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Guide to Costa Rica: Caribbean Coast

Written by Thomas Power | 14th January 2014 |


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Whilst Costa Rica?s wild east coast may not fit the typical picture-postcard image of the Caribbean, its jungle-lined shores provide numerous other enticements.

Caribbean Coast

Whilst Costa Rica?s wild east coast may not fit the typical picture-postcard image of the Caribbean, its jungle-lined shores provide numerous other enticements.

To the north, the wetland forests of Tortuguero are positively teeming with wildlife, while the heady Afro-Caribbean culture of the south coast provides an interesting contrast to the rest of the country.

The stretch of coast running south from Puerto Limon towards the Panamanian border was, until quite recently, quite cut-off from the rest of the country. As such the region has its own distinct atmosphere, shaped in large part by its Afro-Caribbean heritage. Most of the residents are of Jamaican descent, with Creole, known as ?Mekatelyu?, often spoken in place of Spanish.

The coastline is dotted with small villages, where the pace of life is laidback and the culture friendly and informal. Reggae replaces the more frenetic Latino beats in local cafés and surfers flock to the shores to catch the famous ?Salsa Brava? wave.

Banana cultivation is the region?s staple employment and the surrounding landscape is chequered with fields of towering green plants. Somewhat surprisingly, bananas rather than coffee are Costa Rica?s most valuable export, and the South Caribbean is one of the main areas of production.

Aside from the variety of water sports on offer, activities such as aerial zip wiring, cycling and canopy tours provide plenty of energetic ways to explore the jungle which lines the coast.

Tortuguero Wetlands

Set on the wild beaches of the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park is one of the best places for wildlife viewing in the country.

The forest here is flooded, so boats replace cars as the principle mode of transportation. A number of lodges border the park, all providing a simple yet relatively comfortable standard of accommodation.

The daily tours are usually conducted on a shared basis by the lodges? trained naturalist guides. While the programme can feel somewhat regimented, there really is no substitute for exploring the forest by boat.

Gliding silently along the narrow waterways rather than trampling en masse through the undergrowth gives you the best chance of seeing the creatures before they become too aware of your presence.

On one half-day tour it is not uncommon to see quite a staggering amount of wildlife. Troupes of White-faced capuchin monkeys hop nimbly across the branches overhead and shy Spider monkeys peer through the foliage.

River turtles take advantage of the chinks of sunlight and bask on half-submerged logs, while tiger herons stalk the riverbanks. Overhead toucans, parrots and kingfishers provide period flashes of colour. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of a river otter?s sleek back or a caiman?s snout as they break the murky water.

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