Explore Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast - Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita & Punta Uva
The Costa Rica Caribbean
If you’re looking for the real life Jurassic Park–jungles, abundant wildlife, a chilled out surfing vibe and spectacular beaches–look no further than Costa Rica’s Caribbean side. Culturally rich in Afro-Caribbean influences, the Caribbean Coast is unlike any other region in Costa Rica. The laid-back communities are often less crowded than the Pacific Coast, alive with catchy reggae beats and full of surfers, yogis and travelers looking for true pura vida Costa Rica vacation.
The Caribbean side is also rich in wildlife. Some of the most beautiful national parks in the country like Cahuita National Park and Tortuguero National Park are home to sloths, monkeys, Scarlet Macaws and more. It’s not unusual to see wildlife outside the national parks either. Make sure to look for sloths, monkeys and crabs while you wander through Puerto Viejo or relax on Punta Uva Beach.
Limon Costa Rica is a unique and interesting destination for the culture lover. Puerto Limon has a long history of being exposed to many different influences. The most fascinating one you can still observe now, is the Afro-Caribbean culture. If you want to experience this unique blend of cultures, you can so at the annual Carnival festival. It takes place in mid-October and lasts for 12 days.
Puerto Viejo is a must-see on the Caribbean side. The easy going community is right on the beach and a great starting point for your Caribbean vacation. From Puerto Viejo you’ll find many nearby beaches easily accessible as well as national parks teeming with wildlife. You can also find exciting nightlife in Puerto Viejo where you find live music almost every night of the week.
If you only visit one national park in Costa Rica, make it Cahuita National Park. Entrance is free and you’ll get a chance to see monkeys, sloths and tropical birds as you walk through the park and towards some of the most breath-taking beaches in the country. Water activities are also available, including snorkeling and scuba diving.
Tortuguero National Park protects one the biggest tropical rainforests in Central America and here you can see even more wildlife and stunning beaches. However Tortuguero is most famous for turtle watching. Visit between June and October and take a night tour to see giant turtles climb up the beach to lay their eggs. It’s truly unforgettable.
Punta Uva is a protected beach just north of the Panama border. No development is allowed within 50 meters from high tide, letting you relax completely surrounded by nature. It is also home to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful butterflies, including the the Blue Morpho. While in Punta Uva you can also visit the nearby BriBri indigenous Reserve.
You’ll find no shortage of amazing tours to take advantage of on the Caribbean. Tours include visits to local indigenous tribes, hiking through protected national parks, snorkeling over the largest coral reef in Costa Rica and visiting sloths in the Jaguar Rescue Center. More adventurous travelers will also enjoy white water rafting on the Pacuare river and ATV tours through the jungle.
You’ll find quite a bit more rain on the east side of the country and very hot humid temperatures in between the bursts of rain. The driest months are September-October and February-March while the wettest months are July and December-January. the temperatures remain pretty stable most of the year. The days tend to average highs around 90 degrees and lows in the high 70s.
With 125 miles of coastline and huge protected national parks and rugged mountains you’ll find some of the most diverse flora and fauna on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. You can take boat rides through wetlands and then hike in the mountains the next day. Off the coast of Cahuita you’ll find 600 acres of coral reef with over 400 fish species. One of the most geographically diverse areas in the world, the Caribbean side will not disappoint nature lovers ready to explore the Jurassic Park-like jungles and beaches.
Costa Rica Caribbean Culture
The culture found on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is very different than the rest of the country. The population is largely Afro-Caribbean and you’ll hear Spanish, English and Creole English throughout the region. On the streets and in restaurants and bars you’ll hear light-hearted Calypso and Reggae music while you enjoy Afro-Caribbean food. You can’t miss the infamous Rice and Beans dish which features coconut rice, a local favorite. If you visit in October you can celebrate the Limón Carnival, which celebrate’s Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Caribbean coast in 1502.
There are two international airports in Costa Rica but the closest one can be found the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. Most major airlines fly there. Click for more information on flights to Costa Rica. Once you’ve landed in San Jose, you have a few options to get to the Caribbean Side. You can take a domestic flight, a shuttle, private transfer or you can rent a car. Talk with one our expert Travel Agents to figure out which transportation method is best for you!
Map of Costa Rica’s Caribbean
Costa Rica’s Caribbean - Get Info
Costa Rica’s Caribbean Map
See all the best tours, hotels and destinations to visit on the Caribbean coast!
Chose from relaxing nature tours to adrenaline-pumping adventure tours. There are tours for everyone in the Caribbean.
Misha Yorkin Indigenous Community Cahuita
From: Over $100
Jaguar Rescue Center
From: Under $50
Sarapiqui River Rafting
From: $75 - $100
Pacuare River Rafting Adventure
From: $75 - $100
Sloth Sanctuary and Rescue Center
Bribri Indigenous Reserve Tour with Willie’s Tours
Cahuita National Park Snorkeling Tour with Willie’s Tours
Jaguar Rescue Center, Chocolate House & Waterfall Tour with Willie’s Tours
Hike to Cahuita National Park with Cahuita Tours
Sloth Sanctuary & Rescue Center Tour with Cahuita Tours
Punta Uva Sea Kayaking and Rain Forest Hike with Exploradores Outdoors
Pacuare River Rafting Adventure: Class III – IV with Exploradores Outdoors
ATV Mountain Trip / Tropical Dry Forest of Guanacaste with Arenas Adventures
BriBri Indigenous Reserve
From: $50 - $75
Hike Cahuita National Park Tour
From: Under $50
Cahuita National Park Snorkeling Tour
From: $50 - $75
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Day Tour
From: $50 - $75
Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is where you’ll find the tallest mountains, pristine cloud forest areas, and a virtually unexplored paradise. Find a large variety of birds and just an endless array of biodiversity.
Costa Rica’s Central Valley is home to the capital of San José and the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Steeped in History & Culture, many people use the capital as the jumping off point for their vacations.