Caribbean Costa Rica – A Vacation Paradise!
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica stretches 212 km from its border north with Nicaragua south to Panama, and is home to some of the most beautiful and unique national parks in the country. Cahuita National Park is located between Cahuita and Puerto Vargas, Tortuguero National Park in the Northern Caribbean, and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is located between the towns of Manzanillo and Gandoca. The area offers something for everyone – be it adventure, nature, or just the laid-back living of the Caribbean towns and the beaches.
Downtown Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo , located just south of Cahuita, boasts a rich, Afro-Caribbean influence. The vibrant town is home to people from all over the globe, and has an excellent choice of both local and international cuisine, art galleries, nightclubs and gift shops. The majority of people opt for bicycles as their main form of transportation. As the sun sets, the sound of reggae, calypso and reggeaton can be heard as the locals gather in small groups to enjoy a drink, conversation or even a game of dominoes outside of one of the liquor stores or bars.
The beaches to the south of Puerto Viejo are some of the best in the country, with Playa Cocles offering the only lifeguard tower on the coast – marking the safe areas to swim with green flags. The beach is also known as Beach Break, and has a good, consistent surf – perfect for surf lessons. A few kilometers down from Cocles is Playa Chiquita, which has many natural pools on secluded beaches protecting you from the currents. It is ideal for families and is home to a sizable expat community. Punta Uva is arguably the best beach on the coast, if not the country, and has become very popular with the scuba diving world and with snorkelers exploring the various species of coral and fish found on the reef. The town at the end of the road is Manzanillo – a small Caribbean fishing village which lies at the entrance of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
Adventure on the Caribbean
White water rafting on the Río Pacuare is an adventurers dream, with its class II-IV rapids and picturesque setting, surrounded by the thick, primary forest. The Río Pacuare is located half way between San Jose and Puerto Viejo in a town called Siquirres, and makes a great stop on your way to the Caribbean coast. The raft company offers transportation to and from the South Caribbean, San Jose and La Fortuna (Arenal).
The Canopy Tour is located just outside of Puerto Viejo in Bribri, stretching over 2560 meters of cable and is made up of 9 aerial platforms and 14 land platforms – with the most spectacular cable stretching 285 mts at a 80 mts altitude.
For sightseeing, you can enjoy a quad tour through the forested mountains of Talamanca as you maneuver over the natural terrain of the area towards the Río Carbón, where you can relax in the natural pools before making our way to the indigenous reserve.
Rio la Estrella Kayaking and Sloth Sanctuary is a combination of adventure and learning as you kayak through the class I rapids, surrounded by rain forest before visiting the Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary to learn about the recovery project and interact with the sloths.
Nature in the Caribbean
The lagoons of Tortuguero, mangroves of Gandoca, the mountains of Talamanca, waterfalls and the hundreds of species of marine and wildlife make this area of Cost Rica a paradise for nature lovers.
Overnight trips to Tortuguero leave daily from San Jose, La Fortuna and the South Caribbean and is the best area in Costa Rica to encounter wildlife due to its remote location the rain forest has been left untouched.
white faced capuchin
It is necessary to use a guide to snorkel in the Cahuita National Park. The law was enforced to stop people from breaking the reef and to protect the fragile coral. The reef is the largest on the Caribbean coast and marine life is plentiful. The park is full of wildlife along the well manicured trails. Some of the most visible are the white faced capuchins and the howler monkeys. A great way to see both sections of the park is to take the Snorkel and Hike Tour which involves a twenty minute boat ride to the reef, one hour of snorkeling and a hike from the point of Cahuita to the town of Cahuita.
The hike in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is a little more adventurous. The trail has been well kept and flows up and down the terrain between the lookout points, then down to secluded beaches and then into the deep jungle as the trail follows the coast down towards Gandoca. The Bushmaster, our local Bronze Badge guide, leads a guided hike daily, explaining the flora and fauna you pass along the trail, and educating you on the various forms of wildlife and their habitat.
To get to the lagoon and the only mangrove on the coast, you can take a boat down to the Gandoca Lagoon from Manzanillo, where we take out the kayaks and paddle through the lagoon and its estuaries, observing nature and its most wild eco-system.
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