cahuita national park

When I visited Costa Rica for the first time back in 2017, visiting the Caribbean coast wasn’t much of a thought. Now I know people were visiting there but I hadn’t heard much about that area. Coming back for the second time in 2022, we made it a point of emphasis. We set up a base in Puerto Viejo but there are many different areas to visit like Limon and Cahuita. Cahuita was closer so we decided to go there. There are so many things to do in Cahuita and it is much quieter than Limon.

The biggest attraction in Cahuita is by far their national park. It is also home to the largest coral reef in all of Costa Rica. Here you can see many and I mean many animals and enjoy some of the best snorkeling in the whole country. This area is known for its Caribbean influence and that’s why I love it. Cahuita is a quaint beach town that is nice to visit if you want to get away from the crazier Puerto Viejo.

How To Get To Cahuita, Costa Rica

Cahuita Route Map

  • Bus from San Jose: There is a direct bus that leaves multiple times every day from the MEPE Bus Station. Ask for a ticket to Cahuita and make sure it’s direct. Try to buy it a day before you want to leave to ensure they’ll be enough space. The cost for us from San Jose to Puerto Viejo was 5700 Colones, so it’ll be a little less than that.
  • Bus from Puerto Viejo: This is where we came from. It is very cheap. Go to the ticket office that is located right across the street from the bus station. Ask for a ticket to Cahuita. The price is 800 colones one way. It will take 15-20 minutes. Very Cheap!

Related Blog Post: 10-day Itinerary in Costa Rica

The Top Things to Do In Cahuta, Costa Rica

Explore Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park was the main reason we wanted to visit this town. Not that it’s the only reason to visit but that this national park is amazing. We saw so many animals without even trying, so getting a guide was pointless. I’m not saying don’t get one because they have a ton of knowledge but they aren’t as necessary. There were so many people always pointing up at animals helping everyone out. This was one of my favorite activities that we did when visiting the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

Cahuita National Park Map

cahuita national park map

Cahuita National Park Entrance Fee

To enter the park, doesn’t cost anything. They ask for you to leave a donation though if you’d like. Everyone left a donation. I would say between 500-1000 colones is probably fine. That’s what we saw in almost everyone around us. It is well worth that amount, so don’t worry because you’ll get your money’s worth.

My Suggested Hiking Gear

Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.

  • KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
  • Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
  • Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.

Cahuita National Park Snorkeling

This is by far the best snorkeling in all of Costa Rica. Make sure you go when it hasn’t been raining for multiple days or it will be hard to see anything. The only way you’re legally allowed to snorkel in this area is by paying for a guide. When entering the park they checked my bag to make sure no snorkeling gear was in there.

Cahuita National Park Animals

You visit Cahuita National park for two reasons: the animals and the beach. There are animals everywhere you look and they even become a problem on the beach. We saw 3 sloths, multiple howlers and white-faced monkeys, tree frogs, turtles, raccoons, and snakes. Below are the many pictures that I took. Be careful with your stuff on the beach as these monkeys will try to take your items!

Cahuita National Park animals

Eat the Local Caribbean Food

Cahuita as well as towns like Puerto Viejo have a huge Caribbean influence. Personally, I’m glad it does because I am a huge fan of jerk sauce and seasoning. Be sure to check out the Reggae bar. It is one of the most popular places in the area for a reason and will surely give you that Caribbean vibe that you’re looking for.

