Costa Rica's

CAHUITA

Global Mark : 14.44

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 4 5 3 3 1 5 3 3 13.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
18 94%(17) 89%(16) 100% 9 to 20 15.39


Description : A relaxed Afro-Caribbean village by a black-sand beach and a national park

Comment : Most travelers enjoy the place and cultural change but Cahuita is one of those places in Costa Rica where you may feel a bit uneasy. Paradise, this is not !

What to do ? Get a free map of town / Alternatively, check the colorful 3D map on a wall opposite of the bus stop / Feel the slow pace of the village / Talk English with the Afro locals / Take it easy, man ! / Enjoy reggae or something else / Splash in the big waves or surf them (surf season from Nov to March) / Lye down on black or white sand / Dream at beautiful sunset / Scares tons of crabs / Listen to and spot howler monkeys / Walk below massive trees along massive roots / Degust & enjoy Caribbean food (what a great change !) / Cool down by a beer / Play dominos 

What you may not like ? The mosquitoes and sand flies (some carrying a nasty sloth disease) / Spotting relatively little wildlife (especially after Manuel Antonio) / Walking the trail in the high season and possibly spot as many tourists as crabs / The drug scene and related safety issues (see below) / The girl's sexual harassment / Some pushy beggars & weirdoes / The higher cost for accomodation and food / The limited supply of Sgl rooms / The narrow black-sand beach / The need to exert caution in the water : strong rip tides / The unsecured tap water (some said it was ok to drink but others warned against it : until the government improve things, best to invest in purified water !) / The confusing bus schedules

Where to stay ? There are a fair number of places to stay but prices are slightly higher here than in other place and the offer usually limited to a double room. Prices below are for low season. Expect a 20% increase in the high season

- In the village :

  • ® Cabinas Smith (7550068), two streets N of bus stop, on the right / $5(1) or 8(2), w. shower 10(1) or 12(2) / Go there for the cheapest rates in town, the correct setting in a garden and the lovely rooms w. HW shower / What you may not like : the cheapest aren't spotless
  • Backpacker's Rooms (7550174), turn left after the above / $6 (1) or 10(2), w. shower 7(1) or 11(2) / Go there for the cheapest rates w. shower and the correct rooms / What you may not like : the house is tiny, the garden messy (the owner was building a meeting room so probably better later) and it should be noisy if full. 
  • ® Cabinas Arrecife (7550081), opp. the above / w. HW shower $15 (1) or 20(2) / Go there for the nice and spotless rooms, the relaxed terrace w. sea view and the good setting with a garden by the ocean / What you may not like : no real beach and a bit more expensive
  • Cabinas Brisas Del Mar (7550174), , nearby, East of the school / w. HW shower $15 (1 or 2) / Go there for the relative isolation near the sea, the nice garden and the correct rooms / What you may not like : the rooms are slightly more basic 
  • Cabinas Surfside (7550246), opp. the school / w. HW shower $12 (1 or 2) / Go there for the correct rooms at good prices if two / What you may not like : the setting is rather charmless and the concrete rooms nothing special
  • Cabinas Palmer (7550243), on the road east of the bus stop / $12(1), 16(2) r 21(3) w. HW shower / Overpriced as rather basic and grungy.
  • Cabinas Safari, opp the above / w. HW shower $15(1) or 20(2) / Go there to check the rooms as nobody was around. / The annex Cuartos Jabirus nearby (turn left) for $7(1) or 12(2). Check it out and let me know...
  • Cabinas Papi Tosky (7550122), turn left after the above / w. HW shower C4000 (1 or 2), add $5 p.p. extra / Kitchen / Go there for the large rooms at correct prices / What you may not like : it is basic and rather empty
  • ® Cabinas Jenny (7550256), straight ahead, by the sea / w. shower downstairs $12, upstairs $20 (up to 4 people) / HS (Dec to Santa Semana) 25 & 30 / Free water / Go there for the great setting by the sea and the lovely upstairs rooms w. high ceiling fan , mosquito net and relaxing terrace w. hammock /  What you may not like : the grungy downstairs rooms w. bunk bed (up to 4), the high season prices and the apparent drug scene in the area
  • ® Cabinas Seaside "Nan Nan" (7550027), opp. the above / w. shower downstairs $10(1), 12(2), w. HW shower upstairs $20, w. kitchen $20 (but reserved for 15 days min) / Kitchen shared by the owner / Go there for the great setting by the sea, the hammocks between palm trees and the acceptable rooms / What you may not like : the rooms are rather basic and it is not spotless
  • Cabinas Vaz (7550218), a bit S of bus stop on main road, near the NP entrance / w. shower 3000(1) or 4000(2) /, 6000 (3) / Go there for the correct rooms in the village center / What you may not like : it is big and the environment is a bit noisy
  • ® Cabinas Sol Y Mar ((7550237), after the above / w. HW shower $10(1) or 12(2), bigger 16(2), 21(3) or 25(4) / Cheaper in LS / Go there for the lovely, bright  & clean rooms w. some decoration, in two different building (huge rooms in the first one) at good prices / What you may not like : there are a few dogs around and the terrace view is limited
  • Other cabinas & hotels in this area to check out 

