Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is a culturally rich and naturally beautiful part of the country. Located between Nicaragua and Panama, the province of Limon extends across Costa Rica with nearly 125 miles of coastline. The landscapes in this area differ significantly, from wetlands and beaches to rainforest and mountains. Most tourists spend their time in small fishing villages that are surrounded by white sand beaches and turquoise water. Surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving are some of the most popular activities thanks to diverse marine life and protected coral reserves. Tourists may also have the opportunity to view one of Costa Rica’s most astonishing natural attractions- mass turtle nesting in Tortuguero National Park.
The province of Limon is a culturally distinct area of Costa Rica thanks to the region’s unique history. Visitors to the region have the opportunity to experience Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous culture through local cuisine, festivals, and responsible tourism tours.
Tortuguero National Park
The area of Tortuguero is best known for the Green-turtle nesting that happens between the months of July and October. During this time period, Green turtles, Leatherbacks, and Hawksbill turtles come to the national park to lay their eggs. For this reason, the park and nearby town of Tortuguero are very eco-friendly, with few roads and rustic accommodations. Although the park encompasses 47,000 land acres and 129,000 maritime acres, Tortuguero National Park is also a remote location that can be difficult to reach. The town of Tortuguero is located approximately 5 hours from the city of San Jose and visitors must access the park by boat or plane. Travellers that visit during the off season can still observe wildlife as they hike and cruise through the park. Although the park offers an incredible eco-tourism experience, visitors should be aware that rain is common most days and beaches are not an ideal place to swim due to strong currents.
Located a short distance from the city of Limon, Puerto Viejo has grown over recent years to become a popular destination among backpackers and surfers on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Puerto Viejo offers visitors a unique blend of Latino, Afro-Caribbean, and indigenous Bri-Bri cultures. One of the biggest draws for surfers to the area is Puerto Viejo’s Salsa Brava, which is a barrel wave that can reach nearly 12 feet high. Unfortunately, swimming in this area is not ideal as waters are rough and have a strong undercurrent. Luckily there are lots of other activities in the area. Travelers can opt to go horseback riding, snorkeling, mountain biking, and kayaking in the surrounding jungles and coastline. The town of Puerto Viejo also offers a variety of restaurants, bars, and reasonably priced accommodation for visitors.
Considered a hidden gem on the Caribbean coast, Cahuita is an idyllic town known for its relaxed vibe, Afro Caribbean culture, and white sand beaches. The town of Cahuita is quite small, comprising a couple of blocks and less than 10,000 people. However, visitors are drawn to this area due to the amazing swimming and diving opportunities in the Cahuita’s clear turquoise waters. Cahuita National Park is a jungle and marine park that encompasses some of the Caribbean coast’s most gorgeous coral reefs and marine life. Tourists also have the fantastic opportunity to take indigenous led tours, which feature members of the Bri-Bri and Kekoldi tribes demonstrating traditional chocolate making or guiding wildlife observation. For tourists seeking a culturally unique experience among Costa Rica’s beautiful coastline, Cahuita is an ideal destination.
Even smaller than Cahuita, Manzanillo is a fishing village located next to Puerto Viejo in the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Travellers that stay in this area can bask on a white sand beach or enjoy the water through popular swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving experiences. In the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, nature lovers have the opportunity to spot jaguars, sloths, turles, and even the endangered Harpy Eagle. The Wildlife Refuge is also favourite among birdwatchers thanks to over 360 species of birds identified. In town, visitors can shop at the local seafood and fresh produce markets or head to a restaurant specializing in local cuisine, such as jerk chicken. Manzanillo is much quieter than neighboring Puerto Viejo, and most foreigners in this area are seniors and retirees. For this reason, Manzanillo is most popular as a day trip or for long-term foreign residents.
Also located near Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva is a quiet fishing village consisting of a few dirt roads, restaurants, and hotels. The town’s main draw is its white sand beach, turquoise water, and relaxing atmosphere. For travelers looking to get away from Puerto Viejo’s busy party scene, Punta Uva is a great place to rejuvenate among some of the Caribbean coast’s most beautiful landscapes. Visitors can choose from a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as paddleboarding, kayaking, and hiking. There is also a dive certification centre located in the town of Punta Uva for those looking to learn more about scuba diving.
Puerto Limon is the biggest city and capital of Limon province. The main industry in Limon is the city’s port, which is used for agriculture exports, as well as cruise ship docking. Tourism is not common in Puerto Limon. However, the city does hold a variety of cultural parades and festivals throughout the year, such as Dia de las Culturas in October. Visitors to the city can also enjoy the large open air markets, restaurants, and active nightlife. Some travelers feel that visiting Puerto Limon is a great way to understand everyday life in Costa Rican cities and gain a better understanding of local livelihoods and culture. For those looking to visit, the journey from San Jose to Limon is quite scenic, and allows travelers to view beautiful landmarks like Brava Volcano and Braulio Carrillo National Park along the way.
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