Last updated on August 24th, 2023
So ready for Post-Covid travel? If you are looking to visit this exotic side of Costa Rica that will let you relax in those white sand beaches surrounded by nature and the unique vibe of our Caribbean side.
Back in January 2021, after our Christmas trip to the United States, we were so ready to go to the beach plus Eithan’s first birthday was the perfect excuse to be celebrated at the beach.
However, we were lucky to find the sunny, palm tree with the white sand beach that we were hoping for, we learned few tricks from locals to take advantage of for future trips since COVID things are a little bit different (even though when you get there, you will forget that COVID exist).
We want to share them with you on this blog so you can learn what you need to know to be prepared if you decide to visit the area in this.
How do you get to Cahuita?
Cahuita is the first town in the South Caribbean area.
Located at 201 kilometers from San Jose around 125 miles.
If you are traveling to Costa Rica and are thinking to visit the Caribbean side, Cahuita is the first town.
Where to stay in Cahuita, Costa Rica?
In our case, we decided to stay in Cahuita town as our base to explore the area. From there we drove to Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
Many people decide to visit the Cahuita National Park as a day trip and they stay in Puerto Viejo or Manzanillo since both towns are accessible by bus and takes around 30 minutes ride.
We stayed at Bungalows Ache and it was a very nice place to stay since we could use an equipped kitchen that they have available for their guest away from the privacy of the bungalows.
Visiting Cahuita National Park
The name Cahuita comes from the words “Kawe” which means “Sangrillo” (a tree from the area) and “Ta” which means “Punta” (Sandpit) a coastline formation, so “Punta Sangrillo”.
Park territory size: 1102 ha Marine protected area: 23290 h
We got into the park through the Playa Blanca area and we saw a restaurant with a Parking lot where most of the cars were parked.
Entrance to Cahuita National Park
There are two entrances to access the park:
- Playa Blanca area: Due to COVID-19 regulations they are opening every day from 8 a.m. m. to 4 p. m.
Entrance Fee: voluntary cash contribution.
As an important fact to know Cahuita National Park is an example of joint efforts between the community and the National System of Conservation Areas working together.
If you visit other National Parks in Costa Rica the cost for a tourist it’s around $15 per person and this topic has been a never-ending story of discussion.
As you can see here you give a voluntary contribution and the income goes to the National Park management that it’s a duty done between the community and the rangers to protect in order to preserve nature while the community benefits from tourism.
- Puerto Vargas area: Every day from 8 a.m. m. to 4 p. m.
Entrance Fee: foreigners pay $5 and resident nationals ¢ 1,000.
Credit card payments are accepted.
On the maps, you will see the name of different trails however it’s mainly one trail split in different tracks.
Here is the distance of the trails so you can have an idea and plan your time inside the park.
- Trail Playa Blanca (White Beach): The distance of this trail is 1.5 kilometers (almost a mile).
- Trail Perezoso (Sloth): 1.6 Kilometer (almost a mile).
- Trail Los Corales (Reefs): 3.1 Kilometer (almost 2 miles)
- Punta Cahuita: 3.5 Kilometers (2 miles)
- Punta Vargas
In the Puerto Vargas area, it’s an internal trail that you will see a wetland.
For keen hikers tip: There are some people that trek from Cahuita to Puerto Viejo and they can cross the park north to south. Crossing the park will be around 11 kilometers and this can take around 4- 5 hours. If you are returning to Cahuita might have to take a bus back.
We saw some showers next to the main entrance of the National Park where you can take the sand off before you go to the car/bus.
Swimming at the Park
We asked locals the safe areas for swimmers where they can practice beach activities and relax.
- Playa Blanca (1 km walk from entrance). Near Suarez river the beach it’s one of the safest.
- Next to Perezoso river
- An small beach near Punta Cahuita.
Check always the red flags that are along the beach. It`s important to check the weather and use common sense.
Don’t swim inside the river because of crocodiles.
If you want a less risky beach it will be Manzanillo, 30 minutes from Cahuita, 15 minutes from Puerto Viejo downtown.
You can do snorkeling inside the National Park.
There are several companies that you can book to do a snorkeling tour.
The range of prices is between $45 – $55 and depends on where are you staying. If you are staying in Cahuita might be a cheaper price but if you will need transportation from your place, the price might be a little bit more expensive.
Usually, the tour takes around 2 hours and you will have to take the boat in place located close to the National Park.
The tour includes the equipment and some fruits.
Because of COVID-19, some tour operators required that you bring your own mask and wear your mask during the boat ride.
During the tour, you will visit coral patches and see the different fish species and then you will see a coral reef.
After the tour they can bring you back to the pickup spot or drop you at Punta Cahuita so can walk back to Playa Blanca or to Puerto Vargas.
The months that are recommended to do snorkeling are March and April another good month it`s Mid-August until September.
Can kids do the tour?
Recommended for kids 5 years old or older.
We talked with a couple of tour guides who offer their services to us and other visitors.
A tour guide will inform you of all the details during the journey, and they also allow you to use their telescope to see wild animals up close.
Also, they will explain the different varieties of flowers and plants that there are during the tour.
Where can you hire your official guide?
At the entrance of the Park, before the access bridge, you will usually find several tour guides offering their services.
We recommend hiring an official tour guide since they are the most experienced both in the guide and in providing a quality service to tourists.
What to wear for visiting Cahuita National Park?
- Snacks and 2 liters of water as it gets really hot
- Hiking shoes – as the main loop is about 5 km / 3.1 mi long
- Swimming suit – You’ll definitely want to take a dip
- Bug spray
They recommend going early in the morning since they have a maximum capacity of people.
When we got there; the line was about 30 people long and all the people were wearing a mask and keeping social distancing.
A member of the staff checks your temperatures and provides hand sanitizer.
Once we got into the trail at times its was hard to keep the social distance when groups cross the path and with the humidity, masks are not that comfortable.
To be honest, there were some parts of the trails where no one was around, so we took the masks off and keep the social distance as much as possible because with the humidity it’s not fun to wear a mask.
Sadly, we only had time to hiked 2 km. However, that was enough to hang out on a beautiful beach, see the monkeys (howler monkeys and White-faced cappuccinos), iguanas, we even get to see a snake so close that you could touch her, and beautiful butterflies.
The monkeys were the highlight for Eithan he was so curious about these creatures.
For next time we are planning to do snorkeling and do the hike for more kilometers.
Our time in the Caribbean side was very special because was our son’s first-birthday and besides what means to travel with a kid and follow all the COVID protocols.
So, the 4 hours’ drive was worth it.
Have you visited Cahuita Costa Rica already? Would you like to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Let’s connect and subscribe to our newsletter or send us your questions and share your tips!