Cahuita National Park
The Cahuita National Park begins east of the village. It is made up of 1,000 hectares of land including 14 kilometers of beaches, countless palm trees, dense forests and mangrove swamps. The park was established in 1970 to protect the 240-hectare coral reef which was threatened by pollution. Today this park is heavily visited because it is easy to reach, has beautiful beaches, acceptable hotels, rich fauna and good diving and snorkeling at its coral reef.
The best way to discover the beauty of the park is to hike. From Kelly Creek Ranger Station at the eastern end of Cahuita village, a seven-kilometer-long trail runs along the beach to Punta Vargas at the southern end of the park. On the way to the nearby rocky spit of land called Punta Cahuita hikers wade through the Rio Perezoso, a stream named after the sloth. Tannic acid from the trees and leaves of plants have dyed the water blackish-brown. The trail provides a pleasant hike that proceeds along the beach and dips further inland; it takes a total of two hours.
Those who pay close attention to nature are rewarded by glimpses of the park’s many animals. Pacas, raccoons, sloths, anteaters, agoutis, howler and capuchin monkeys, toucans, greenwinged macaws, hummingbirds, ibises, large Central American great currasows (Crax rubra) and macaws fill the forests and fly among the tree tops. The shores of the rivers are also alive with many fascinating creatures, including caimans, coatis and poisonous snakes. The beaches are full of sand crabs and frequently provide sun-warmed nests for turtles who lay their eggs in the sand.
Snorkeling is best at Punta Cahuita and Punta Vargas, for which the dry season provides the best conditions. During the rainy season the rivers of the Talamanca Mountains swell with the torrents of rain, washing mud and pesticides from the plantations into the sea, thereby polluting the water.
Snorkelers can discover some 40 different types of coral, including the easily identified brain and elkhorn coral. There are well over a hundred different sorts of fish, marked with an almost unbelievable variety of color and design, such as the iridescent, startlingly beautiful blue parrot fish. The pure, uninhibited fantasy of nature seems limitless. Snorkelers are delighted, but paddle away with great respect when they come face to face with a full-grown moray eel.