How to Spend 10 Days on Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast

Macaw | © tdlucas5000 / Flickr
Macaw | © tdlucas5000 / Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
13 November 2017

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is often described as “the other Costa Rica.” This gorgeous region has a totally unique vibe. The culture, beaches, flavors, infrastructure, and activities are quite different than what you find on the other side of the country. The opportunity to explore both sides is a real treat, but if you only have 10 days, here’s what to do on the Caribbean coast.

Day 1

Fly into the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. Take a Sansa flight from San Jose to Limon. Almonds and Corals, Hotel Banana Azul, and Selva Bananito Lodge are all exceptional boutique hotels to stay at while in the Southern Caribbean area.

Turtles love it here | © Pavel Kirillov / Flickr

Day 2

Hike through the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. This remote protected area is made up of pristine beaches, beautiful coves and caves, coral reefs, and dense rainforest. This refuge is home to 384 species of bird and a wide variety of orchids, among other unique rainforest plants and animals. The best way to explore this refuge is to walk through it. Between the rainforest and the beaches that make up the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, you can definitely spend a large portion of the day here.

Famous landmark | © Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr

Day 3

Go snorkeling. The Cahuita National Park is home to some of the most incredible coral reefs on the Caribbean coast. There is great snorkeling in the Gandoca-Manzanilla Wildlife Refuge, as well. Around 500 species of tropical fish make their home in these reefs. You must snorkel with a certified guide, but it is definitely worth it!

Keep your eyes open for manatees | © psyberartist / Flickr

Day 4

Visit the Sloth Sanctuary. It is located between Limon and Cahuita and is home to sick, injured, and abandoned sloths. Taking the Buttercup Tour or the Insider’s Tour will melt your heart. Sloths are some of the most adorable and docile mammals on Earth and are indigenous to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This will definitely be a hit with the animal lovers in your group.

Sloth, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica | © Michelle Callahan / Flickr

Day 5

Take a chocolate tour. The Caribbean region is famous for its chocolate and taking a chocolate tour is both delicious and educational. You will walk through a beautiful cacao farm, learn about the fascinating history and production of this worldwide favorite treat, and find out how cacao is turned into chocolate.

Chocolate trees | © Dennis Tang / Flickr

Day 6

Have a bike, beach, and booze day. The Caribbean coastline is flat and ideal for biking. After several days of adventuring and touring, a mellow beach and biking day is in order. You can cruise along the coastline, swim in the crystal-clear ocean, lounge beneath the palm trees, and end up in Puerto Viejo for happy hour and a night on the town.

Bike to the beach | © Adam Riggall / Flickr

Days 7, 8, and 9

Fly south. Fly Sansa from Limon to Tortuguero. You can access Tortuguero only by small plane or boat. It is the remoteness that makes this northern part of the Caribbean so magical. Tortuguero is famous for its national park, abundance and variety of birds, and sea turtles. While you are in Tortuguero, you should take a guided hike through the Tortuguero National Park, go on a birdwatching tour, and take a boat tour (kayak, canoe, or small motorized boat) through the Tortuguero canals and wetlands. Mawamba Lodge and Tortuga Lodge and Gardens are two amazing accommodation choices.

Colors of the Caribbean | © Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr

Day 10

Fly Sansa from Tortuguero back to the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose.

Up, up and away | © Bernal Saborio / Flickr

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