantations ranged down over the border to Panama and the complete crop was shipped from Golfito harbor.
One can observe that Golfito is divided into two districts: the workers lived in simple wood shacks in Pueblo Civico in the south and the American Administrators in green Villas in the northwest. The villas are made of wood and you can see them in the Zona Americana.
In 1985 the United Fruit Company and the banana barons withdraw from Costa Rica after a strike by workers that lasted 72 days. Since then unemployment has been a big problem in the region of Golfito. Many of the banana plantations where converted into African palm plantations. The oil from the palms is used to produce cooking oil, margarine and soap. Other parts of the plantations where leased to growers who farm them independently.
In 1990 a free trade zone was established in Golfito, with the purpose of creating employment. All Costa Ricans and tourists can buy tax free in the Deposito Libre Comercial de Golfito. The idea is that visitors stay at least one night in Golfito. To be able to purchase goods one needs to have the Tarjeta de Autorizacion de Compra (TAC). The following day one can start shopping in the Deposito.
Many people travel from San Jose, or farther, to Golfito to buy television sets, washing machines, alcohol or similar products.
There are beaches that are good for surfing and sun bathing near by. For tourists there are several day tours offered: boat trips on the Rio Claro, sport fishing or a visit to the Golfito-nature-reserve north of town.
There are several hotels and restaurants in town, only on weekends when the shoppers come it can get crowded.