Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 1: The Soothing Caribbean

Destination: Cahuita

Deserted beaches in Puerto VargasThere are several recent landslides scooped up out of the road along the Braulio Carrillo highway that leads to Limon and other eastern destinations. The rivers are full and running -- the rainy season has begun. Mud, tracked by car tires for more than 300 feet, covers a long stretch of road resulting from a large landslide just a few days ago.

The Rio Sucio is more diluted today and not as brown as during the drier months, but either way, it's worth the time to park after crossing the River and walk back over the bridge. Two rivers, of two very different colors, converge here. The Rio Sucio is brown and the other is blue-green.

After passing Limon, I stop for gas at the closest and final gas station (or bomba) to Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. There are no gas stations, I learned from a previous trip, in Puerto Viejo or Cahuita, so I fill up my tank at the "Servicentro Penishurt", about 9km north of Cahuita.

The roads have deteriorated since I passed through here only a few weeks ago. There are more potholes and some have grown in girth and deepness. I try to avoid as many as I can. The road is especially pot holey after you pass the multi-colored painted palm trees on the left.

Noni fruitLately, it has been raining heavily in the mornings, but the afternoons have been humid and sunny and I time my arrival just right for the heat of the day. Lidia's Cafe serves a decent casado (plate of the day consisting of rice, beans, salad and your choice of fish or meat) for 1800 CRC (less than $4) and they have a variety of fresh tropical fruit drinks available blended with milk or water. I choose my favorite- guanabana.

I have a few business acquaintances to meet this afternoon in Puerto Viejo before I head back to Cahuita, where my hotel for the night is located. I briefly stop to check out the scorching hot, black sand beach across from Kaya's Place. The sand is so hot you need shoes, but the sun feels oh so good.

Poolside gardens at Puerto ViejoOn the way back to Cahuita, I stop to check out Puerto Vargas -- the southern entrance to Cahuita National Park where all cars must pay an admission fee. Often un-crowded, the beaches here are pristine and beautiful. There are many beachfront campsites available with picnic tables, running water and pit latrines. The road ends shortly before the actual Cahuita Point, but a foot trail continues to the Point all the way Kelly Creek, the entrance station in Cahuita. There are easily accessed coral reefs at the Point, but caution should be used to keep from walking on the reef as you enter the water. Find gaps in the rocks until it is deep enough to float on your belly and continue outward from there. There are usually white-throated capuchin monkeys congregated under the Noni trees at Cahuita Point. They are overly acclimated to humans and appear friendly, but don't touch or feed them. They can and will bite. Great photo opportunities though.

My hotel for the night is the new La Diosa, located along Playa Grande, just a little north of Cahuita and its Playa Negra (reached by following road that parallels the beach from Cahuita to Tuba Creek, where it dead ends). La Diosa has 10 brightly painted rooms/cabinas sleeping anywhere from 1 to 6 or more people. All rooms have comfy beds, air conditioning and some even have a jacuzzi tubs.

The nicely kept gardens gently border the rocky shore that pounds with the ocean's surf. What was once living coral reef is now a rocky shore exposed by an earthquake 10+ years ago. Now, new, revitalized coral lives beneath the surface, causing waves to churn in unpredictable patterns offshore.

Dinner in Cahuita on a Sunday night is a mellow experience. I love that many bars in the south Caribbean play soca music. Soca, originally known as solka, is a creative mix of Calypso and Indian music. It is a groovn' kind of music that jives with the South Caribbean's natural rhythm.

Day 1: The Soothing Caribbean in Pictures