Last update:February 19, 2021
Despite its small size, Costa Rica has clear cultural differences from one destination to another. On the country's east coast, for example, Afro-Caribbean heritage blends with Latin American heritage to create a unique island feel.
The coastal city of Cahuita is the perfect place to experience this relaxed atmosphere. When the waves lap the almost deserted beaches, the locals pedal their bicycles through the city and the smell of grilled chicken wafts over the colorful buildings, tourists quickly shake off their stress. Combined with a national park teeming with wildlife, it's surprising that Kahuita has stayed so small. In this post, we've given you all the details you need to plan your visit, including some of our favorite activities, restaurants, and hotels.
location and orientation
Cahuita is about a 3-4 hour drive from San José, the capital of Costa Rica.Caribbean coastIt is 40 minutes south of the port city of Limón and 20 minutes north of the popular coastal city of Limón.Old Port of Talamanca.
Cahuita is known for its national parks and its authentic cultural scene. The small, grid-like downtown area is only a few blocks away, but it's full of local vibes. A few good restaurants, a few bars, small shops, and community houses make it a fun place to explore.
The dusty dirt road that leads north of the city will find secluded beaches and quaint lodges hidden in the bushveld.
when to visit
The climate on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is best described as tropical. Hot sunny mornings are great for activities, but afternoons often bring thunderstorms or overnight downpours. This helps keep the jungle lush and green.
Although all seasons are worth visiting, September and October are the driest months and the sea is calmer. These months are usually the rainiest in the rest of Costa Rica.
For more information on Costa Rica weather conditions, check out our postWetter in Costa Rica.
Cahuita is a magnet for those looking to spot wildlife, enjoy the beaches, and most importantly, explore the local culture. Here are some activities that will allow you to do just that.
Kahuita National Park
No trip to Kahuita would be complete without a visit to this lush, protected rainforest. We have been there several times and have always seen sloths, monkeys, lizards, the occasional snake and many species of birds.
The park is run by a community organization and has two entrances. One is in the city (which is the most used) and the other is 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of the highway.
Near the entrance to the city, a road skirts the coast and then crosses the river. After the river, the trail continues to a point where it turns and finally reaches the south entrance (a total of about 8.3 km each way). From the south entrance, a new elevated walkway leads through a forested wetland, along the beach, around the promontory, past the river, and finally back to the town of Kahuita.
To see the most wildlife, we recommend hiring a guide. You can see a lot on your own if you walk slowly, but the guides can see even more with their trained eyes. On our last visit, a guide pointed out an eyelash viper that we ourselves would never see because it was hidden deep in the bush.
For more information on visiting the park, see our separate post.Cahuita National Park: One step closer to wildlife.
A portion of the Cahuita National Park Conservation Area extends into the sea and also protects native marine life. There is a large coral reef nearby, a great place to explore with a snorkel and mask if the conditions are right. There are 35 different species of coral and more than 120 different species of fish. Snorkeling is only possible with a guide. Tours are around $60 per person.
Cultural Tours/Aboriginal Excursions
Several indigenous groups still exist in Costa Rica. These cultures populated the country long before the arrival of the Spanish and continue to maintain many of their cultural beliefs and customs. Some even speak their own language.
Visit the Bribri group around Cahuita where you can meet some families and learn more about their way of life. These trips include things like cElaboration of chocolate, medicinal plants, handicrafts and visits to waterfalls.
No sleepy seaside town would be complete without shady palm trees and crashing waves. Cahuita has several great beaches.
Playa Blanca, near the entrance of the national park, is a small cove of beige sand that is probably best for swimming or walking, but still has waves and rapids.
Playa Negra is a dark gray sand beach north of the city and tends to be sparsely populated.
Playa Grande, another gray-sand beach further north down the dirt road, is the most secluded. Best for surfing or long walks.
Chinese Restaurants in Kahuita
Cahuita has a variety of cuisines. Here you will find many local restaurants serving traditional Costa Rican dishes with a Caribbean twist. The expatriates who now call Kahuita home also brought international produce with them. Italian is the most common language.
When you get tired of traditional dishes, come to Pizzería Cahuita. This restaurant is run by Italians who know how to make delicious cakes. The thin-crust pizza is baked in a wood-fired oven. The homemade pasta is also delicious. You can dine in the casual restaurant near the beach or order takeout.
For a delicious dinner, visit El Girasol. This cozy restaurant serves simple but delicious Italian cuisine, prepared with quality ingredients. All of our pastas were great and we loved the complimentary homemade bread. Attentive service is also a plus.
