- Summary: beach town; oceanfront national park; tours to a wide array of nature and cultural hotspots.
- Landscape: Beaches, rainforest
- Attractions: Cahuita National Park, Caribbean culture, secluded beaches
- Activities: Bird & wildlife watching, nature tours, snorkeling, turtle tours
- Caters to: Budget travelers, families, independent travelers, nature lovers
- Quick Facts: 9 miles north of Puerto Viejo ; 71-93 degrees ; Sea level
Cahuita's the meridian between the black-volcanic sands of Playa Negra and the quartz-cobbled beaches of Playa Blanca. The Yin and Yang of its beaches coupled with Creole and Spanish culture have developed the community over the last decade from a laid-back fishing village into a vibrant tourist destination.read more close
In Cahuita, life moves at a slower pace than neighboring Puerto Viejo, locals mingle in the town center as smoke from wood-fired kitchens waft Caribbean spices of jerk chicken and fresh caught lobster down the unpaved streets. Absorbing the local attitude, visitors spend their days spreading blankets across the beach soaking in the sun; swimming in the waves, snorkeling among coral reef and strolling through the coastal forest of Cahuita National Park.
Cahuita's named for the local indigenous word for the thick, gnarled sangrillo trees that grow in the rainforest surrounding Cahuita Point inside the national park. Underneath this thick canopy that runs along the coast, capuchin monkeys hunt for ripe mangoes while two- and three-toed sloths nap in the elbows of cecropia trees. Golden eyelash-palm pit vipers lie in wait among the branches while raccoons and agoutis scurry across the forest floor looking for fallen fruit.
During the first half of the 19th century, farmers used the land around Cahuita Point to grow tropical fruit: bananas, sugar cane, breadfruit and water apples, but in 1978 the agricultural land use was revoked and became Cahuita National Park. Today it's the country's only free and community-managed national park.
Protecting more than just the coastal rainforest, Cahuita National Park also encompasses 55,000 marine acres off the coast; a swath of sea that includes one of Costa Rica's only living reefs. Snorkeling tours to the reef explore a colorful underwater forest with more than 35 species of coral hiding rainbows of tropical fish, octopus, sting rays, nurse sharks, eels, urchins and more.
Things to do
A visit to Cahuita isn't complete until you've hiked through the national park and snorkeled along its reef, but visitors can also enjoy swimming along Playa Blanca, surfing along Playa Negra (Dec.-March) and horseback riding along Playa Grande. Bird watching is popular from September to October when millions of fowl migrate to Costa Rica to escape the North American winter. Visitors can also join hiking cultural tours at the Bribri and Kekoldi indigenous reservations as well as the Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve.
Places to stay
Cahuita's affordable cabins and hotels offer comfort for budget travelers looking to escape the commercialism and cost of other Costa Rican tourist destinations. Visitors will find a multitude of low- and mid-range accommodations in central Cahuita and along Playa Negra. Though, it's always wise to book ahead of time, reservations are generally not necessary as there is always a clean, affordable room available somewhere.
Cahuita’s climate is unpredictable, though the prevailing wisdom says that when the rest of Costa Rica is rainy, the southern Caribbean is dry (or, at least, drier). Typically, the best times to visit Cahuita are from February through April or between September and October.