For reasons I don’t really understand perhaps deep-seated racism or fear of petty theft, the southern Caribbean gets a bad rap. For people who live here and those who have visited, we know these fears are unwarranted. Costa Rica’s south Caribbean is a magical place that has remained fairly untouched by the commercialism and large chain hotels that you find in the Pacific. For this reason and many others Caribe Sur (South Caribbean) is a picture of true Pura Vida. I have lived in Costa Rica for 2.5 years and in the last six months I have made my home in the culturally eclectic town of Puerto Viejo. Here in the Caribbean you can find just about everything Costa Rica but with a true taste of culture: delicious food, gorgeous white-sand beaches, beautiful rivers and unique tropical rainforests with unique wildlife. I will give you 5 reasons why your next trip should be to the Caribbean. Because I know these areas best, I’m going to talk about the stretch of the Caribbean from the bustling port city of Limon to the small tranquil beach community in Manzanillo.
Yep, these pictures are real. These were all taken in Playa Cocles around 5AM on different days. We may not have sunsets like the Pacific, but we have the most glorious sunrises. If you visit the Caribbean, DO NOT sleep in every morning and miss out.
Sloths, agoutis, kinkajous, howlers, toucans, giant boas, iguanas (all of which reside from time to time in our Surf Lodge’s jungle) bright yellow pit vipers (pictured), capuchins, iguanas and turtles, are some of the commonly found wildlife in the southern Caribbean. If you visit the Caribbean, I can guarantee you, if you look for them correctly, you will see a sloth. I have four currently living at my hotel “Club Dub”. This one wasn’t fast enough to escape a quick snap of a picture before he meandered up our almond tree.
The Caribbean boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica. Here you will find my favorite places – some of them hidden :
Playa Cocles is one of the most popular Caribbean surf spots. Don’t let the big waves fool you, if you come between August and October Playa Cocles can look like a giant flat pool of crystal clear turquoise water. During these months activities on Playa Cocles are kayaking, swimming, jumping off “La Isla”, snorkeling and floating. I love walking or running the length of this beach especially when you can find gorgeously colored sea shells. If you walk all the way south to Hotel Villas del Caribe you can find beautiful coral pools great for swimming.
Punta Uva: The beauty of Punta Uva rivals any beach here in Costa
Rica. There are two sides to Punta Uva divided by a rock that juts out into the sea. This beach is great for swimming all year. When there are waves, it has a nice long board friendly break. The rock that separates the two sides can be climbed. If you follow the trail up through the trees you will come to a rock landing that overlooks both sides. I saw a giant sea turtle from this lookout the other day. The beach on the south side of the rock is great for snorkeling. You can also find a romantic swing underneath an overhanging palm tree – the subject of lots of photos.
Playa Chiquita: A small coral reef formed beach, Playa Chiquita lies about 2 kilometers south of Cocles. Usually you can find howler monkeys playing in the trees on the trail leading to the beach.
Playa Grande: A great beach break surf spot, Playa Grande lies in between Punta Uva and Manzanillo. Sloths hang out in the trees lining the beach.
Cahuita: Cahuita is a small town located about 15 kilometers north of Puerto Viejo. Cahuita is home to a beautiful national park where you can take a hike among the mangroves and palm trees. Make sure to look carefully at your surroundings, Cahuita is replete with wildlife. Here is a picture of a bright yellow pit viper that was curled up underneath a leaf.
Manzanillo: Don’t miss Manzanillo. Manzanillo lies at the end of the road leading south from Puerto Viejo. It’s a sleepy village bordering the “Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo” a beautiful park with a nicely marked trail leading to coral beaches and rocky caves.
The Caribbean has the best food in Costa Rica. From the famous “Rice and Beans” made from cooking rice in the milk of crushed coconut, to the plethora of fresh fish coming from the boat of a local fisherman to make my favorite dish: “Run Down” or “Ron don”. Ron Don is a coconut milk based soup made from fresh seafood, yucca and other vegetables. In front of Club Dub we have a friend (aka Rasta) who cooks delicious Caribbean rice and beans every weekend. You should check him out, his “Take it Easy” cart is hard to miss. Here in Puerto Viejo there are also many restaurants with international cuisine, enough variety to please every palate.
I like to say that the Caribbean holds the majority of Costa Rica’s culture. Most tourists skip over the very Caribbean port city of Limon. I suggest you take some time to explore. From the view of the port to the beautiful park in the center of the town, Limon gives you a true taste of the afro-Caribbean vibe. Black Star Line is a famous restaurant serving delicious authentic Caribbean food. From reggae music to dancehall to calypso and beyond, music is a daily part of life here in the Caribbean. In Puerto Viejo you can find live music playing almost every evening and can dance late into the night at the many different bars around town. Talamanca the province housing Puerto Viejo is also home to some of the largest indigenous groups of Costa Rica. Some indigenous groups like the Bri-Bri also bring their own language to the richness of the southern Caribbean. I marvel at the knowledge indigenous people possess about plants and animals. They can cure almost any illness with some sort of herbal remedy and they know and understand the habits of wildlife. If only this knowledge was more common to man-kind maybe we’d respect the earth more.
These are just a few of the many reasons of why I love the Caribbean. Come check it out yourself and stay with us at Club Dub Surf Lodge! Discover the Caribbean for what it really is! Our Facebook page is linked below. Pura Vida!