Category: Things to Do

Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

Lots of people know about the surf spots and national parks on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast–think Manuel Antonio and Corcovado national parks, and the Nicoya Peninsula’s great beach towns. Traditionally, fewer tourists ventured to the country’s eastern or Caribbean coast, but that’s changing fast.

Puerto Limón is the area’s big city (if under 100,000 people qualifies a city as big). This is where the cruise ships dock and where, every October, the streets erupt into a week-long party known as Carnaval. The port city is rough around the edges, but travelers who favor authenticity might enjoy exploring.

Head north by boat or light plane to Tortuguero National Park to see marine turtles lay their eggs and to tour the wildlife-rich network of canals. Stay in a cushy lodge right on the water–like Tortuga Lodge or Hotel Manatus Lodge–or stay in “downtown” Tortuguero, a tiny, carless hamlet sandwiched between beach and canal. Casa Marbella B&B is a great in-town spot on the canal, within easy walking distance of everything from the beach where turtles lay their eggs to restaurants like the Budda Cafe or Wild Ginger. Fishermen or women looking for tarpon will be lucky if they can book in-demand captain Eddie Brown.

Cahuita is a quiet, offbeat coastal village that boasts lovely Cahuita National Park, where along the coastal trail you’re all but guaranteed sightings of monkeys, iguanas, and sloths. Stay at Playa Negra Guesthouse just north of town, and try the freshly grilled fish at Sobre la Olas. On a hill above Cahuita is Samasati Nature Reserve, a peaceful and verdant place for a yoga retreat.

Surf the Salsa Brava in the quintessential beach town of Puerto Viejo, or rent a beach cruiser and peddle lazily along the coast road, stopping for a swim at a parade of lovely beaches. Book an offbeat tour with ATEC–maybe a trip upriver to the remote indigenous village of Yorkin, or a chocolate tour of the Upper Talamanca mountains.

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