Last Updated: Apr 19, 2012
Summary: A popular cruise ship port-of-call; hosts Carnaval festival every October; known for its lively Caribbean culture.
Landscape: City, Ocean
Attractions: Bocuare Jungle, Tortuguero National Park, Veragua Rain Forest
Activities: Adventure Tours, Bird & Wildlife Watching, Shopping
Caters to: Day Trippers, Families, Independent Travelers
Limon is Costa Rica’s premier port city – welcoming hundreds of cruise ships each year, it's a gateway to Caribbean beaches, inland rainforests, and spectacular eco-adventures. Most cruise ship passengers make a quick tour through Limon before heading farther afield on shore excursions. Overnight visitors, usually on their way to points north or south, can sample the area’s Caribbean culture, taste some of Costa Rica’s most delicious dishes, and enjoy the city's vibrant nightlife.
Location: 88 miles east of San Jose
Average Temperature: 72-82ºF
Altitude: Sea level
Parque Vargas overlooks the Caribbean Sea and is the disembarkation point for cruise ships. From the park, a winding path lined with benches follows the sea wall - a perfect spot for people watching. For those in search of souvenirs or local goods, a pedestrian mall leads from the waterfront to the colorful Central Market.
Due to the town’s export interests, most beachfront is reserved for commercial pursuits. Two miles north of Limon, Playa Bonita (Pretty Beach) is a safe place to swim. Surfers should head half a mile offshore to Isla Uvita (Uvita Island), home to big waves and one of the country's best lefts.
Every October Limon hosts Carnaval, one of Costa Rica’s largest celebrations. Visitors from around the country come to enjoy street food, costumed parades, live music, and late-night partying. Traditional carnival rides are a favorite among children and the young-at-heart; while bars and makeshift dance clubs are hopping until the wee hours.
Downtown Limon is brimming with services, amenities, and places to stay. Several banks will change money, and plenty of ATMs are available. There is a hospital at the northern edge of town and Internet cafes line the streets; WiFi access is available in some hotels and restaurants.
Limon’s modern history began in 1502 when a hurricane forced Christopher Columbus to anchor his damaged ship just off the coast of Costa Rica. While the crew made repairs, Columbus ventured onto the mainland via what would become the port of Limon. Following this first contact, the Spaniards generally ignored the Caribbean coast, instead favoring the fertile soils of the Central Valley.
By the mid-1800s, Costa Rica’s coffee kingdom was on the rise, and the country needed an export point to the overseas market. Limon, with its deep natural harbor and convenient location, was chosen as the site for Costa Rica’s first major port. Between 1867 and 1890, Costa Ricans, Chinese and Jamaicans worked together to construct a railroad that connected the central highlands – home of the coffee crops – to Limon.
After completion of the railroad, many of the Jamaican laborers settled in Limon and along the Caribbean coast, engaging in subsistence farming and working on cocoa plantations. Today, the Afro-Caribbean cultural influence remains strong in Limon with many locals speaking Patois and English as their first languages.
Located in the Estrella Valley approximately 75 minutes southwest of Limon, Bocuare Jungle offers an exciting combination of cultural and adventure tourism. The company’s whitewater tubing down the Estrella River is a favorite among adventure-seekers, while a tour of the grounds, including a botanical garden, hummingbird garden, and a scenic pond brimming with boat-billed herons, provides insight into the country’s ecology. (9 a.m. to whenever you’d like to leave. 2759-1344)
Rainforest Aerial Tram
Located adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park, this privately-owned reserve is home to an aerial tram, exhilarating canopy tour, frog pond, butterfly garden, and serpentarium. The aerial tram, always popular among cruise passengers, is the experience of a lifetime – glide hundreds of feet above the forest floor and get a true bird’s-eye view of the rainforest canopy. (7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon-Sun. 2257-5961)
Take a canal ride through Tortuguero National Park, created to protect green sea turtles and their nesting habitats. This is a great opportunity to learn about the native Costa Rican flora and see some incredible wildlife, including sloths, toucans, spider monkeys and capuchin monkeys. (Approximately 2.5 hours by boat north of Limon)
Veragua Rainforest Reserve
This park is home to a reptile house, interactive ranarium, hummingbird garden, butterfly garden, treetop aerial tram, and waterfall. The aerial tram travels hundreds of feet in the air, passing by a roaring cascade and through nearly silent rainforest. Half and full-day tours are available. Veragua Rainforest is one hour from Limon. (8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tues-Sun. 2296-5056)
Air: Limon has a small airport two miles north of town. There are no regularly scheduled flights available, but local airlines offer charter flights to and from San Jose, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, and Tortuguero.
Bus: San Jose to Limon: $6.25; every hour 5:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.; 2.5 hours. Departs from the Terminal del Caribe at Avenida 13 and Calle Central. 2222-0610 / 2221-7990 / 2221-2596
Car: From San Jose, the 88-mile journey takes between two and three hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Take Route 32 out of San Jose, driving through Braulio Carrillo National Park. Follow the signs to Guapiles, Siquirres and Limon/Puerto Limon.
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