Go on a Chocolate Tour

Cacao is very popular in these regions and it is a good opportunity to try some fresh from the field. There is a really nice tour to take called Cacao Trails Tayku Museo de Cacao. There are many tours going on every day and I have only heard good things about them.

cahuita cacao

Visit the Local BriBri Waterfalls

This area is home to some local tribes that run and own the cacao farms shown above. You can take a tour of them and see how they live their day-to-day lives. Near this area are some waterfalls that are a fun way to get out of the sun. Bribri waterfalls are in the middle of the jungle where you will hear many noises and see many animals.

bribri waterfalls

Go Snorkeling in the Cahuita National Park

This area is home to a 600-acre coral reef that has over 500 different species of fish living here. Snorkeling is banned in this area without a guide but it is totally worth it! It is a paradise for all the snorkeling lovers out there and you will really get an appreciation for the wildlife once you do it.

things to do in cahuita

Grab a Drink at Coco’s Bar

We went here after our adventure through the Cahuita National Park. It was a great way to relax after a nice long day. There is a good selection of TVs with soccer on normally. Grab a bite to eat and a beer to enjoy a relaxing evening! Coco’s is located a couple of blocks straight ahead once you leave the park.

Sun Bathe on the beach

The main beaches you will be going to when visiting Cahuita would be Playa Negra and any beaches located inside the national park. You can’t go wrong with either but Playa Negra will be more populated. Once you enter the park you will have many beaches to choose from along your hike. Added bonus is that you can walk just one 1minute off Playa Negra to go to sunset drinks at the Reggae bar.

things to do in cahuita

Stay at the Secret Garden in Cahuita

Secret Garden in Cahuita is one of the most popular places to stay while visiting, especially as a couples getaway. It is rated a 9.7 for a two-person trip on booking.com. The location is a 3-minute walk from the beach and is ideally located near the entrance to the Cahuita National Park. It is easily one of the nicest and cleanest hostels in the area for the price.

secret gardens cahuita
secret gardens cahuita

Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center

Making a visit to the Jaguar Rescue Center is one of the most popular activities in the area. This rescue center’s job is to take in injured animals, rehab them and then release them back into the wild. Sometimes this isn’t always possible as they have become too used to humans. If that is the case, then these animals stay here and are taken care of by the staff and the volunteers. These are the animals that you will see there. We saw monkeys, toucans, parrots, ocelots, crocodiles, and many others. Unfortunately, there are no jaguars here.

See a Sloth at the Sloth Sanctuary

Seeing a sloth in Costa Rica is everyone’s dream when visiting. Sometimes you can find them on your own and other times it can take you weeks to see one in the wild. You might even go home empty-handed but this doesn’t have to be the case. Visit the Sloth Sanctuary just 15 minutes north of Cahuita. Here you are guaranteed to see sloths because they take care of sloths that no longer can live in the wild. This won’t take away from the experience though as seeing one for the first time is just as magical as the last. There are different types of tours that range from $28 – $150, so be sure to check out their website to find out which one is best for you.

cahuita sloth

Visit the Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero is a wildlife haven for many different species and is highly regarded. This area is home to many different species of turtles too as the name “Tortuguero” means “turtle catcher” in Spanish. When visiting, the best way to see everything is actually by boat. It may be far and a little bit of a trip from Cahuita, but it is totally worth it.

Take a Day Trip to Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is located 15-20 minutes south of Cahuita and is the most popular town in the region. It has massively grown in popularity over the years and is big amongst backpackers. There are many things to do here and great areas to go surfing at. An easy and popular way to get around here is by bike. The main part of town is by the water, so go rent a bike for a day and start exploring! You are a lot closer to attractions like Manzanillo and the Jaguar Rescue Center.

Best Time to Visit Cahuita, Costa Rica

Visiting the Caribbean coast is very different than most of the country. The weather is far more unpredictable. We spent our first 3 weeks of the trip on the Western beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula and didn’t see rain once. When we got to the Caribbean side we were met with rain 3 or 4 days out of the week. With that being said the best times to visit Cahuita are between February to April and August to October.

Thank you for reading my guide about the things to do in Cahuita, Costa Rica! I hope you get to enjoy what this side of Costa Rica has to offer as we did. There is so much to do around here, I wish we had more time. It almost feels like you are in a different country when visiting here, which is amazing. Add this area to your itinerary the next time you visit Costa Rica!