Cahuita is a rustic alternative to the more touristic spots found further south. The town consists of a main street that runs off the highway and goes all the way to the ocean. Located here are a small selection of restaurants and bars and a bank and a grocery store. Leading away form the main street are mainly dusty dirt roads with guest houses and local residents.
There are two beaches within walking distance of Cahurita. They are Playa Negra, a dark sand beach that has good waves for beginner surfers, and Playa Blanco, a white sand beach located within the picturesque Cahuita National Park.
Cahuita is fairly straightforward to get to as it is located on a main highway (Route 36) that runs from Puerto Limon to the Panama border.
- 1 Terminal de Buses MEPE. Close to the center, so no need to head to the highway. All buses that go by Cahuita stop here.
There are several buses departing San José to Cahuita from 06:00 till 16:00. Typically, these buses have Sixaola (Costa Rica's border town on the border with Panama) as their destination. Note that San José has many bus terminals, and the location of the terminal from which buses to Cahuita and Sixaola leave may change. As of the late 2013, schedule and map brochures distributed by the tourist authorities in San José still showed Terminal del Caribe as these buses' point of origin, but the location has changed to the San Carlos bus terminal. Before traveling, try to get the latest update from the bus company or from your hotel.
According to schedules, the travel time from San José to Cahuita on a direct bus is 4 hours, but you should add at least 30 min. Although the buses are direct, they make a fairly long stop in Puerto Limon, where you can get a quick meal at a bus station restaurant.
By private shuttle
The town is fairly small and can easily be navigated by foot. For getting to the beaches and your accommodation however, you may prefer to rent a bicycle.
- 1 Aviarios del Caribe Wildlife Refuge (Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica) (10 km north of town. Take the local bus to Limon and get off 1 km after the bus crosses the two-lane iron-girdered bridge that spans the Río Estrella. There are big signs at the side of the road in both directions.). The worlds only sloth rehabilitation center. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to get up close to one of the world's least understood creatures. A tour lasts about 2 hours and includes a boat tour. Groups welcome. Drinks available in shop, but no food. You can also stay over night in big, clean rooms with or without A/C and have breakfast with the baby sloths. A double room without A/C costs US$96 (May 2009) including breakfast and a shorter tour (without the boat tour, which is US$20 extra). Tour/entrance fee is US$25 pp.
- 2 Playa Negra (Black Beach) (North of town). A decent swimming beach running for several kilomteres along the sea coast northwest of town. As the name suggest, the sand is dark-colored; it is also very fine, almost like mud; while the place is good for swimming, it is not particularly photogenic.
- 3 Cahuita National Park (Entrance south of the town center). This is actually one of the best national parks of Costa Rica. It has various different zones; beach, jungle, etc. and numerous and popular species. There is a also a little white-sand beach just inside the park entrance. The beach is much more photogenic than Playa Negra. If you walk to the Puerto Vargas ranger station on the opposite end of the park you can catch a public bus back to Cahuita—stand on the northbound side of the road when the bus approaches, ₡400 (Mar 2012). The trail from entrance to this exit is about 9 km, but can take 3-4 hr, depending on how much time you plan to spend identifying all the wildlife.
Either way, it is best to go in at around 7AM when no one is there to see some animals normally hiding after the park gets busy or just during the day. And in case you go back at noon, you can stop where-ever big groups gather, because they stop for viewing (mostly large) animals. Donation, US$5 recommended by park, but do not feel bad about paying only ₡1,000 or ₡2,000.
- Relax on the beaches around Cahuita during the day and have some drinks in the few bars in town. Playa Negra, a ten minute walk north of town on the main road, is good for swimming.
- 1 Tree of Life (Wildlife Rescue Center & Botanical Gardens), Playa Grande (2 km north of Cahuita center on big beach (follow the signs)), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. The botanical gardens have hundreds of different kinds of palms, heliconias, bromelias and many others. Visitors will experience an experience with the plants and animals of the tropical rain forest, nature walks under the canopy, many paved walkways, a beautiful beach in front of gardens, a nursery with export plants, close-up encounters with rescued animals and a gift shop. US$12.
There are a few gift shops in town that sell a range of local crafts and foods. For essentials, there is a small shopping strip next to the main bus station. Here you will find a bank (with ATM), fruit and vegetable shop, butcher, small supermarket, barber and a doctor.
Restaurants are pretty expensive for Latin America, with prices in line with those in the US (budget US$15-20 for a meal); many serve good local fish.
The is a popular and inexpensive soda about 300 m before the entrance to the national park.
There is lodging of all price ranges here. On Playa Negra you can camp for free right on the beach for one night or ask in the hostels if they allow you to pitch your tent in the yard for a couple of dollars. In exchange you can use their showers and restrooms.
- 1 El Encanto Bed & Breakfast, Playa Negra (Just north of town.), ☏ . Small, high quality hotel 5 minutes walking from the village and close to the Cahuita National Park where sloths, monkeys, birds and other types of wildlife can be seen. The beach is 100 m away. Double for US$60.
- [formerly dead link] Hotel Magellan Inn, Big Beach (Playa Grande, 200 m from the beach and 2.4 km from the center of town.), ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Comfortable, clean rooms with air condition, wi-fi, coffee makers, hot running water, big out door terraces over-looking beautiful exotic gardens and swimming pool settled in an ancient coral reef. Breakfast included. From US$50.
- La Piscina Natural, Playa Negra (approximately 2 km north of town), ☏ . Check-out: noon. Small hotel with five comfortable rooms with fans, hot water, and mosquito nets. Some units offer three beds. The garden is wonderfully landscaped with gorgeous views of the Caribbean. There is also a lovely, natural swimming pool on the property for which the hotel is named. Numerous hammocks hang from sprawling walnut trees which are inhabited by two tree sloths. Accepts cash only, colones or dollars. There is free coffee and use of community kitchen 06:00-11:00 every morning. Double US$35, triple $45.
- Secret Garden (Turn right from the busstation and follow the signs). Check-out: 11:00. Nice Dutch owned hostel. Clean rooms. Good location! US$9 per person.
- Hotel Jaguar, Playa Negra., ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This hotel has many rooms 100 m from the ocean, a restaurant with great food, and free WiFi. There is no air conditioning, but rooms are quite well ventilated and large.
Most hotels and even the soda have Wi-Fi.