Cahuita National Park
A sandy Caribbean beach flanked by rain forest on the right, on the left is a coral reef that beckons with neon-colored fish. Howler Monkeys lazily roar from the forest canopy while the waves whisper in the sand. This is Cahuita National Park; a place where terrestrial and marine biodiversity meet. Cahuita National Park makes up for its small size (it is one of the smallest of the Costa Rican National Parks) by being one of the Costa Rica’s most picturesque parks.
Location and how to get there
Cahuita National Park is found on the Caribbean Sea about one hours drive south of Limon. From San Jose, the quickest way to get to Limon is by taking route 32 through Braulio Carrillo National Park (a three hour drive). From Limon, follow the main highway south (route 36) until signs indicate that you have reached Cahuita. Taking a left into Cahuita town then heading right at the beach brings you to the Kelly Creek entrance. To enter the park, you must wade through Kelly Creek. If you don’t want to get your feet wet, drive past the town about six kilometers and watch for signs for the Puerto Vargas entrance.
The rain forest at Cahuita is rich with Howler Monkeys, Sloths and around 300 bird species. Fancy resident birds such as Toucans, raucous Parrots, Egrets and Kingfishers are fairly common. Cahuita National Park is also an important stop-over for birds migrating north in the Spring. On a good day, flock after flock of Eastern Kingbirds, Scarlet Tanagers, Purple Martins and Warblers fill the trees. The birds frequent the smallest portion of Cahuita; most of this National Park is actually offshore. Designated a National Park to protect the largest reef in Costa Rica (600 hectares) and nesting sites of sea turtles, 123 species of fish and innumerable invertebrates call Cahuita their home.
Snorkeling in the coral reef is arguably the top attraction at Cahuita. The reef is found offshore of the rocky headland known as Punta Cahuita. Boats for hire and various tour operators in Cahuita town can take you there for views of beautiful reef life. They might also take you to view a sunken slave ship although this is more suited to scuba diving.
Most of the beaches at Cahuita are better for walking beneath the coconut palms than for swimming; the rough water makes for dangerous conditions. There is one safe swimming area though; the lovely camping zone with its clear water over white sands.
Just outside Cahuita National Park is the town of the same name. Culturally Afro-Caribbean, the livelihoods of the town’s residents have been directly related to the park even before the park existed. Visit a local restaurant for authentic Costa Rican Caribbean dishes (Ms. Edith’s is one of the best).
Hotels near Cahuita National Park
Depending almost 100% upon tourism, Cahuita has many hotels to choose from. Most are small cabins and quiet hotels in and around town ranging from the cheap (Backpackers Dream) to mid-range (most of the rest).