If you are looking for a place to relax, check it out.Reggae-BarThis ultra-casual spot facing Playa Negra is a local hangout and has been around for years. The view is great, the beer is cold, and the food is good. At night there is usually live music.
Hotels in Cahuita
For such a small town, Cahuita offers some lodging options. Although the selection is varied, they are all small and locally owned. You will not find five-star resorts, but you will find many charming hotels with all the comforts.
Some advices:Similar to other parts of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, accommodations in Cahuita often do not have air conditioning. If you are sensitive to heat, make sure your room is well ventilated and has a fan or air conditioner. While it cools down significantly at night, it can be hot and humid during the day.
Good luck with the host family.
This is a great option if you are on a tight budget. This simple bed and breakfast offers a variety of private rooms, some with air conditioning and some without. Those without a car will love the location, it is on the outskirts of the city, close to the national park. A delicious and varied breakfast is included in the price of the room. $35-55.Check prices and availability here.
If you are looking for apartment-style accommodation, look herePosada MaffeisThis small hotel is located in the center of Cahuita but tucked away on a quiet side street. The hotel is not only close to several restaurants, but is also home to El Girasol, one of the most popular restaurants in Cahuita. $60-$150 (double occupancy).Check prices and availability here.
Located next door to the Marfi InnHotel Blumenhaus(House of Flowers). We recently stayed in one of their colorful rooms and really enjoyed it. Rooms come standard with two queen-size beds and air conditioning, and all rooms face the quaint flower-filled courtyard. The owners live on site and make sure their guests have a comfortable experience. $90-110 (double occupancy).Check prices and availability here.
Magallanes Boutique Hotel
Excellent value for money in the areaMagallanes Boutique Hotel.This small hotel has an exclusive atmosphere, although the prices are moderate. The six modern rooms have been recently renovated and feature a king-size bed, air conditioning and TV. Magellan is very popular with couples. The hotel is on a quiet side street about 10 minutes drive from the town and a short walk from the beach. Visitors love the pool area and the lush landscaping, which attracts birds. $100-110 (double occupancy).Check prices and availability here.
For a little more comfort there isKennucky's InnThis oceanfront bed and breakfast offers a variety of accommodation options. The wooden bungalows are open and airy, with high ceilings, large windows, and modern amenities. For a similar experience on a tight budget, choose a regular room. All units have a beautiful outdoor area overlooking the garden. Kenaki Lodge is located at the end of town and is best reached by rental car. $65-220.Check prices and availability here.
New villas in Caribbean Point
New villas in Caribbean PointIt is our favorite family and group. The charming 2-bedroom villas are designed like a typical Costa Rican house with plenty of space to relax. Each apartment has a kitchen and a separate living room. The rooms have air conditioning. Villas New Caribe Point is located on a side street near Playa Negra, about 5 minutes from town. $100-130.Check prices and availability here.
For such a small town, Kahuita is impressive. When we first visited a few years ago, we were entranced by the laid-back pace and vibrant culture. The abundance of wildlife we see in national parks and the natural beauty that surrounds us has a lasting impact.
Years later, Cahuita continues to be an exotic destination for us. While this small town is basic in all it has to offer, we highly recommend it if you're looking for an authentic Costa Rican experience.
Last updated: February 19, 2021
Questions about your visit to Costa Rica's Costa Caribe? We ask you to continue!
Looking for more information on how to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Read these posts:
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: Karibische Aromen in Costa Rica– If you are looking for more things to do, you might like Puerto Viejo. This small town south of Cahuita offers beautiful swimming beaches, numerous restaurants and hotels, and much more.
The Whistle That Got Us: Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast- Written shortly after our first visit to Cahuita, this brief history gives an idea of the culture and atmosphere of the area.
