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Cahuita National Park snorkeling and hiking

Cahuita National Park snorkeling and hiking

Destination: Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Manzanillo

Highlights

  • See a variety of marine life while snorkeling off Cahuita Point
  • Explore the coastal forest while looking for animals

Facts

  • Location : Cahuita National Park
  • Hours : 8 a.m.
  • Price : $60 per person w/snack and transportation

The seafloor off the coast of Cahuita is as much a jungle as the rainforest, a coral forest of alien shapes and colors hiding bizarre creatures, tropical fish and crustaceans; home to sting rays, octopus and nurse sharks. Snorkeling and hiking tours through Cahuita National Park reveal both sides of this forest, above and below sea level.

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Full day tours depart from the Cahuita marina where visitors will jump in a small boat with an outdoor motor and head for the reefs off Cahuita Point inside the national park.  More than 35 different species of coral flourish in the cool, clear blue waters of Cahuita National Park, just underneath the boat. Throw on a pair of fins, a mask and snorkel then cast off the boat into the forest below.

At the first snorkel site, guides lead you along a wall of reef where Elkhorn coral grows like the antlers of a giant buck and thin, tissue-like fissures run through the grey matter of brain coral. Nearby fire, star and flower coral spiral and coil into the wall. Each coral hides a different subset of marine life like black sea urchins with long, black spikes, or zebra fish with flowing poisonous barbs swimming in the shade of a coral overhang.  Everywhere colorful schools of fish dart to and fro; shimmering blue jacks, rainbow parrot, trigger and blow fish.

Drop into the sea of the second snorkel site, just around the corner on the other side of Cahuita Point, and you'll land among clear shallow waters with a sandy floor; errant coral growing in the distance. Wade along the surface peering down and you may catch a glimpse of a pair of sting rays ruffling along the sandy bottom. Look closely among the coral and you might see the eyes of an octopus staring back at you – almost perfectly camouflaged into its background.  In this  area, it's not uncommon to see six – and seven- foot nurse sharks swimming off in the distance or just lying along the bottom of the seafloor, but don't worry they aren't aggressive.

After the second snorkel session, you'll land on the white-sand shores of Cahuita Point inside the national park where guides prepare a snack of pineapple and cookies while you relax and dry off. A trail wrapping around the point will lead you deeper into the national park on the next part of the adventure. Traverse the hard-packed sand trail through the coastal rainforest replete with sea almond trees and trunks of dead palms. A thick canopy covers the trail, even when you're only a few feet from the shoreline. Pass through marshlands and secondary rainforest, past Cahuita's old pier (denoted by the old posts left standing in the water) and farms reclaimed by the forest, grown over with banana, mango and water apple trees.

Emerge from the forest along the shores of Playa Blanca, Cahuita's most famous beach renowned for its white sand.  Continue past the river delta while guides point out the fauna hiding among the foliage: two- and three-toed sloths; howler and capuchin monkeys; pit vipers, raccoons and tropical birds. After a mile-long hike through the forest, you'll reach the ranger station, where you'll check in, offer a donation to the park (if you're so inclined) and meet with the van for transportation back to your hotel.

Departure & Return

  • Departure point : Tour departs from all major hotels in Cahuita, Puerto Viejo Limon, Cocles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo
  • Departure time : Hotel pickup is between 20 and 50 minutes before tour start time depending on hotel location.
  • Return details : Tour returns to original departure point between three and four hours after tour start time

Cahuita National Park snorkeling and hiking in Pictures

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