10.-13.02.2012: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Playa Cocles - Manzanillo - Cahuita NP

Click on a photo to enlarge it.

Having arrived at the Caribbean side of Costa Rica our first stop was to see Lisa. We met her years ago in Mexico and have kept in touch. Since then she has moved to Costa Rica and now runs a B&B "Hidden Jungle Backpackers" in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. We have been saying for some time that we would visit and now we have finally got here.

She gave us tips on what to do and see in the area and also arranged a place for two motor homes to park for the night at La Isla Inn which was a great help.

We walked along Playa Cocles the next morning and got photos of the local flora and fauna, had lunch at Punta Uva and then stayed at Playa Manzanillo for the night where we were visited by a gecko - inside Winnie! How he got in we don't know, but at least we managed to persuade him that he was better off outside!

Lizards fighting, spiders.

We could have spent more time in this area where thick emerald forests rim sandy beaches. The difference with the rest of Costa Rica is cultural because over a third of the population descends from English-speaking Jamaicans and Barbadians. An idyllic setting for coconut stews and Reggae music it draws the tourists so there are the typical tourists businesses vying for your dollars. Puerto Viejo is known to be a party town but there are plenty of places to chill out and avoid the crowds.

We met up with Lisa for Sunday lunch at "Bread and Chocolate", a very good restaurant in Puerto Viejo, and had the chance to catch up. Later we went back to her B&B and watched as Jorge got rid of a termite's nest in the jungle behind the main building. (see video)

Jorge burns down a termite nest.

We spent the following day in the Cahuita National Park which is one of the country's most visited parks. It is small but beautiful. Humidity nurtures a dense tropical foliage of coconut palms, mango trees and sea grapes. The forest skirts white sandy beaches on a tranquil bay.

Fantastic Cahuita National Park.

If we had had more time we would have spent an extra day here as there is so much wildlife to be seen. (We were three days behind on our plan for Central America but believed we would be able to catch up.) There is a well marked trail through the park (entrance fee for main entrance $10 or donation at northern entrance). There are also snorkelling tours on the coral reef for $25 per person for 2 hours and are only possible with a guide as they want to protect the reef. Best time is February to April.

We found a free spot on another beach further north of Cahuita called Playa Negra which we basically had to ourselves.