Tortuguero outside the resort– Tortuguero is a great wildlife destination and is often combined with Cahuita. Read our guide to this small town and learn how to visit it as an independent traveler.13 January 2020
Located just a ten-minute walk north of town, Playa Negra, Cahuita is famous for its black-sand beach and it's blue flag status, indicating that this beautiful beach is also one of Costa Rica's cleanest.Is Cahuita Costa Rica worth visiting? ›
Cahuita National Park is a favorite tourist destination with sugary white sand beaches and abundant wildlife. It's one of the top things to see in Costa Rica for wildlife lovers, snorkelers, hikers, and adventurous travelers of all kinds.Why visit Cahuita Costa Rica? ›
At the southern end of the village lies the main attraction. Namely, the largely marine Parque Nacional Cahuita, which was created to protect one of Costa Rica's few living coral reefs. Many people come here to snorkel and take glass-bottom-boat rides (there's no beach to speak of in the village itself).Is the Caribbean side of Costa Rica worth visiting? ›
Both sides of Costa Rica are excellent places to visit for all tourists. Although we recommend visiting both coasts of Costa Rica if possible, it is not as easy due to long travel times. Here are the differences between the Caribbean and Pacific coast of Costa Rica to help you decide which side is best for you.What is unique about Costa Rica's culture? ›
Costa Rican culture is a vibrant blend of indigenous heritage and Spanish colonial influence, with a dash of Jamaican, Chinese, and other immigrant cultures lending character and customs. The result is a nation of laid-back, friendly, and happy people.Is Cahuita safe? ›
Cahuita is quite safe. The most common crime, as with basically any beach town, is petty theft. As long as you aren't leaving valuables unattended you shouldn't encounter any problems. Just use common sense and street smarts as you would anywhere else.What is the prettiest town in Costa Rica? ›
Puerto Caldera is a fantastic part of Costa Rica's cities. This most beautiful city in Costa Rica is located in the province of Puntarenas. This is the main port of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
Cahuita Marine & Wildlife
Other wildlife within the park include iguanas, toucans, sloths, poison dart frogs, crocodiles, raccoons, snakes, and more.
The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April on its Pacific Coast, when the weather is at its driest and brightest, and between March and September on the Caribbean side.Can you see turtles in Cahuita? ›
Areas like the Corcovado National Park, Tortuguero National Park as well as Cahuita receive a large variety of turtles. One of the most famous areas ones with tourists right now, is the Ostional Wildlife Refuge.
Depending on your vacation style, a car may or may not be necessary for sightseeing around Cahuita. If you plan to explore the area's numerous unbeaten paths, a car is a good choice. However, if your itinerary includes the area's local sights, a combination of walking, biking, buses and taxis will be less expensive.What do you wear to Cahuita National Park? ›
Bring a swimsuit underneath hiking clothes (if you plan to hike), hiking shoes, flip-flops, change of clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray, hat, water, towels, and a picnic lunch if desired.Which side of Costa Rica is the prettiest? ›
The Best Places on Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast. Most travelers visiting Costa Rica think the Pacific side of the country is the better coast to visit. The remote Osa Peninsula, the monkey-filled area of Manuel Antonio, the surfing near Santa Theres, and the touristy Nicoya coast make it the superior choice.Which coast is prettier in Costa Rica? ›
If you go by what the locals say, the Caribbean coast wins. Well-traveled Costa Ricans love to visit the area south of Limon with its most famous beach towns of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo. It is less crowded, not as expensive, and known for its great food scene.Which side of Costa Rica has the prettiest beaches? ›
Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches are located in northwest Costa Rica (Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula) and the southern Caribbean (Puerto Viejo, Cahuita). In both regions you'll find light sand, warm tropical water, and — when conditions are right — great surfing.What 3 things is Costa Rica known for? ›
Costa Rica is known for its volcanoes, cloud forests and sandy beaches. Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is a small country bordered by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans on either side.What are five things Costa Rica is known for? ›
- It's one of the happiest countries in the world. ...
- There are over 500,000 species of wildlife. ...
- Of the 500,000 species, 900 of them are birds. ...
- Gallo pinto is a breakfast staple. ...
- There are over 200 volcanic formations. ...
- Costa Ricans have a high life expectancy.
When it comes to security, Costa Rica is generally a safe place for travelers. Still, visitors should be aware of potential dangers before starting their journey. It is important to take the necessary precautions, as in any urban city, to stay safe while traveling in this beautiful country.Is Costa Rica safer than Mexico? ›
When it comes to safety, Costa Rica wins hands down as it is one of the safest countries to travel to. It is also common knowledge that Mexico has a higher crime rate however, personally speaking, as long as you stay away from any drug related activities, you should be fine.What are the top crimes in Costa Rica? ›
While petty theft is the main problem, armed robberies have been known to occur even in broad daylight. American tourists and residents can also take steps to protect themselves. Criminals often operate in small groups, but may also operate alone.
