Cahuita National Park, Limon

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Lying on Costa Rica’s stunningly beautiful Caribbean coast and facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Cahuita National Park is one of the most amazing national parks in the country. Created in 1970 to protect Costa Rica’s biggest coral reef, this national park is located in Limon province, 42 km south of Puerto Limon.

Some 211 km east of the capital city of San Jose, the best way to get to this park is to take the Guapiles Highway to Limon, and from here head south to the village of Cahuita. From the village head a further 6 km south along the road to Puerto Viejo to the town of Puerto Vargas, where the main entrance of the park is located. The best time to visit Cahuita National Park is during the months of March, April, September and October, as it rains less during these months. Mostly wet all of the year, the Cahuita National Park is a humid tropical zone forest.

Encompassing a land area of just 1,067 hectares, this national park protects over 22,400 hectares of ocean and marine life, and is one of the most gorgeous regions in the entire country. The main attraction of the park is not so much its land, but rather its underwater world, which is home to a fantastic array of marine life and the largest coral reef in Costa Rica. Tourists from all over the world flock to this national park because the fantastic snorkeling and underwater diving opportunities, as well as because of the park’s white sand palm tree lined beaches and crystal clear blue waters, which are ideal for swimming.

Derived from the word ‘kawe’ which means mahogany and ‘ta’ which means point, the Cahuita National Park is the habitat of several ecological zones, including a swamp forest, rainforest, littoral woodlands and costal flora. Home huge variety of marine life, some common underwater inhabitants here include; sea urchins, angel queen fish, blue parrot fish, green turtles, eels, barracudas, sea cucumbers, shrimps, lobsters, sponges, manta rays, remoras, 3 species of sharks and Carey turtles. Among the many mammals found on land are sloths, possums, monkeys, coatimundis, frogs, pacas, iguanas, basilisks, porcupines and several bird species including ibises, herons, gulls and kingfishers.

Although the Cahuita coral reef was badly damaged during an earthquake in 1991, it still includes over 35 species of coral including brain, elkhorn and fan coral, and is a must see when in the area. Another popular attraction of this park is an 18th century shipwreck that lies at the mouth of the River Perezoso. This national park is great as it provides plenty of camping opportunities, with many resorts, hotels and accommodations nearby as well.