Taca Airlines on the Caribbean

Caribbean rhythms and colors

The Tico Caribbean coast (“Tico” is a popular and affectionate nickname for everything Costa Rican) lies about three hours by car from the capital, easily accessible by the Guapiles Highway (route 32). The landscape varies from dense tropical jungles to plantain crops and agricultural farms, through roads bordered by coconut palms.

Costa Rica’s tropical Atlantic coast has exuberant rainforests and a greatly diverse and abundant wildlife, which make the area an ideal destination for ecotourism. This coast is also home to the largest nesting grounds for Green Sea Turtles in the Western Hemisphere. Tortuguero National Park in the north is the ideal place for those who want to witness this marvel of Mother Nature. But this trip will focus on the southern Caribbean area, one of the country’s most untouched territories.

Limón is the port of entry for the Costa Rican Caribbean. It’s an Afro-Caribbean city with unique cultural and language features, since the natural barriers between the Valle Central (Central Valley) and the Caribbean kept the inhabitants relatively isolated from other people. Limón’s dialects are based in English and spiced by the African rhythm of its music, the smiles of its people and the warm way in which they treat visitors.

Selva Bananito Lodge, nine miles from Puerto Limón, is a fantastic place that combines the area’s Caribbean ambience with trips around the private reserve by the same name—only a 10-minute walk from the lodgings. The best features of this owner-run lodge are the natural pools formed by the crystal-clear rivers that crisscross the area and the ability to rappel down the waterfalls. Made from indigenous woods, the cabins are comfortably furnished and feature private baths, although they don’t have electricity. The idea here was to focus on a unique environment of ecological and natural surroundings—even the water is heated by solar power.

Cahuita, a beautiful town serving as the gateway to Cahuita National Park, lies at the beginning of the Talamanca coast, one of the country’s most untouched and charming areas. The area is renowned for its coral reef and white-sand beaches, that latter which are ideal for surfers.

Magellan Inn, which was built on an old coral reef, is located just over a mile north of Cahuita. Just steps from the beach, the inn is characterized by its beautiful gardens and sunken pool. The warmth of the wood and the candles that illuminate the place in the evenings combine perfectly with the brick and stone for a homey feeling. Without a doubt, this is a unique lodging that combines comfort with a harmonious dialogue with nature. Here you can snorkel along the coral reef, fish, sail on a raft or go white-river rafting through the river rapids, as well as hike in the jungle, ride on horseback and go bird watching.

Towards the south

Puerto Viejo, a short distance to the south, is another perfect place for relaxation… and fun! Puerto Viejo has some of the best pubs and bars in the Caribbean coast, where salsa, merengue and reggae play every evening on the warm sands under the stars. Images of this town were immortalized by Costa Rican director and producer Esteban Ramirez in his recent film Caribe (2004). The location’s magic simply awakens poetry. It’s also a good starting point for excursions, such as hikes through the jungle, bird-watching or snorkeling.

One of the most convenient and charming places to stay here is the Hotel Escape Caribeño (escapecaribeno.com), facing the renowned surfing break off the beach known as Salsa Brava. Here you can choose from 14 cozy bungalows with double, triple or quadruple occupancy. All feature private baths, hot showers, a minibar, mosquito netting and hammocks for those lazy afternoon siestas. For bird fanatics, there’s even a small private bird observation nook.

Just outside of town, Azania Bungalows on Cocles Beach is an ideal place to connect with the natural beauty. The bungalows have thatched roofs and beach décor with sophisticated details, and are surrounded by a tropical garden encircled by the beach and the jungle. It doesn’t get any more natural than this. Hammocks hanging from the terraces let you enjoy the sounds of the ocean and the jungle. More rustic but just as cozy is the Casa Camarona on Cocles Beach, another option for those seeking to commune with nature. Cocles Beach is an excellent location to relax and enjoy swimming in the ocean and sunbathing, as well as kayaking and snorkeling.

Manzanillo is the last stop along the road and the start of many adventures. From here, you can sail on a boat or hike in the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo (Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge), one of the country’s most exuberant and colorful places thanks to its flora and fauna. For adventure lovers, this place is the quintessential tropical jungle bordered by incredible beaches. Its coast is particularly good for diving.

When to visit and more about fishing…

 The area’s temperatures remain constant throughout the year, and the amount of rain is what differentiates the seasons. The less rainy months are from January to May and from mid-August through mid-November.

Fishing continues to grow in popularity along the country’s Caribbean coast. The sábalo (shad) and róbalo (bass) are the most sought-after species, although dorado and calba (fat snook) can also be found. The local operators offer fishing trips on boats of diverse sizes and with a range of services, from deep-water fishing where the Caribbean and the Atlantic oceans meet to fishing near the coast.

The best months for diving are from March to May and from September through October. The combination of warm, crystal-clear waters, coral reefs and varied marine life make snorkeling one of the best activities to enjoy on a fabulous vacation with pure Tico flavor.