The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal. When the Kardashians wanted to film their reality show in Costa Rica, it was no accident that they chose The Springs. This sprawling hot-springs resort in Arenal, with prices north of $500 (£380) a night, is the crème de la crème of luxury lodging in Costa Rica.Where do most Americans go in Costa Rica? ›
All of the popular and safe expatriate locations in Costa Rica, such as Heredia, Atenas, Arenal, Tamarindo and even some parts of the capital city San Jose are home to many American expats. One way to make friends is by simply being social and visiting US-owned establishments like bars or restaurants, or shops.What is the most luxurious town in Costa Rica? ›
Escazú, Costa Rica, boasts some of the country's finest dining, best shopping, and most luxurious lodging....Are there jaguars in Cahuita? ›
This is a popular nesting area for vulnerable and endangered sea turtles and a natural stronghold for jaguars and the only place where these cats are known to prey on sea turtles.
Animals in Costa Rica
The American crocodile can grow up to 6 meters an weigh over 900 kilos. They are often found in larger rivers and lakes but they can also inhabit salt water and swim a 100 km in the ocean from one river to the next.
Crocodiles are common throughout Costa Rica and while attacks on people are rare they do occur from time to time.What months are cheap to go to Costa Rica? ›
The cheapest time to visit Costa Rica is during the green season or rainy season, May to November. As the largest influx of tourists visit Costa Rica during the dry season (December through April), that is the most expensive time to visit. Read more about Costa Rica weather to know what to expect.Can you swim in the Caribbean Costa Rica? ›
Costa Rica's Caribbean coast has some of the country's best beaches. The southern Caribbean — Cahuita to Manzanillo — boasts beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise water and pristine coral reefs. When seas are calm, it's one of the best places to snorkel and scuba dive in Costa Rica.How many days in Costa Rica is enough? ›
We recommend spending 10 days to two weeks in Costa Rica, as this timeframe will give you enough time to cover all the major highlights while also including time for traveling from one destination to another. A two-week Costa Rica itinerary will guarantee you see everything the country has to offer.Can you snorkel in Cahuita without a guide? ›
Also, you cannot snorkel without a tour as you need a special guide to take you. This ensures the reef is preserved.
Among the more common mammals are armadillos, raccoons, sloths, howler and capuchin monkeys. There are many species of reptile and amphibians including blue jeans dart frogs and red-eyed-leaf frogs, green iguanas, whip-tailed lizards, green vine snakes and boa constrictors.Can you snorkel at Cahuita National Park? ›
Cahuita National Park is a great travel destination where you can explore both lush jungle and underwater wildlife. You can snorkel among the coral reefs and you have the chance to encounter hundreds of different fish species.How far is it from san jose Costa Rica to Cahuita Costa Rica? ›
From San Jose to Cahuita: The 120-mile journey takes between 3.5 and 4.5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Take Route 32 out of San Jose, driving through Braulio Carrillo National Park. Follow the signs to Guapiles, Siquirres and Limon. In Limon, turn south on Route 36, and follow the signs to Cahuita.What time does the Cahuita open? ›
Every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Puerto Vargas sector: Every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The best way to get around Costa Rica is by bus, which is reliable, navigable, inexpensive and frequently runs through San José, Costa Rica's capital. Driving on your own is not highly recommended as some roads are tricky (speckled with potholes and ambiguously marked intersections).Can you bring food into Cahuita National Park? ›
So tourists can certainly bring own snacks and water, but do not feed the wildlife and take the garbage away at the end. Watch out for cappucins and raccoons, that may be stealing food from your day bags if you decide to relax at one of the small beaches farther into the park.Should I bring a dress to Costa Rica? ›
Costa Rica doesn't have a strict dress code so comfortable and casual is best for pretty much the entire country. At the beach where daytime temperatures reach up to 95 F (35 C) with high humidity, your wardrobe will consist of shorts, tank tops, tshirts and flip flops.What is the dress code in Costa Rica? ›
Costa Rica is a casual destination, and the country has no dress code. Most touristic destinations are along the coast, so the average outfit in Costa Rica consists of shorts, a shirt/tank top, and sandals.What is the best and worst time of year to visit Costa Rica? ›
The best times to visit Costa Rica are late fall to early spring months when heavy rains ease. The best months during this dry season are November through April because of a lower risk of rain. The worst months are May through October because of a much higher risk.Where is the clearest water in Costa Rica? ›
Nestled just south of Puerto Viejo on the beautiful Caribbean coast, Playa Chiquita is an area known for its pristine jungle-fringed beaches and sparkling clear waters.
