On the North Caribbean Coast Limón city is the touristic center. However, green turtle’s nesting on Tortuguero National Park and bass', shad’s and other species’ sport fishing at Barra del Colorado National Wild Life Refugee represent the main attraction of the region. It is complimented with the river channel’s system, which connects Moin Port with Barra del Colorado, and has become a singular attraction and the only way of transportation. The Southern Caribbean coast shows a country-unique combination of beaches, natural resources and afro American culture in Cahuíta, Puerto Viejo and Gandoca Manzanillo. Cahuíta National Park and Gandoca Manzanillo Reserve are worldwide recognized, not only because of their natural beauty but because they are becoming unique conservation places in almost the whole Caribbean.
CALERO AND BRAVA ISLANDS
These are continental or fluvial islands; unlike maritime island territories, these islands are surrounded mainly by fresh water from the rivers that demarcate their flat, alluvial areas. Calero is the largest island of this kind in Costa Rica, with an area of 156.1 square kilometers. Brava is the second largest at 44.4 square kilometers. These adjacent islands are located on the far-northern Caribbean coast within the Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge.
Protected by the Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge, this navigable river's watershed is abundant in breathtakingly beautiful natural places. The Colorado is famous worldwide for its magnificent sport-fishing; tarpon and other fish (bass and mackerel) inhabit its waters.
BARRA DEL COLORADO BEACH
Long and open, the northern Caribbean coast is characterized by strong surf and dangerous currents for swimming. However, its main attraction consists of the canals that run parallel to the beach, with natural landscapes and abundant animal species observable on tours. Delimited on the north by the mouth of the Río Colorado and on the south by an estuary, Barra del Colorado beach is suitable for hiking, nature- and wildlife-watching, fishing and contemplating the sea. Boat trips may be taken through the highly interesting and naturally scenic canals and lagoons in the area. The village of Colorado is a peaceful fishing and farming community divided in two by a landing strip.
Due to its geologic origins, the region containing the Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge and Tortuguero National Park forms an extensive floodplain made up of highly scenic, interconnected canals, waterways and lagoons. One of the rainiest areas in the country (5,000 to 6,000 millimeters per year), this region is rich in biodiversity. These factors allow visitors to this extensive network of waterways the opportunity to tour and explore this marvelous world-unique for its peacefulness and natural luxuriance-by boat, canoe or kayak.
This long beach with its strong surf and lush tropical greenery is a great place to hike and take in Tortuguero National Park's diverse flora and fauna. The park is adjacent to the village, also named Tortuguero, where the beach is located. Four species of sea turtles nest here: green turtles, most numerous, from April to August; leatherbacks from February to July; hawksbills from April to October; and loggerheads from April to May.
Tourism is the main source of income for Tortuguero village, followed by fishing and subsistence farming. This has produced an interesting mix between the village's indigenous origins and the many tourism services and facilities that are shaping its present and future, and which allow tourists to enjoy a wide range of activities by day or night: walking and sunbathing on the beach, observing the biodiversity, boating or kayaking the canals, socializing with the locals, sampling typical Caribbean
This hill is located at one end of a long fluvial peninsula stretching north to south and ending in a point off Tortuguero village. The peninsula is surrounded by Tortuguero Lagoon on the east and Penitencia Lagoon on the west. At 119 meters in height, Tortuguero Hill is the only raised ground in this whole coastal area; thus, an unparalleled panoramic view of canals, village, coast and surrounding area may be enjoyed from the summit.
RÍO PARISMINA MOUTH
In its lower stretches, the Río Reventazón-one of the mightiest in the country-joins the Parismina. This river, particularly the areas around its mouth, has a big reputation for its fabulous fishing. Several fishing lodges offer everything a visitor needs for sport-fishing in this region, which borders Tortuguero National Park to the north; the wharf at Caño Blanco is the starting point for many trips to the national park.
World famous among rafting fans and experts, this lush tropical river is considered one of the most beautiful in the world for enjoying whitewater activities. The Pacuare is rated class III-IV on the international whitewater scale. Those running it can enjoy waterfalls and tributaries complemented by the luxuriant and always green vegetation that adds so much value to the trip.
History records that in 1502 Christopher Columbus landed in Costa Rica at the place known as Puerto Limón. The country's port par excellence thanks to import and export traffic, Limón now has the facilities to receive cruise ships as well. The city's old quarter has the characteristics of a historical center and is currently under urban renovation with restoration of buildings and a pedestrian walkway from Parque Vargas to the market.
Celebrated every year during the week of October 12, which commemorates Cultures Day, this event is of great interest to tourists and generates much local and national excitement. A Carnival Queen is chosen beforehand, and in the afternoons costumed groups may be seen rehearsing in the barrios. Other activities include a parade of costumed groups and floats, masquerades, marching bands, national and international concert groups and a traditional dragon dance put on by the Chinese community.
