Regions: Caribbean: Coral Reefs
The Caribbean region of Costa Rica is noted for its variety of aquatic ecosystems and its beautiful white and black sand beaches. They are the perfect setting for resting and relaxing in the sun, or taking on activities like sportfishing and snorkeling.
Most travelers who come to the Atlantic coast remain in Limon for some days and then venture off to the Talamanca coast. This region stretches from the Caribbean all the way into the mountains that run Southeast from the Central Valley to Panama.
This was the home of many indigenous people, who had to flee due to the Spaniards’ arrival during Colonial times. Today, there are three indigenous reserves: the large Talamanca-Bribri; the Talamanca-Cabecar; and the smaller Kekoldi. Access is somewhat limited, so inquire beforehand if you wish to visit any of them.
Punta Uva (Grape Point) is a heavenly spot where crystalline water bathes a mango tree and palm-lined beach. It’s perfect for swimming, and the small waves that break close to shore are ideal for body surfing.
If you take a look to the East, you will be able to see the actual grape point for which Punta Uva is named. It’s a small peninsula that just offshore, and has a natural tunnel that acts as a window to the ocean.
Cahuita National Park
In Cahuita’s coral reef you can find 35 species of coral, more than 300 of mollusks, lobsters, three species of turtles and thousands of colorful fish like the French Angel, Isabelita and Queen Angel. This reef, that extends 500 meters out to sea from Cahuita Point, is great for snorkeling. If you choose to camp on the park, keep in mind that coatins and raccoons frequent the grounds in search of food. Keep everything well stored; they’re willing to do almost anything to get to a meal. Fresh water, outhouses and picnic tables are available.
If you move a bit North, you will witness the golden sand beaches that border the coastal area of Cahuita, that are certainly a beauty. They lie just outside the national park that protects a large portion of coral reef (1482 acres), within more than 56834 acres of a marine park. This reef is one of the most important in the country, and is the most developed reef of the Caribbean coast.
Open since 1970, Cahuita is one of the most popular parks. It’s also one of the nicest for taking long walks through areas that run parallel to the beach. Within the park, there are sections of wetlands and swamps. You will go through the swampy forest along a well defined trail.
Amidst the coral formations, visitors can observe a wide variety of marine life like, many species of tropical fish, crabs, sponges, lobsters, sea fans, anemones and sea weed. The park is home to howler and white-faced monkeys; sloths; squirrels; coatimundis; hummingbirds; toucans; herons; hawks; and thousands of insects.
The blue and blue-green waters, moving to the rhythm of the coconut trees in the wind and shining with the warm sunshine, will definitely remind you what being in the Caribbean is like.
You’ll find one of the best beaches right through the dense jungle of the Cahuita National Park. As you walk through, listening to birds and other animals, you won’t even hear the ocean until you’re 50 meters from it. This is your way in to Puerto Vargas (the only beach along Limon’s coast to have been categorized as Double A, according to the Blue Flag Program; check out our feature article about the subject on the last page).
You’ll certainly be delighted with the white crests of the waves as the move close to shore, and finally smash against the wall of coral reef that protects the beach. The warm water is usually calm, but not all of the areas are apt for swimmers. Take notice of the sign that indicate which areas are dangerous.
Puerto Vargas, along with the other six beaches in Limon that boast a Blue Flag (Blanca, Negra, Cocles, Chiquita, Punta Uva and Gandoca), is perfect for visitors looking to get away to relax and come in contact with nature.
Playa Negra (Black Beach), for example, is 2.17 miles of black sand that extends from Cahuita to the outlet of Tuba River. To the north the swell is strong and the vegetation really impressive. To the South you will see a fascinating coral reef beach. It’s perfect for diving and snorkeling.
There is definitely something for everyone. Choose from the small Playa Bonita ( Pretty Beach), close to downtown Limon, to the breathtaking Cahuita, or the secluded Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, very close to the Panamanian border.
Costa Rica Travel: Travel Information & Tips
No matter how beautiful a destination may be, it needs easy access and be reachable within the limitations of an average vacation period. Costa Rica is only two and a half hours away from Miami!