Do you want to escape the heavy tourism along Costa Rica's Caribbean coast? So Cahuita is an excellent place to stay for a few days. You won't find crowds like in Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero here and the atmosphere is incredibly relaxed. The highlight of this small town is Cahuita National Park. A perfect slice of tropical jungle with a great variety of animals to see!
Costa Rica is known for protecting its biodiversity. Approximately 28% of the country is a nature reserve, game reserve or national park. One of the smaller national parks is Cahuita National Park. Cahuita National Park was established in 1970 to protect coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea. It later became the park as it is known today, with coral reefs, beaches and forests. The water is teeming with fish and other marine life. The forest consists of tropical jungle and mangrove fields. You can discover the park by walking along a designated trail and bathing in the crystal clear waters.
How to get to Cahuita National Park?
If you are driving into Cahuita National Park, you can park at either entrance. Are hereinstructionsto the park at the entrance of Kelly Creek in the city of Cahuita. These areinstructionsto reach the entrance of Puerto Vargas.
If you use public transportation to get to Cahuita National Park, you can take a local bus from San José several times a day, which will cost you about $6. You can also book tourist buses.Here. Local Mepe buses run regularly between Puerto Viejo and Limón. They're pretty slow, but very cheap ($1).
Hitchhiking is also an option, we've done it several times traveling around Costa Rica and have been picked up by both tourists and locals.
Entrance fees to Cahuita National Park
There are two entrances to Cahuita National Park. The first is located in central Cahuita and is called Kelly Creek. The other entrance is called Puerto Vargas. Which one you choose depends entirely on what you want. We entered the park through Kelly Creek and exited through Puerto Vargas. The trail is at its best from Kelly Creek, so if you're going to save the best for last, it might be a good idea to do the opposite.
Hiking trail in Cahuita National Park
The path within the park is not a loop but a one-way path. It is about five miles long and runs along the coast from Kelly Creek to Puerto Vargas. You can explore the trail on your own or hire a guide to show you around the park. We didn't take a guide and were able to see a lot of wildlife in the park. People usually gather at a specific spot when an animal is seen so you can easily join them. If you are bringing a guide, make sure they are accredited by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute.
Beaches in Cahuita National Park
There are two beach areas within the park called Playa Blanca and Playa Vargas. Bathing is prohibited in some parts of the beaches as they serve as a sheltered nesting site for turtles. When entering the park, pay attention to the map. As you enter the park at Kelly Creek Station, you'll see a gorgeous white-sand beach that's likely packed with tourists sunning themselves or lounging in the shade of almond trees. Walk a little further into the park. The stretches of beach are getting smaller, but you're sure to find a little piece of tropical beach that you only have to share with a few monkeys.
Diving in Cahuita National Park
Due to the fragile state of the coral reefs, diving in Cahuita National Park is not permitted without a certified guide. We haven't snorkeled in Cahuita, but have heard that Willie's Tours is a good tourist agency to book a snorkeling tour. It costs $30 per person and requires a minimum of two people. Marine life on display includes reef sharks, sea cucumbers, lobsters, turtles, rays and many other tropical fish species.
Fauna of Cahuita National Park
In addition to the underwater world that can be seen on a snorkeling tour, the animal encounters on land are priceless. We saw sloths, raccoons, iguanas, chestnut toucans, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, yellow-eyed flukes anda variety of birds, crabs and snails. This park is a bit underrated when it comes to wildlife viewing. We saw more animals here than any other park we have visited in Costa Rica.
Opening hours and entrance fees
The entrance to Kelly Creek opens at 6am. M. and closes at 5 p.m. M. You can enter the park for free, but it is customary to donate. They use the donations to maintain the park. The opening hours of the entrance to Puerto Vargas are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This entry is not free, but requires a $5 entry fee.
Hotels in Cahuita National Park
If you want to stay near the park for a few nights, I recommend itairbnbWe stayed at Zinja and Alonso's in Playa Negra. They are great hosts and the location and accommodation are simple but beautiful. Squirrels and toucans can be easily observed from your small terrace in the morning. They also made us fresh lemonade and took us to visit family at a farm and restaurant in a rural part of the country. This is a truly authentic experience. If you have some extra cash to spend, staying in the jungle is a good ideaChamana Öko-Lodge.
Want more Costa Rica travel tips?
- Cahuita to Tortuguero by public bus and boat
- Uvita Waterfall Costa Rica: Complete Guide to a Hidden Gem
- 8 Great Things to Do in Arenal Costa Rica
- 6 Great Things to Do in Cahuita
Disclaimer:This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on this I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
- July 6, 2022
8. August 2021
What a beautiful national park! I would love to explore the trail and beaches, they look amazing! Thanks for the great instructions! I hope to get the opportunity to visit them!
23. August 2021
It's really a great park and the walk is very easy! 🙂
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8. August 2021
Cahuita is amazing! Little did I know that much of Costa Rica is protected (although I've heard it's an amazing country to see wildlife). I love the sound of walking the Cahuita Trail and visiting these beautiful beaches!
23. August 2021
It's pure luck, Josy! 🙂
15. August 2021
This looks and sounds like a beautiful and wonderful place! I want to visit Cahuita National Park one day!
23. August 2021
It is, and you definitely should, Alex! 🙂
22. August 2021
These are my favorite travel experiences: the natural places that are less known to tourists and that really show the beauty of a country. Cahuita National Park was on my bucket list right now! Thank you for sharing!
23. August 2021
Mine too, Chris! Great that you enjoyed Cahuita National Park! 🙂
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