- Black Sand Beach area, from the village :

  • ® Cabinas Tito (7550286), 250 m S-W of Police Station, small road on the left / bungalows w. shower $10(1) or 15(2) / HS 15(1) or 20(2) / Add. $5 p.p. if more / Go there for the great setting in a lovely garden, the good concrete bungalows, the good location near the village and the quietness / What you may not like : the bungalow w. kitchen is usually reserved for longer stay
  • El Encanto Inn (7550113, enanto@racsa.co.cr), just after the above / Very expensive place, clearly outside the backpacker's market but one great house (up to 6 people) w. fully equipped kitchen and lovely terraces. If you can fork out the $110 ($140 in HS + 16% tax), this would be an excellent family retreat ! / Western management
  • Cabinas Margarita (7550205), 200m toward the Limon road, after Pizzeria Cactus / w. shower 2000 p.p. / Go there for the Afro-community atmosphere and the correct rooms at good Sgl rate / What you may not like : the setting isn't nice and the surroundings could be noisy
  • Cabinas Colibri Paradise (7550055), road just before the football field, 200m away / Go there to check the place as was closed when I was there
  • Cabinas Vishnu (7550292), just after the above, no sign / One bungalow only $25(2) or 30(3), HS 35 & 40 / Go there for the family atmosphere (Afro-Swiss management) and the huge bungalow, well equipped w. kitchen & stereo / What you may not like : it is a bit remote, the path is not lighten, the family could be noisy and it isn't cheap
  • Cabinas Reggae Bar, a bit after the football field / w. shower $15 (1 or 2) or 20(3) / Dirty, messy and expensive but reggae atmosphere...
  • Cabinas Brigitte, next road on the left, toward Cabinas Iguana (lot's of signs) / $20 p.p. w. breakfast / Expensive but one bungalow only in a nice little garden. Should be nice but was full when I was there.
  • Cabinas Mambo, a bit after the above / Looked lovely but nobody was around. Check it out...
  • Cabinas Jossy, right of the above / $10 (1 or 2) without shower / Was full but looked very messy and unfriendly
  • ® Cabinas Iguana & Jardin Tropical (7550005, iguanas@sol.racsa.co.cr), after the above / Austrian management / Nobody was there but should be $12(1) or 15(2) without shower (HS 15 & 20) and $25-40 for bungalow w. kitchen / Mosquito Net / Common HW shower / Go there for the charming swimming pool, the wooden spotless rooms and the friendly services and atmosphere / What you may not like : it isn't cheap and rather big
  • Cabinas Nirvana (7550110), by the above / Go there to check the prices as it was obvious I was disturbing them with my questions. The rooms looked correct w. mosquito net but the garden was not too nice.

Where to eat ? A number of restaurants in the village or by the beach. In the village, the best deal is probably the small place by Caribbean Roots : Soda Dona Ana (Miss Mary) probably serves the best rice & bean (w. coconut milk) in town for C1000. It is well served and indeed very tasty ! As a whole, the village offers more budget choices than black sand area.


