Costa Rica's Caribbean province of Limon runs 125 miles (200 km), from the northern Nicaraguan border to the southern border with Panama. Exotic nature reserves, such as the famous Tortuguero National Park, beckon adventurous travelers, while alluring southern beaches allow visitors to relax in an easy Caribbean vibe. With a mesh of Tico and Afro-Caribbean culture, Limon Province displays a unique side of Costa Rica.
The Best of Caribbean Coast
Known for its laidback attitude and famous for it's surfing, Puerto Viejo beckons visitors to come experience Costa Rica’s eccentric side. The village’s cultural influences are interesting to be sure: a mix of Afro-Caribbean, Bribri Indian, tico and hippyesque counterculture, this small port town is an anthropological study in itself. A mere 11 miles from Cahuita, Puerto Viejo is accessible via Highway 36 or by simply walking south, along the beach.
Located in Costa Rica's southeastern Talmanca region is the large Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge, a collection of rainforest and wetland habitat complete with a coral reef. At 23,348 total acres , this vast refuge begins south of Punta Uva-3 miles south of Puerto Viejo-until it runs into the Sixaola River at the Panamanian boarder. Besides Cahuita, this park is the only other place in the country with a coral reef.
Once a completely isolated frontier land, the eastern-most province of Limon was given a breath of life after the establishment of a seaport at Puerto Limon on the central coast. In 1867, authorities decided that an Atlantic port was needed to export bananas from the region's booming plantations to markets around the world. As the story goes, a solitary lemon (limón in Spanish) tree was growing at the proposed site and gave the port its name. The consequent establishment of Puerto Limon and construction of a railway to San Jose opened a near-abandoned province to the rest of the country. While the railroad no longer exists, the paved Guapiles Highway (Hwy 32) provides easy access, linking the Caribbean to the rest of the country.
Traveling north from Limon, forlorn Caribbean beaches and exotic nature reserves beckon adventurous travelers to explore areas often overlooked beauty and wildlife. The smooth alluvial plain, which extends westward from the Atlantic coast to the mountain ranges of Costa Rica's heartland, provides an ideal location for the villages that dot Highway 32's descend from the Central Highlands. Banana plantations envelop much of the surrounding terrain, as do thick rainforests, which grow in density with every step northward. The region's climate is undoubtedly sustained by Costa Rica's highest annual rainfall averages. It's no wonder that some of the most ecologically diverse parks in the country are located in Limon's northeast (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre, Barra del Colorado, and Parque Nacional Tortuguero.) Here, swampland encompasses such an immense area that parks such as Tortuguero are only accessible by plane or motorboat.
Rains are spawned by trade winds off the Caribbean, and they fuel the dense forests that give sanctuary to the region's diverse flora and fauna. These Atlantic fronts, referred to as "temporales del Atlantico," often last for days, especially during the rainy season, which stretches from mid April through December. Here, humidity is more pronounced as a result of heavy and moist air that hovers over the Caribbean Sea. However, in spite of the storm fronts that whisk over the region, Limon is frequented by enough pleasant sunshine to forgive the rain. In fact, the months of February and March may be spared of rainfall altogether. The dry season often experiences weeklong periods devoid of a single drop.
South of Puerto Limon, the Talamanca Mountain Range makes its way toward the coast. The region derives its name, Talamanca, from these overbearing mountains, which forever cast their shadow on the coastal hamlets below. In this area, Cahuita National Park, with its translucent blue-green water, hosts a great coral reef for those interested in snorkeling or scuba diving. The Jamaican roots of Cahuita's inhabitants heavily influence the easy-going culture of this costal village.
Further south, Puerto Viejo prides itself as the best surfing spot on Coast Rica's Caribbean. It's reputation is well-deserved thanks to fabulous surfs that barrel thier way along the shore. Puerto Viejo's tiny coastal hamlet is popular with the alternative crowd, as well as surfers. The nightlife presents an interesting mix of Afro-Caribbean, indigenous, Tico, and foreign culture that mesh together at the town's discos.
Perhaps the greatest draw for visitors to the province of Limon is a distinct multiculturalism that's unique to the region. Approximately one-third of the population is black, primarily of Jamaican descent, and many indigenous Bribri and Cabecar people live among the Talamanca areas. Limon's multicultural dynamic can be found up and down the Carribean coast of Costa Rica.
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