A whole different world on the lesser known half of Costa Rica
|Secret Dry Season
|Reefs & Snorkeling
All of these and more are waiting for intrepid travelers willing to head off the beaten path to the southern Caribbean coast
You may curse the potholes in the coast road when you’re driving south from Limón towards Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Uva, Cocles and Mazanillo but once you arrive you’ll shift into a lower more relaxed gear and understand that the craters in the pavement belong here. They slow the cars to the pace of everything else along this sleepy chain of tropical beaches. People cruise the coast on one speed fat tire beach bikes stopping in to a roadside shack for a snack of spiced banana bread or a cabana bar on the beach for an umbrella drink.
Everything is a little different here. It’s still Costa Rica, but there’s something that makes you want to track sand straight off the beach into your thatched shack with a hammock on the porch instead of an air conditioned suite with an ocean view terrace.
Food & Restaurants
When the culture consists of hanging on the beach and grabbing a bite to eat now and then it’s not surprising that there’s some pretty good food around. More than anywhere else in Costa Rica the restaurants on the southern Caribbean seem to take advantage of fresh local ingredients (maybe because the road is so bad and they can’t get anything else). French, Italian and Afro-Carib are the favored styles but you’ll find everything from sushi to schnitzel.
Keeping with the theme that everything is a little different here, even the Gallo Pinto takes on a Caribbean flair. The beans are red instead of black and a hint of coconut and chili make a refreshing change to the local version of the national dish.
Coral Reefs & Coastal Lowland Rainforest
The largest coral reef in Costa Rica is protected by Cahuita National Park and snorkeling is a popular activity all along the southern Caribbean. The reef was severely damaged over twenty years ago when an earthquake lifted part of it above sea level but it’s returning. One of the best ways to enjoy the coral is with the help of a sit on top kayak. Paddle around then don your mask and snorkel over likely looking spots, roll off the boat and into the undersea world.
Onshore in Cahuita and Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife refuge that nearly abuts it to the south there are trails through the rainforest where conditions grow the largest trees in Costa Rica. Wildlife is easy to spot, but as with anywhere you’ll see much more with the help of a local naturalist guide.
What Not to Expect in the Southern Caribbean
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Caribbean is different. It’s clear across the continent from the resorts of the Pacific side so before you head this way read over what not to expect around Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo so you’re not disappointed.