Culture and nature coexist in the Caribbean city of Cahuita

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With the booming ecotourism industry, many travelers have begun to seek out destinations that are both rich in natural beauty and native cultures. That is why Costa Rica has proven such a popular vacation spot over the years. With one quarter of the country's land protected as a national reserve and a population that Gallup ranks among the happiest in the world, the Central American paradise has emerged as the ideal spot for green and sustainable travel. Travelers looking for the total package of local culture and scenic beauty will definitely want to pay a visit to Cahuita National Park on the Caribbean coast.

Village of Cahuita

The city of Cahuita is located in the southeast of Costa Rica, within the Talamanca Canton of the Limon Province. As a small city, Cahuita has a very small but very lively year-round population that has been largely shaped through a shared Afro-Caribbean culture. This makes for excellent local cuisine, in particular its famous dessert crepes made with locally grown bananas, strawberries and chocolate.

The town also features a number of bars that create a surprisingly active nightlife for such a small town. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy the rapturous sounds of Afro-Caribbean music in many of the town's establishments, occasionally from live bands.

Cahuita National Park

While the city is well worth a visit, the true attraction in the area is Cahuita National Park, the home to a thick tropical rainforest, a wide diversity of native and migratory animals and a collection of beaches that may be the some of the park's best kept secrets.

Travelers to Cahuita would be remiss if they didn't spend at least some time at the Playa Negra, or Black Beach. As the name would imply, Playa Negra is a dark-sand beach located just north of the city of Cahuita. The beach has gained acclaim throughout the years as an excellent surf spot thanks to its hollow right breaks and steady waves. Surfers heading to Cahuita will find the Caribbean shores most accommodating, and often less crowded than more popular destinations on the Pacific coast.

Ecologically minded tourists who don't surf need not worry about finding things to do in Cahuita National Park, as the city also abuts a 17 square-kilometer national park that is home to some rare and beautiful flora and fauna. The massive park, which includes 6 square-kilometers of Caribbean waters, is home to nearly 250 unique types of sea life in addition to several exotic land animals like pacas, white-nosed coatis, sloths and mantled howler monkeys.

Sloths in particular are popular in the area, as Cahuita also boasts the world's only sloth rehabilitation center at los Aviaros del Caribe.