See the reef of Cahuita National Park

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Visitors to Costa Rica will want to pay a visit to Cahuita National Park, one of the country's most stunning and vibrant nature reserves.

Cahuita National Park

Located on the country's southern Caribbean coast, Cahuita can be accessed through two main gateways. Most travelers enter the park through the Kelly Creek Ranger Station, where visitors are asked to enter their names in a logbook and make a voluntary donation. The second entrance to the park, Puerto Vargas Station, is most easily accessed by bus and requires a US$10 admission fee.

Cahuita's Coral Reef

The most popular feature of Cahuita National Park is its spectacular 600-acre coral reef. Although the reef has shrunk in recent years, it remains one of Costa Rica's most popular marine attractions. Travelers interested in seeing the reef up close must go on a guided tour, as snorkeling without a guide within the boundaries of the park is strictly prohibited.

By exploring the reef first hand, tourists can see a wide variety of coral - including the light yellow brain, elkhorn and blue staghorn species - as well as other creatures like sea fans and gorgonians. Living amongst the coral are hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates, such as urchins, angelfish, blue parrotfish, barracudas and stingrays. Divers can also enjoy an exciting underwater trip to the wreckage of a former slave ship, where they can still see cannons and manacles that reflect a darker period in Costa Rica's history.

Hiking in Cahuita

Those who would rather stay on dry land can still enjoy a range of activities in Cahuita National Park. Many visitors to the park take a hike along the Rainforest Trail, an easy nine-kilometer path from Kelly Creek Station to the main highway. The track provides hikers with stunning views of the adjacent Caribbean coast, particularly the white sand beach Playa Vargas. From the path, walkers can also see a wide range of Cahuita's jungle wildlife, including howler monkeys, white-faced moneys, coatis, iguanas, agoutis, anteaters and armadillos. Many visitors also see the venomous yellow viper, but because these snakes are timid, they typically do not attack unless they are provoked. The park is also home to a myriad of bird species such as green ibises, herons, toucans, parrots and scarlet macaws.
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