A word that beckons images of adventure, conquest, and romance. A region of ageless mysticism, where visions of escape lead and dreams are known to come true. Among the many natural blessings afforded Costa Rica, one of her most priceless and least visited areas is the lush Caribbean coast, an area of untold beauty and riches.
As an example of a unique culture reflected in language, food and dance, this zone also offers world-class fishing, hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, all types of water activities including; ocean and river kayaking, surfing, diving, snorkeling, canoeing …. the list goes on and on.
The drive to the Caribbean coast is a pleasant three hours over the Central Mountain Range on the Guapiles Highway (Route 32) through the Zurqui Tunnel (Costa Rica’s only tunnel) and across the lowland plains. The scenery changes dramatically along the way from dense tropical forests through banana plantations and horticultural farms to the coconut palm-lined roads of the coast.
If Limon is the gateway to the Caribbean, Cahuita is the threshold to the Talamanca Coast, least known but richest part of this mystical region. The coral reefs of Cahuita National Park are known by many, as is the extraordinary surfing available at several points along the coast. Half an hour south of Cahuita is Puerto Viejo, where everyone goes to party…Caribbean style of course. A water sports garden as well, Manzanillo’s river kayaking is an excellent way to probe the interior. Hikes into the jungle to visit different Indian reservations give good insight into indigenous life. Other pursuits available for the adventurous nature lover include jaunts into primary forest areas like Hitoy-Cerere Biological Reserve, and wading far upriver into the interior where you’re as likely as not to see several varieties of poison arrow frogs, as well as dozens of different birds.
Manzanillo is literally the end of the road but the beginning of many great adventures. From here you can take a boat, horse, or set off on foot to Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, one of the most scenic regions in Costa Rica and one rich in flora and fauna. Nearly four hundred species of birds have been identified in and around the refuge and the only mangrove estuary on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is here. Several endangered species such as the tapir and crocodile find protection in the park. With off-shore diving as good as any in Costa Rica and enviable weather year-round, Manzanillo is as close to that lost tropical land of your dreams as you are likely to discover!
When to go!
Although the northern Caribbean coast (Tortuguero) has one of the heaviest rainfalls in the country, as much as five and a half meters per year, the rain is distributed more evenly throughout the year than in other areas making this a more pleasant, “evergreen” environment. The average 77-86 degree F. is moderated by the warm, shallow Caribbean water and refreshing tropical breezes.
The changing factor is rain and this is how it falls:
January and November are transitional periods with higher winds and some rainy days.
February through May are generally sunny with a little rain
July and December are the months of heaviest rainfall
Mid-August through the first part of November is summer with the least rain.