Escazú, in the San José province, is often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica as it is the most upscale area in the country.Which is prettier Belize or Costa Rica? ›
Belize is a better destination than Costa Rica for snorkeling, diving, and swimming. However, the stunning white-sand beaches (and sheer quantity of beaches!) in the tropical paradise of Costa Rica simply can't be beaten.What city in Costa Rica has the best beach? ›
There's a reason why Manuel Antonio is known as Costa Rica's most popular beach.What is Costa Rica most popular spot? ›
San José is the most popular destination in Costa Rica — More people are taking advantage of the international airport in Liberia and most people that arrive in San José don't stick around too long but it still gets more visitors than any other place in Costa Rica.What part of Costa Rica has turquoise water? ›
Isla Tortuga is a turquoise water paradise located between the Nicoya Peninsula and the mainland of Costa Rica. It boasts sandy beaches, turquoise water, and just the right balance between relaxation and a party vibe.What is the safest beach in Costa Rica? ›
- Biesanz Beach, Manuel Antonio.
- Panama Beach, Papagayo.
- Potrero Beach, Guanacaste.
The best beaches in Costa Rica's Southern Caribbean are Cahuita, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Cocles, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo. These beaches are perfect for swimming horseback riding, hiking and simply enjoying some quiet beach time.What is so special about Nicoya Costa Rica? ›
Pura vida means pure or simple life and Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula has what you could call extreme pura vida. The peninsula is one of the world's five Blue Zones where many people live exceptionally long and healthy lives.Why is Monteverde Costa Rica famous? ›
The combination of the lush green virgin forest scenery along with a wide variety of flora and fauna is what makes the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve so famous. The reserve is so special and unique that it draws nearly 70,000 scientists and tourists to this place every year.What is the most famous thing in Costa Rica? ›
One of the things that Costa Rica is most famous for is its stunning beaches. The country has over 800 miles of coastline, and each beach has its own unique character. Thanks to its location sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica is naturally blessed with an incredible array of beaches.
Life Principles That Slow The Aging Process. Every morning, at dawn, before the men of Nicoya ride their horses through the mountains of the Costa Rican peninsula, they eat a healthy breakfast. The daily breakfast consists of gallo pinto (rice and beans) with a basket of homemade corn tortillas and hot coffee.Why do Nicoyans drink hard water? ›
The heart is a muscle, and all muscle contractions depend on calcium. Inadequate calcium means weak muscles -- including the heart. Old people often have too little calcium in their bodies. So, having extra-hard water may help keep Nicoyans' hearts strong, and longer.What do people in Nicoya eat? ›
Staples of the traditional Nicoya diet include homemade corn tortillas, black beans, white rice, a variety of squash, yams, papaya, bananas, and pejibayes. Meat, fish, and poultry only make up 5% of the usual diet. Meanwhile, last year the average individual from the United States ate 222.2 pounds of meat and poultry.How many days are enough in Monteverde? ›
Two to three days in Monteverde means you can fit in all of the above-mentioned activities that interest you. You'll likely have enough time for a daytime and evening tour of the cloud forest reserves, and going at both times of day is ideal as you'll see different things each time.Why do people go to Monteverde? ›
Monteverde, Costa Rica, is a luscious, ecologically diverse area high in the mountains. True to its name (Green Mountain), It's popular for those who want to get into nature and enjoy all that the area has to offer, from rare and unique cloud forests to ziplining and coffee tasting.Is it worth going to Monteverde Costa Rica? ›
Although some people don't have the time to visit both, Monteverde is absolutely worth it, even for two nights. The cloud forests are incredibly unique and may disappear in this century so it's worth making the trip to see the cloud forests.What is the most eaten food in Costa Rica? ›
Casados, also known as comida tipica (lit. typical dish), is the most popular dish in Costa Rica. Whichever traditional restaurant (called sodas) you visit, it will most likely be on their menu. Casado consists of white rice, beans, meat such as chicken, beef, or fish, and a salad such as iceberg or coleslaw.What is Costa Rica main dish? ›
Gallo pinto, which has a literal meaning of "spotted rooster", is the national dish of Costa Rica. It consists of rice and beans stir-fried together in a pan to create a speckled appearance.What food is Costa Rica most known for? ›
Costa Rica Food, An Authentic Experience
Pinto and beans are a staple of Costa Rica and common denominator among different culinary tastes in different regions of the country. As a whole, the three most famous dishes of the country are Casado, Gallo Pinto and Arroz con Pollo.
If you happen to be in Costa Rica at 7 a.m. on any given day, tune in to a radio station. Every station plays the country's national anthem. If you miss it, don't worry, it will play again the next morning!
Hola = Hello. This is the basic way to say hello. Buenas = Shorthand way of saying hello, any time of day. It is more casual and works in the morning, afternoon, or evening.