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Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park

Cahuita Beach
Cahuita Beach

Due south of Limon, there is an exceptional and lush national park in Cahuita Costa Rica. The town is a unique Caribbean village with cabins, hotels and restaurants spread around. With pallid sand beaches, coconut trees providing shade and tropical fish zipping through the coral reefs in transparent waters make it seem like an image out of a postcard of paradise. Most of Cahuita parks and region consist of swamps located in the areas between the mainland and the coral beds, along with mixed forest on dry land and littoral woodlands. The Cahuita National Park protects 600 hectares of coral reef extending from the point as well as terrestrial flora and fauna. After the April 22nd earthquake in 1991, the coral reef rose approximately 1 meter, and is now completely exposed in some areas. This is the most developed coral reef in the Costa Rica Caribbean Coast, hosting several types of coral such as brain, fan and elkhorn varieties, and animals like moray eels, turtles, urchins, sharks, angelfish, blue parrotfish, stingrays and barracudas. The park has two main entrances: the Cahuita National Park main entrance, and the Puerto Vargas. The first one is the one you would visit if relaxation and rest on the beach are your main priorities; the Puerto Vargas entrance has the best snorkeling areas.

White-Faced Capuchin
White-Faced Capuchin

The name Cahuita comes from the words Kawe, for a type of tree, and Ta, for point, describing the land’s shape and conformation. The people from Cahuita come mostly from a wave of Jamaican immigrants that came with the United Fruit Company to assist in the construction of the railroad which would connect the central valley with the port of Limón to facilitate the exportation of coffee In 1914, the township moved to the location where it is currently located and the land in Punta Cahuita was bought from William Smith (The first settler on this area, an English speaking afro Caribbean, who came to hunt with miskite Indians and turtle hunters) and given to the people of Cahuita by the President, as a token of his life debt when they rescued him from a sinking ship. Cahuita National Park had an even rockier start. In the 1970’s, when there was a boom to protect land, the government decided to expropriate lands in the area and close off the park to the local inhabitants, outlawing activities like hunting, fishing and coconut harvesting that where vital to their livelihood. The community was outraged and made their displeasure known to the government who allowed for some of the landowners to return to their Fincas within the park, and continue their daily labor. Eventually, the town’s economy changed to be a tourist based economy and after the community uprising where the locals peacefully took control of the park by sitting at the entrance and letting tourists know that they didn’t have to pay an entrance, that the community of Cahuita was inviting them in, the government officials left the premises and accepted a co-management of the park, maintained until this day.

Cahuita Beach
Cahuita Beach

To make the most out of this visit, take a guided hike in Cahuita National Park with a knowledgeable bilingual guide. During March and April or September to October, when there’s less rain in the Atlantic Littoral, scuba and snorkeling are at their best. Like in the best pirate stories, there is an 18th century galleon shipwrecked north of the Perezoso (sloth) River mouth. Some say it was French, others that it was Spanish: independent of its nationality and whether it was a slave ship or a pirate ship, one thing is for certain: it adds to the feeling that in Costa Rica you are part of a magical world where everything is possible. The park has a camping area with toilets, showers and barbecue grill, but no drinking water. The best swimming can be found in the vicinity of the Perezoso River. You can walk along the coast or through the trails in the forest, where monkeys careen of branches and perch on treetops. There are several hotels in the area and farther south in Puerto Viejo. If you wish to visit this unique conservation area, we can help you find the right Cahuita hotel and Cahuita day tour in the area so you can make the most of your visit to Cahuita National Park.