Despite Costa Rica’s fame as one of the world’s top vacation destinations, many travelers miss visiting the Caribbean Coast altogether.
Locals will agree that Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is the country’s best-kept secret. And plenty would like to keep it that way. But the truth is, the region’s stunning natural beauty, rich cultural diversity, and vibrant nature should not be missed.
Yesterday and today
The lush and fertile Caribbean region was already populated by indigenous peoples when Cristopher Columbus first arrived in 1492. He mistakenly named the Central American coastline and the islands he’d encountered the West Indies, thinking he’d reached India’s Spice Islands.
The Mediterranean-type Caribbean Sea is home to major archipelagos such as the Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, and several nation islands, including Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and others. It also borders the eastern coastline of Central America.
Spanning some 132 miles (212 km), Costa Rica’s lowland coastline harbors dense tropical forests, wetlands, coral reefs, fruit plantations, and some of the country’s most beautiful beaches.
Costa Rica Caribbean Sea travel
Cruise ship itineraries commonly include the port of call Limon among their roster of destinations. Limon City is the largest commercial urban center on the Southern Caribbean Coast and an important stop for inter-oceanic commerce.
Costa Rica’s Caribbean is gaining fast on the Gulf of Mexico when it comes to popularity. Especially as an adventure destination for cruises and sailing expeditions.
Visitors arriving by sea can partake in the area’s enticing nature and adventure tours. River rafting, bird watching, hiking, and canopy and zipline tours are just a few of the options available a short drive from the docks of Limon.
Car rental Costa Rica Caribbean Sea
Exploring the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica by car is a must. The region is sparsely populated, and its best destinations are sometimes hours apart.
Having a car means you can explore to your heart’s content, day or night.
There’s also a full-service office near the center of Limon City. Feel free to call or email ahead for help with planning your Caribbean vacation.
Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday, year-round. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (506) 2542-4800, US & CAN Toll Free: 1-855-861-1250, WhatsApp +506 8494-5956.
We aren’t like the other car rental companies. At Adobe, we deliver personalized and exceptional service. We promise no hidden fees or surprise mandatory charges – EVER.
And with a total of 13 Adobe Rent a Car offices strategically located across the country, no matter where you go, there’s always a friendly Adobe representative nearby!
How to best experience the Caribbean Coast
The best highlights in Caribbean Coast can be summed up into three must-experience categories: 1) world-class national parks, 2) unique and dynamic cultures, 3) postcard-perfect beaches.
The humid lowland Caribbean region is mostly blanketed in dense rainforest. A vast network of rivers, estuaries, and wetlands flow eastward towards the Atlantic. Many remote townships are accessible only by boat or small plane, especially in the northern reaches.
In the 1970s and 80s, in an effort to protect the abundant biodiversity harbored in the forests and marine habitats, the government set aside large parcels of wildlands as national parks and wildlife refuges. To the north are Barra del Colorado and Tortuguero National Parks.
The two parks inhabit some of the country’s least populated territories. Even today, visitors can only access the small townships that service them by boat or air.
Tortuguero National park is world-renowned for the great migrations of sea turtles that visit its shoreline to lay their eggs. Among the species arriving annually are the endangered Leatherbacks, Hawksbill, and Green sea turtles.
Further south are the visually stunning Cahuita National Park and the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Both protect pristine coral reefs, estuaries, and coastal forests and are teaming with bird, animal, reptile, and marine species. It’s fairly easy to spot the wild creatures while walking the idyllic trails along the shoreline.
Whiteface and howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and Green Macaws are among the most populous residents. Their antics and chatter from the treetops are a regular delight for visitors.
Guided tours that combine boating to the most coveted snorkeling reefs and a visit to the parks’ most beautiful beaches can be arranged in any of the neighboring towns or hotels.
Unique and dynamic cultures
Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is wholly unique from the rest of the country. Visitors find a blend of local inhabitants that include Bribri and Cabécar Native Americans, Afro-Caribbean descendants, Latinos, and a wide array of international expats.
The result is a delightfully laid-back atmosphere enhanced with the sounds of English-based patois dialect (Limonense), Spanish, and Reggae music. The cuisine is equally distinct and carries aromatic and spicy flavors reminiscent of the Caribbean Islands.
One favorite is the classic staple of beans and rice laced with savory coconut milk. Other greats include Rondón, a hearty seafood stew, and spicy meat pastries called Patties.
Don’t miss an excursion to one of the indigenous communities in the Talamanca Mountains. The local residents invite visitors to learn about their unique culture and traditions and share tips about the medicinal lore stored in the rainforest foliage or the chocolate-making process.
Nothing compares to the spectacular gold, black, and white sand beaches found along the South Caribbean Coast. Their crystal-clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, and tranquil bays lined with swaying palm trees are genuinely stunning.
Arguably the most beautiful of the region are Punta Uva bordering the Gandoca Manzanillo Reserve and the beaches in Cahuita National Park.
Like the Pacific Coast, Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is equally famous for its surfing. The biggest waves generally arrive during the northern hemisphere’s winter months. Cold air moving south over the Atlantic Ocean adds to the size and power of the arriving swells.
Surfers worldwide come to test their skills against Costa Rica’s most formidable wave, Salsa Brava.