Costa Rica’s Caribbean region offers peaceful beaches, lush surroundings and a unique African lure.
The coast line stretches for more than 120 miles, combining tropical settings with lush vegetation and wildlife-filled waterways. In this multi-cultural environment, visitors and locals loose track of time …
The Caribbean region is divided into two different ambiances, the northern Caribbean, where ‘pangas’ (rustic wooden boats) are the main mode of transportation through its tranquil canals, and the easy-going southern Caribbean.
In the middle of it all lays the city of Limon, a coastal community where the saltwater smell makes the hustle and bustle almost insignificant. The city is the birthplace of Afro-Costa Rican culture.
October is a good month to visit, when the local residents take on the streets in celebrate their traditional Carnival. Visitors will enjoy the sounds of many types of drums paired with whistles and flexible teenagers dressed in the most colorful costumes.
Tortuguero, in northern Limon, is equally vibrant.
Noise pollution is replaced by the flow of the water and chants of toucans, aricaris, jacanas, green macaws and more than 300 bird species. Eleven different habitats are the home to 60 species of amphibians, more than 100 kinds of reptiles and a variety of mammals.
Manatees, jaguars and monkeys are an everyday occurrence, especially around the canals, where crocodiles, giant iguanas and caimans hang out under the sun.
Leatherback and green sea turtles prefer the brown-sand beach, a favorite nesting site for thousands of years. The beach is open to visitors during the nesting season (June through October for green sea turtles and February through July for leatherbacks).
The best way to see it all is riding a panga through Tortuguero’s main artery: the canals. Running parallel to the ocean for 21 miles, the canals zigzag through the coastal rainforest and swamp. If possible, hire an experienced guide, otherwise you’ll miss the wildlife that hides in the shadows.
Down south, residents and visitors seem to know by heart the meaning of the word “relax.” Lured by the mystical atmosphere, many Europeans and Americans came to Puerto Viejo years ago and never left. The laid-back beach hamlet is now a multicultural haven for Rastafarians, surfers, locals and tourists who lost their watches and tell time only by the sun: if it’s down, it’s time to party!
During the day, the beach at Puerto Viejo blends black and white sand with 20-foot storm-generated waves. The “Salsa Brava”, as the famous currents have become known, is featured in many surfing magazines and documentaries as one of the most exciting challenges in the region. If you’re not ready to tackle the big waves, nearby Punta Cocles beach is a good spot for rookies, and if all you want is a refreshing dip in the ocean, Negra beach is your best bet.
Costa Rica’s indigenous population is scarce and spread out, but one of the most organized communities resides in the Caribbean and they just happen to love visitors. The Keköldi reserve is the home of more than 200 Bribrís and Cabecar people, descendants of the country’s original inhabitants.
The new generations focus on environmental protection and live in harmony with nature. Opening their doors to rural tourism, they intend to teach the world their way of co-existing with nature without damaging it.
After a hiking tour through the reserve, a splash in the refreshing waterfalls and a visit to the Green Iguana Conservation Farm, Keköldi families literally welcome you into their home, for lunch that is. A traditional meal is prepared with all organic ingredients grown in the reserve.
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. The 23,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge remains unexplored to this day, keeping one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches a secret.
Puerto Vargas. You’d swear you’re walking in the middle of a dense tropical forest until the vegetation opens up and… there’s a beach! Puerto Vargas is a combination of both worlds, where picnic tables are hidden under the shade of deep green almendro tree, just a few feet from the water.
Barra del Colorado. This National Park is very similar to Tortuguero, but there’s a lot more to do than nature watching. Sport fishing aficionados call it paradise because of all the rivers, creeks and lagoons filled with mackerel, snook, snapper and tarpon. Whether you’re into fly-fishing, casting or trolling, Barra del Colorado is the best inland location. If you want a little saltwater action, the nearby ocean also delivers award-winning tuna, wahoo and sailfish.
Cahuita. The 593 acres of offshore coral reef are only one reason to visit Cahuita National Park. More than 500 species of colorful fish make their homes between the brain coral and stag horn making your snorkeling or scuba diving experience unique. Above the water the palm trees and warm sand welcome tourists and the three different species of sea turtles that nest there every year.