Not too long ago, the sleepy Caribbean town of Puerto Limon was predominately known as a banana export hub; now it functions mainly as a picturesque docking port visited by cruise ships traveling from all over the globe. As you debark and mosey away from the marina, you’ll pass shops showcasing beautiful wooden trinkets, leather artisanal goods, handmade silver jewelry and other souvenirs. Tour operators lining the road offer guided day trips to nearby chocolate plantations, indigenous reserves and even a sloth rescue center. Or, for a day of relaxation and sun, grab a cold drink and a bag of succulent cashews from a street side vendor and head to Playa Bonita, “Pretty Beach,” just a short taxi ride away. Dry season in this region is typically from February to April, with a brief dry spell again in September.
Often compared to South America’s Amazon River, Costa Rica’s Rio Tortuguero is a renowned habitat for wildlife. Quiet motorboats slowly drift through winding canals and thick, verdant mangroves where you’re likely to spot crocodiles, caimans, sloths, monkeys and river turtles. Bird watchers can keep their eyes peeled for toucans, egrets and even macaws. Animals are most active during the early morning sunrise and late afternoon to sunset hour, when the weather is typically cooler. These waterways run all the way up to the Nicaraguan border, and are truly a “must see” on any Costa Rican Caribbean itinerary.
Puerto Viejo is a colorful, laid-back party town with reggae flair. Its fantastic nightlife and range of affordable accommodations make for a backpackers paradise, while the legendary wave known as Salsa Brava attracts die-hard surfers from far and wide. Scuba diving is also very popular here, and you can expect to find colorful fish and the occasional sea turtle or white tip reef shark in these clear, Caribbean waters. The long road running from Puerto Viejo, past the crescent-shaped Playa Punta Uva and all the way to Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, is perfect for a long hike or bike ride.
Cahuita National Park
Home to one of the few living coral reefs in the country, Cahuita National Park is a scuba diver’s dream. The majority of the park is underwater, encompassing 55,000 marine acres of sea and 2,732 acres of land. It features a number of sandy walking trails, and serves as a crucial nesting ground for three of the four species of sea turtle that proliferate in Costa Rica: leatherbacks, green and hawksbill sea turtles – hawksbills being the most endangered. Camping, nighttime turtle tours, snorkeling and kayaking around Playa Blanca or Playa Vargas are other popular activities at Cahuita. Cahuita hotel - Coral Hill Bungalows