Caribbean Costa Rica
Costa Rica has found its way to millions of traveler’s wish list, deservedly so. This small little country is packed with a diverse number of flora and fauna, along with a beautiful coast line. Majority of the visitors visit the northwest coast where the weather is better with less rain than the rest of the country. It’s where a large number of resorts reside.
The beaches along the west coast face the Pacific Ocean and is much larger than the east coast which faces the Caribbean Sea. This coast is much less traveled in comparison to the west coast. It’s not for the lack of beauty, maybe the fact that it rains more along this coast. The Caribbean is warmer than the Pacific and therefore creates evaporation at a larger quantity which creates rain clouds. That’s my simple explanation. I had previously visited the west coast so it was time for me explore the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.
The road less travelled would take a 5 hour drive from the capitol city of San Jose. Normally, it only takes 4 hours but with road construction along the route, it would add an extra hour. My destination would be the small town of Cahuita and a national park by the same name. This region is known for its beautiful beaches and it didn’t disappoint. My four days here would consist of hiking from one beach to another. My hotel was only a two minute walk away from a black sand beach, Playa Grande, mostly visited by locals since it’s almost 3 miles from town.
My favorite rout would be a walk to Playa Negra, Cahuita, then to the national park and Playa Blanca. Playa Negra is a black sand beach visited by local surfers and tourists alike. This small beach is surrounded by hotels and hostels but you will still have enough elbow room to feel welcomed when you visit. After a short stay, I would walk to town which is about a 25 minute walk from Playa Negra. Here, I refueled with a cold bottle of water at one of the restaurants.
I entered Cahuita National Park from the town entrance which has no entrance fee but they do ask for a donation. I gave $2 donation as I entered and made my way along Playa Blanca. White Beach is beautiful and it is conveniently shaded by trees that encroach upon the lapping waters. With the short walk, most people stay along the entrance but I made my way further down the shore. It would take me about 20 minutes to get to the creek that split the beach in two.
Here, the waters were calm and still as a swimming pool. The perfect location for a swim. I made sure I tightly closed all the compartments on my backpack before I entered the water. This is crucial in keeping the racoons and monkeys out of your pack. The racoons made there way to my pack but moved on to the other visitors as they could not solve my pack. The Caribbean was warm and soothed my body after that long walk. I stayed here for a little while until I noticed the beach had started to fill with tourists. They had paid their way here by boat from town and avoided the approximate 1 mile walk. It was time for me to move along and on the way out I used the park trail that paralleled the shore and I was treated to a show by the local wildlife. Lizards, insects, monkeys, iguanas and the much loved sloths. Unfortunately the sloths were sleepy and curled up in a ball.
About half way, I came across a set of park tables under a giant tree that shaded the beach and it was a perfect place to catch my breath and cool off in the water again. I guess I spent more time here than I had expected and it was already 2 p.m. and I was hungry. I walked back into town and a had lunch at one of the seafood restaurants. After having a delicious lobster lunch, I walked back to my hotel. The total, round trip, would equal about 8 miles of pure heaven.
The next day would be a little less strenuous as I walked north, in the opposite direction, for about 10 minutes to The Tree of Life, a wildlife rescue center. It’s more money than it should cost, $21 US dollars, for the entrance and guided tour. But, it’s for a good cause and a great way see local wildlife without risking your life and bushwalking through the jungle. There are other places to visit like the jaguar and sloth rescue centers. But, since I didn’t have a rental car, Tree of Life was my park to visit. “Tree” was filled with local animals once kept as pets by locals. Spider monkeys, Jaguarundi, capuchin monkeys, deer, and the cutest of all was a baby sloth. It was knocked out of a tree by a bulldozer and when they tried to reunite it with its mother it was rejected so the volunteers were nursing it until it was big enough to be released into the wild. The compound is also often visited by toucans that we could hear but were too high in the trees and to well camouflaged for us to see.
In the afternoon, I spent the rest of the at Playa Negra where I had more time to enjoy the black sand beach. The sand was very fine, powder like, an it wasn’t the best black sand beach I’ve visited but it was beautiful none the less. Later that day, the horse back riding tour rode through the beach and changed the odor from salty to sweaty horses and their droppings additional ruined my peaceful environment. I took this as a sign and ended the day.
My last full day would be more of the same with a visit to the closest beach to my hotel, a two minute walk away, Playa Grande was nearly empty at 9:30 am. It was the perfect time to get the drone out of the bag and let it survey the beach. I didn’t stay long as I wanted to spend my last day in Cahuita at the national park again. I made my way back up the road to town and eventually back at Playa Blanca. My shoulders were now red from the rays of the sun so I found that shady tree along the beach that I had stayed at the prior day.
I found the same picnic table and enjoyed the sound of the water lapping the beach. While standing on the shore a noticed something rustling in the tree about a hundred feet away. I walked over and I quickly realized it was a sloth feeding on the leaves of the tree. I quickly went back to grab my camera and started taking photos and videos of the sloth. A small crowd started to form as he gorged on the leaves. After 20 minutes I went back to enjoying the beach. This was definitely my favorite spot in all the places I visited in Costa Rica. From this shady spot on the beach, the racoons, monkeys and a sloth visited me as I enjoyed a slice of paradise. How could it get any better?! I enjoyed it so much, I spent the rest of the day here and I’ll miss it for the rest of my days.
Cahuita is a wonderful blend of beautiful beaches and wildlife. You can walk down the streets and find monkeys, toucans, and yes sloths if you have a keen eye. I even saw an armadillo while I walked at night. The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is at the end of the road that is less traveled and it’s worth the trek. You can also visit Tortuguero National Park on this same coast but it’s mostly swampland where turtles nest. The other beach region is Puerto Viejo, a beach lover’s heaven and central party town filled with bars. I considered visiting Puerto Viejo but I chose the more laid back town of Cahuita and I have no regrets. Where else can you enjoy a picturesque beach with your friend the sloth. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relaxed than the time I spent here. I definitely hope I’ll have the time to visit again.