The Caribbean region is also distinguished from the rest of the country by its traditional dishes. Examples of delectable and highly popular food and drink include rondón (a mix of various vegetables with beef, chicken, fish or turtle meat), fish (stewed, in marinade or fried), sancocho (chicken and pork with tomatoes, yucca, potatoes and sweet potatoes), rice and beans (cooked in coconut milk and accompanied by chicken, fish, pork or beef), patí (meat pastries with chili pepper), plantintah (a pastry made with ripe plantains), bread fruit (pureed, in pudding or fried), turtle meat (in rondón or fin soup), beef tripe (with tubers and spices), Johnny cake (coconut bread), ginger cookies, ginger beer, guarapo (an alcoholic drink made from fermented corn) and agua de sapo or agua de hiel (a very popular drink made with ginger, lime and brown cane sugar).
CARIBBEAN CULTURAL EXPRESSION
The Caribbean enjoys a diversity of cultures: Afro-Costa Rican, Bribri and Cabécar, Asian, Italian and Central American, among others. Besides food, the region features a collection of cultural activities and traditions that also differentiate it from the rest of the country. One such tradition, very well known, is the region's music, which combines various elements and influences: calypso and reggae. As for traditional dances, the cuadrilla (square dance) is one of the most typical. Games and legends occupy a special place in the region's culture as well.
This beautiful pedestrian walkway takes up four blocks of Avenida 2 in the city of Limón. It starts in the west at Calle 4 and ends in the east in front of the seawall. Built in 1941, the central market is on the boulevard; opposite it on the corner sits a beautiful building: Banco Nacional de Costa Rica. Another lovely edifice, the Pensión Costa Rica, is located a block and a half to the east. Parque Vargas is on the last block. Opposite its north side is the Limón municipal building; on the other side is an old structure that once belonged to the Banana Company and today houses offices and shops. The boulevard ends at the seawall, where there is an amphitheater from which Quiribrí Island may be seen. The seawall is well frequented by Limón's residents and by tourists. Bordering the shore, it stretches several hundred meters to Hospital Tony Facio.
QUIRIBRÍ ISLAND (UVITA)
This island territory was declared a National Monument in 1985 for having been the first place visited by Christopher Columbus when he landed on this Caribbean shore during his fourth voyage in 1502. It was precisely because of the wealth exhibited by the indigenous people with whom he came into contact that Columbus-perhaps also inspired by the tropical luxuriance of the land-named the place "Costa Rica" ("Rich Coast"). On September 25, Columbus' arrival is commemorated with a brilliant flag parade and school bands from the Limón central canton.
Home to a mix of cultures, this community features varied local and international cuisine and all kinds of facilities for touring the National Park located here. Companies offer tours to the reef and to other parts of Talamanca and the surrounding area. Places for enjoying music are also available.
PLAYA BLANCA (CAHUITA)
Named "White Beach" for the color of its sand, Playa Blanca is part of Cahuita National Park, stretching some three kilometers from the park entrance to Punta Cahuita. The initial stretch of this narrow beach features a shelf and strong surf; swimming is not recommended here. Toward its middle stretch, before the Río Suárez estuary, however, swimming is ideal. After crossing the estuary, the presence of a fringing coral reef offshore transforms the beach into a vast lagoon. On the point, the sand is very light in color. Here the reef is close in; visitors can dive in its waters, or continue some two kilometers more to Puerto Vargas.
Like Cahuita, the town of Puerto Viejo offers many facilities to ensure an enjoyable visit. Lodging and travel companies and a tour guide association offer trips to other areas of Talamanca. There are also excellent restaurants featuring local and international cuisine, as well as varied nightlife offering traditional music and dancing from the Costa Rican Caribbean.
PUERTO VIEJO BEACHES
Puerto Viejo sits on a point or cape made up mainly of coral platforms, so several areas here are not suitable for swimming. However, there are other spots with white sand and convenient cafes that are ideal for enjoying the ocean. These places are referred to by the names of certain people or establishments residing or situated on the beach; thus, the beach in front of Manuel León's property is called Chinese Beach, and the beach in front of Stanford's Restaurant is named after this establishment.
Though small, both these beaches are well frequented by ocean lovers. From here to the south, at a place called Punta Pirriplí, is the famous Salsa Brava wave, one of the best surf spots on the entire Caribbean coast and host to international surfing contests. Dive shops and companies offering tours to the reef can also be found in front of these beaches.
KEKÖLDI INDIGENOUS RESERVATION
Located close to Puerto Viejo, this reservation is of great importance due to the activities it promotes. The Bribri indigenous people who live on the reservation offer several facilities and items of interest to tourists, including a green iguana farm and indigenous handicrafts such as wooden bows and arrows, handbags, nets, hammocks and baskets. The reservation features trails for enjoying its lush vegetation and wildlife, as well as two observation towers for bird-watching, particularly of raptors migrating north and south during the months of January, February, October and November. A total of 17 raptor species have been observed here, including eagles, sparrow hawks and falcons; sightings of thousands of birds per day make for a spectacular phenomenon. Finally, the stunning Río Cocles waterfall is located within the reservation and may be visited with local guides.
YORQUÍN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY
Yorquín or Yorkín is the name of a river with its headwaters on the Panamanian side of La Amistad International Park. Up this river is the Yorquín indigenous community, where visitor facilities allow for a unique experience that combines the beauty of the river with learning about and integrating into this exemplary community, which grows its own food and trades bananas and cacao for other products. From here, other places may be visited such as Cerro Buena Vista, hot springs and waterfalls. The Yorquín also make handicrafts that may be purchased as souvenirs.