Costa Rica’s South Caribbean offers visitors beautiful beaches, lush tropical vegetation, and a strong mix of cultures combining people of Jamaican, Indigenous, and European ancestry. A local indigenous community welcomes visitors and offers birding, hiking, a cacao (“chocolate”) plantation guided tour, and even an iguana farm tour! In the seaside communities of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, the local culture and cuisine reflect the population’s Jamaican roots.

Here cooks frequently use coconut milk to flavor the traditional national dish of rice and beans, and other popular dishes include green fried plantains (known as patacones); plantain tarts, rondon soup, local fish, lobster, and shrimp. A regional specialty is “Pan Bon”, a very tasty sweet bread. The national parks of Cahuita, Gandoca and Manzanillo offer visitors light sandy beaches bordered by coconut palms and backed by lush “jungle” vegetation.

The uncrowded beaches are ideal for sunbathing, the always-warm water is great for swimming, and just offshore are coral reefs that offer fun snorkeling. On the level, easy trails, visitors can enjoy hiking and viewing monkeys and other fauna. In April and May, rare leatherback turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs in the sands above the high tide lines in Gandoca.

The region has great birding year-round, with the late September-early November period providing spectacular hawk watching (tens of thousands of raptors are “funneled” into the region by the mountains that run southeast toward the coast). Other activities in the available in the area include horseback riding, canopy tours, a visit to a sloth refuge, and surfing.

Recommend Hotels  in the area:

Ciudad Perdida, Cariblue, Almendros y Corales, and Le Cameleon.

One day Trips:

Yorkin Indigenous Reserve, Dancing Lessons, Cahuita National Park

Cahuita/Manzanillo Highlights

Great Tinamu, King Vulture, Black Hawk Eagle, Roadside Hawk, Bat falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Slaty-backed Forest Falcon, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Great Potoo, Spectacled Owl, Olive-throated Parakeet, White-crowned Parrot, Stripe-throated Hermit, Bronzy Hermit, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Black-throated Trogon, Rufous Motmot, White-necked Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Green Kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Green and rufous Kingfisher, Chesnut-mandibled Toucan, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Chesnut-colored Woodpecker, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Paltry Tyrannulet, Royal Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tyrant, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Snowy Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruit Crow, White-collared Manakin, Red-capped Manakin, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Chesnut-backed Antbird, Stripe-breasted Wren, Shinning Honeycreeper, Western Slaty Antshrike, Montezuma Oropendola, Scarlet-rumped Cacique.

Other animals that may be seen in their natural habitat are: Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchin Monkey, Three-toed Sloth and Two-toed Sloth, Collared Peccaries, Tayra, White-nosed Coati, Agouti and Tamandua Anteater.

Among reptiles and amphibians: Blue jeans Dart Frog, Basilisk Lizard, Spectacled Caiman, Eyelash Viper, Central American Whip-tailed Lizard, Green Anole Lizard, Red-eyed leaf Frog, Boa Constrictor and Green Iguanas.