The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is usually dominated by two places: the Amazon-like jungle of Torteugero in the north and the party/beach paradise of Puerto Viejo in the south. But traveling the Caribbean coast, there was one place I liked best: Cahuita. About an hour north of Puerto Viejo on the southern Caribbean coast, it’s a popular stop for many travelers, but it is nowhere near as crowded as other spots along the coast. Most travelers visit the national park with the same name. The town is very small, with mostly restaurants and guesthouses, not tour shops and bars.
And the park? The park is amazing:
Unfortunately, the day I visited, many of the trails were closed due to heavy rains and flooding. (I spent my first two days here indoors because of 24-hour rain!) The trail from Cahuita town to the other end of the park is 8 km. When I went, only the first 2 km were open. That was still enough to hang out on a beautiful beach, see howler monkeys, iguanas, white-faced monkeys, tremendous numbers of birds, and beautiful butterflies. If I saw that in an area close to town, I can only imagine what it would be like further inland, away from most people.
Hours of operation: The park is open from 6am to 5pm.
Cost: The park is free but they do ask for donations.
Getting there: You can take a bus from San José or Puerto Viejo. Buses from San José are about $4 USD while it is $1.25 USD from Puerto Viejo.
Eating: I only found two places I really liked in town. Cafe Choco Latte has freshly baked bread, huge breakfasts, great sandwiches, and coffee. The second was local “soda” (cheap restaurant) in the middle of town called Riconita de Sabor. Great local food for only a dollar or two.
If you are coming down the coast toward Puerto Viejo, stop in Cahuita for a few days. While the beach may not be as nice, the hiking and wildlife are much better. If I didn’t have such limited time during this trip, I would have stayed longer.