Southern Caribbean Coast Attractions
The southern region of the Caribbean coast offers an interesting mix of black and indigenous culture. The inhabitants of this area are mostly of Jamaican descent and settled here in the 19th C. Many speak of Creole form of English. The area offers a relaxed pace, with the unique cultural elements evident in the popular music and cooking of the region. The local knowledge of medicinal plants is also very interesting.Fishing, surfing, swimming, snorkelling, horseback riding and just plain relaxing are popular in the southern Caribbean coast. Before the 1970s this region was quite isolated, however transportation in the area has improved.
Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve
This reserve, covering 9,154ha/22,610ac, is one of the most rugged in Costa Rica. Apart from the ranger station, there are no facilities for camping or nature trails within the reserve. Found on the south side of the Estrella River valley, elevation in the reserve varies between 150m/492ft and 1,000m/3,280ft.The dense evergreen forests of the reserve receive up to 4m/13ft of rainfall annually, making it possibly the wettest reserve in the parks system. Several species of plants, birds, mammals and other creatures are found here, however most have not been recorded due to the remoteness of the area.This is a rarely explored area, and hiking is permitted but should only be undertaken by the very fit and dedicated. Difficult hiking will lead to attractive rivers and waterfalls several hours away.
Aviarios del Caribe
This small wildlife sanctuary and B&B are found on an 88ha/217ac island in the delta of the Estrella River. From the sanctuary a variety of nature-oriented excursions are offered, the most popular being a guided kayak tour of the Estrella delta. Many species of wildlife can be spotted in the sanctuary, including monkeys, caiman, sloths and river otters.314 species of birds have been recorded at Aviarios del Caribe, and an orphaned sloth named Buttercup has been adopted by the owners. An ant farm and poisonous arrow frog hatchery are also on the grounds.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
This small village lies exposed on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. There are accommodations, craft stalls, and bars strung along the shoreline. The Puerto Viejo area is known on the Caribbean coast for superb surfing conditions, some claim they are the best in the country. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca also retains more of the indigenous Bribri atmosphere than other coastal villages. Black Sand Beach is the best area for swimming in town.
"La Salsa Brava" is the local name for the area around the reef off the coast of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. This is a favorite area of surfers, however only experienced surfers should attempt to surf here.
Cahuita, Costa Rica
This small village is a base for many of the attractive surrounding beaches. "Downtown" Cahuita features sand roads, noisy bars and Creole restaurants. Several excursions, such as glass-bottom boat rides to nearby reefs, are offered from Cahuita. Unfortunately, Cahuita has acquired an unfavorable reputation for theft and drugs.
Cahuita National Park
Covering 1,067ha/2,635ac, this small national park is one of the most visited in Costa Rica for its combination of attractive beaches, coastal rainforest and a coral reef. The white-sand Vargas Beach and another 2km/1.2mi-long beach are separated by a rocky headland known as Punta Cahuita. Hiking, swimming and snorkelling are the most popular activities in this park.A long trail offers observation of various species of animals and birds. Another major attraction of the national park is the reef that is about 200m/656ft to 500m/1,640ft off Punta Cahuita. This is the largest living coral reef in Costa Rica, comprised of at least 35 coral species. This living habitat is home to 123 species of fish and several species of mollusks and crustaceans. The reef can be reached by swimming, but it is recommended to snorkel from a hired boat.
This long, black sand beach is good for swimming.
Bribri, Costa Rica
Bribri is a small village often passed by travellers en route to Panama, 34km/21mi away. While there are few attractions, Bribri is interesting because it is the center for the local indigenous communities. Local residents can lead visitors to an attractive waterfall 3km/1.8mi from Bribri.
Manzanillo, Costa Rica
Manzanillo is a small fishing village. There are a few accommodation options, as well as local outfitters offering equipment rentals and excursions. Diving, kayaking, snorkelling, cycling, river tours and dolphin watching are popular activities.
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge extends southeast to the Panamanian border and lies on the coast around the Manzanillo village. One of Costa Rica's two living coral reefs is found here, approximately 200m/656ft offshore. The refuge protects 5,013ha/12,382ac of land and 4,436ha/10,957ac of adjacent sea.A variety of habitats are protected in this refuge, including rainforest and the only red mangrove swamp found in Costa Rica. Hiking trails lead to beaches lined with coconut palms and are separated by rocky headlands. South of Punta Mona is an interesting 400ha/988ac swamp containing sajo trees and holio palms.Atlantic tarpon spawn in the Gandoca River estuary and marine turtles (especially leatherbacks) nest on the beaches. Several species of birds can be seen, including toucans, parrots and parakeets. Hiking and snorkelling near the reef are the most popular activities.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Surroundings
Indigenous reserves, water sport opportunities, some options for accommodations and an interesting yoga retreat are found around Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
Useful tips: Permits are needed to visit the indigenous reserves.
Samasati Retreat Center
This interesting yoga retreat offers accommodations and instruction in yoga, nutrition, herbalism and bodywork. Meditation takes place in a large open-air room. Massage and astrology sessions are available as well.All meals are vegetarian and are served on a large wooden terrace. The retreat is found on a hillside north of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and excellent vistas of the village and sea can be seen from the grounds.
Island Farm Botanical Garden
This is a working tropical farm where ornamental plants, local spices and tropical fruits are grown. Birding and other wildlife observation is good in the small area that has been set aside as a botanical garden.
This attractive beach is good for swimming and snorkelling.