The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is idyllic with yellow sand beaches, palm trees and crystal clear water. Its perfect for snorkeling, surfing and just laying out at the beach. The one notable distinction about the Caribbean Coast is the lack of development. It has not exploded like the Central and Pacific regions. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, you owe it to yourself to make the trip.
The Cahuita National Park
The park was created to protect the coral reef and as a result, it is pristine and perfect for snorkeling. It has large schools of colorful tropical fish and almost 30 varieties of coral. In my opinion the best snorkeling in Costa Rica.
The beaches have picturesque white sand with palm trees, perfect for a lazy day at the beach. Just make sure you check out the Cahuita National Park trail that is right behind the beach. You can take in the lush vegetation and tropical birds. At the end of the trail is Punta Cahuita which is an excellent snorkeling location you may have to yourself.
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
The refuge starts just a bit south of Manzanillo and stretches all the way to Panama. This little traveled to refuge is lined with coves, islands and beaches just waiting to be explored. The coral reef just offshore is untouched and pristine. Just on the other side of the beaches is thick, lush rainforest. Depending on when you go, there may be nesting sea turtles, dolphins and manatees. Some parts of the refuge also have crocodiles. This area is not to be missed if you are interested in snorkeling.
The area is massive and dominates the region Pacific Coast. This area is similar to the Amazon Rainforest with rivers that flow through thick rainforest with daily rains. The beaches are beautiful but not as nice as the Cahuita National Park or Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. One of the biggest attractions are the turtles or “Tortuguero”, hence its name.
If you want the best chance to see them, visit in the months of April and May. You can hike in the jungles and see abundant wildlife, especially large varieties of exotic birds. If you are looking to do a river cruise to look for wildlife, this is the area to do it. The biggest problem with the area is getting there. It’s a 5 hour drive from San Jose and it’s not an easy drive.
This seaside town is known for backpackers and its party life. It’s a touristy town with an abundance of restaurants and bars. If you like surfing or want to try, this is an excellent place to go. It has “Caribbean” feel with reggae music playing at most of the bars. It’s an expensive place to visit and the food is generally quite good.
As far an places to go in Costa Rica the Caribbean Coast is one of the least visited but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. No matter if you’re looking to party and surf, snorkel, see wildlife or find solitude, its available on the Caribbean Coast.
For a complete list of things to do in the Caribbean Coast and all of the regions of Costa Rica, click here for a guide.