Backpacker's Tips : Rodrigo González Mera, Chile (April 03)
« Cabinas "Papitosky", 10 US$ with bath for 1 person, rooms are not clean, no kitchen for the moment, no towel, check out time: 10:30 AM, in my opinion not recommendable / Cabinas "Sol y Mar", 7 US$ with bath for 1 person, very clean rooms, good restaurant for breakfast, you receive towel, you can get some discount for 2 night, very recommendable / Restaurant: Palenque Luisa: taste and large casados for 1.200 colones with a coke; Típico Cahuita: taste and large casados for 1.700 colones with a coke / Bus: Airport - San José: 220 colones yellow bus, left near Merced Church; Taxi Merced Church - Terminal Caribe: 450 colones; San José - Cahuita : 2.185 colones / If you want to go to the beach you have to pay the donation at the entrance of the park / The supermarket Vaz near of the cabinas Vaz (the same owners) is the cheapest » 


Safety ?
As there is a drug scene (crack & the normal ganja), this is a serious issue around here ! Avoid walking too much after dark. The black-sand beach area is particularly unsafe : girls on their own would be better off staying in the village !

Internet ? Cabinas Palmer for $1 (15min min), $1.6 (30mn) and C20 the add. min / Cabinas Seaside for C500 (30mn) or C1000 (hour) / Cabinas Brigitte in the black-sand beach area for the same price

Change ? No bank in the village. Better to come with enough cash as the exchange rates are poor. Cabinas Safari handles this service but the commissions are huge : 1% for cash, 3% for TC and 12% for visa card. A fair number of GH will accept visa (just check that they do not revert you the add. cost !)

Tours ? Quite a few agencies in town offering the following excursions : snorkeling trip ($15), fishing ($35), dolphin watch ($35), horseback riding ($30-40), Bribri indigenous reserves ($35), river rafting ($100) and expeditions to Tortuguero National Park ($60 transport only or $120 for 2 days one night all included). Snorkeling equipment (C1500 per day), bike ($8 per day), surf or ATV also for rent.


A walk in the park ?
Visiting Cahuita National Park is, together with a taste of the Caribbean culture, the main reason to come here. It is one of the smallest park in Costa Rica but also one of the cheapest and easiest to visit. Everyone should enter via Cahuita's Kelly Creek entrance as it applies a "donate what you want" policy. From the Puerto Vargas entrance, it cost the usual $6.
Check the map of the park at the entrance and ask the ranger where the best swimming and snorkeling points are. Two places are really dangerous to swim : the first 200m at each entrance. The snorkeling is around the edge but most of the coral is dying due to the pouring of chemicals. The eastern side is supposedly the best as not as affected.
The 9km trail is an easy one, with a rather large path by the shore. 2km away from the entrance, the crossing of Rio Perezoso requires to get wet a bit. Another trail section was a bit muggy. Nothing too adventurous however...
There weren't too many wildlife to be spotted beside thousands of crabs (of different species) and a few lizards. Because of the waves, the forest life wasn't too audible as well. But it was a very enjoyable walk anyway, with some nice little beaches with palm trees along the way.
Eventually, a bit after the administration office, camping grounds, picnic places and showers, the road will turn right and head toward the highway and the Puerto Vargas entrance. This small section is probably where you are the most likely to spot howler monkeys. I spotted a large colony of a few dozens. Watch out for the moving trees or just listen : those are noisy enough animals !
You could catch a bus from the road back to Cahuita (6km away) or go back by the beach. It is not walkable all the way but you will have a nice enough sandy experience. Altogether count about 6 hours at a slow pace Another great day !

Leaving ? As usual, always double check with the locals as the schedules change regularly. Also, it is recommended to show up at the station half an hour before the "regular" schedule, to tell locals where you wish to go and to be ready for any bus showing. 
Direct to San Jose (C1695, 4 hours) at 7, 8, 9:30, 11:30, 14 (Frid & Sund only) & 16:30. C1695, 4 hours / To Puerto Limon (C300, 1 hour) at 6, 6:30, 9:30, 13:30, 16:30, 17 & 18 / To Sixaola (Panama Border, C600, 2 hours) at 6, 8, 9, 17 & 19. / To Manzanillo (C310, 1 hour) at 7, 15:30 & 18:30. / To Puerto Viejo (C175, 30mn), take any bus going to Sixaola or Manzanillo


The trip to Puerto Viejo : SSS / Left / C175 / 30mn
A fast and nice ride that required half an hour. And this was only because the driver was also the one handling all the tickets to the numerous people queuing at El Cruce, the turnoff for Sixaola, 5km before Puerto Viejo.

See also the trip from San Jose