Cahuita, Costa Rica

An Adult Return to Cahuita

Pueblo Signs
Business is noticeable along the road that leads to Playa Negra.
Jungle Trail
Hikers walk along the narrow, green trail at the beginning of PN Cahuita.
a coastal micado
Logs felled by the devastating passage of cyclones along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Cahuita-Costa Rica-Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey contemplates the scenario from a branch of PN Cahuita.
divine tropical
Almost amphibious tropical vegetation that precedes Punta Cahuita.
yellow mouth
Viper rests on a palm tree on the way to Punta Cahuita.
Punta Cahuita del Ar
Beach and coral bank off Punta Cahuita, the point of the homonymous National Park that serves as the end of the hike.
two finger sloth
Laziness enjoys the world upside down as it does most of its life.
Park walkway
Hiker crosses a walkway that leads to Punta Cahuita from PN Cahuita.
Raccoon Or Mapache
Specimen of one of the rapacious and opportunistic mammals that patrol the PN Cahuita.
Playa Negra misty
Bathers lost in the mist that irrigates the threshold vegetation of Playa Negra.
animal traction
Esquilo claims his territory in one of the countless trees along the trail of PN Cahuita.
Tropical Casual
Post-sunset blues the tropical backdrop of Cahuita's seafront.
Rusty Landings
Terns rest on the supports of an old anchorage in PN Cahuita destroyed by storms.
Blue Duo
Boyfriends chat at one end of Playa Negra.
During a backpacking tour of Costa Rica in 2003, the Caribbean warmth of Cahuita delights us. In 2021, after 18 years, we return. In addition to an expected, but contained modernization and hispanization of the town, little else had changed.

When we cut off the main road, towards the sea and the village, Cahuita imposes new ways on us.

Surprises us.

The first time we visited it, we arrived on an old bus and we can't even remember where we entered the hamlet. This time, Cahuita was showing off, gaily, in the form of those iconic letters that came out there, and continue to take over the World.

This virus has also spread throughout Costa Rica.

With the country still closed, a group of residents decided to fight the stagnation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and beautify their land with the adornment that so many other typical places were already proud of.

They endowed it with pink, yellow, and blue underwear letters. The “C” serving as a landing for a toucan, also multicolored.

We found a grid of streets, instead of badly beaten and muddy earth, which was almost completely paved. Bigger and more oppressive bars and restaurants that clashed with the humble businesses of yesteryear.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, Signs

We settled in one of these Smith Cabins, now, as then, humble and cheap accommodation.

After a brief rest, we left in a nostalgic mode, in search of the Cahuita that had enchanted us and that we wanted to recognize.

We remembered that we had stayed in a room right on the edge of the Caribbean Sea, only protected from the swell by a wide, compact reef.

We identified Playa Negra and the soccer field where we joined a match played by the natives. We sat on the terrace of a bar, watching the parade of tones with which the afterglow dyed the Caribbean.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, dusk

we had dinner married habitual.

Destroyed by almost the entire day trip from the capital San Jose, by the route 32, in eternal works of enlargement, we sleep earlier than usual.

The next morning, one of the first things we notice is the apparent disappearance of Afro residents.

In the almost two decades that have passed, the local rasta community who had approached us over and over again seemed absent, according to a new ethnicity of Cahuita, readjusted to the white-Creole predominance of the Tica nation.

We are surprised only and only what is necessary. We were eager to see how much the wild surroundings of the village would have changed.


Back to the stunning Cahuita National Park

Cahuita was, after all, also the name of a national park, one of the first created in the country, in 1970, to protect the vast and prolific offshore coral reef.

At mid-morning, we point to Playa Blanca where the authorities have installed the little house for the SINAC – National Conservation Areas System, in a strategic place to avoid unauthorized incursions, with the sea ahead.

And Kelly Creek behind, inaugurating the mangrove and wetland area, habitat for crocodiles, turtles and countless iguanas, in the image of the still wider Tortuguero to the north.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, Trail

Once the protocols have been complied with, we head to the narrow trail, open a few meters into the sand and, as such, allows hikers to keep an eye on both environments:

the marine, full of coconut trees and almond trees, from the tropical ones, the favorite trees of the macaws. And the forest that separated and protected us from the elusive Rio Suarez.

We already had two months of exploring Costa Rica, its parks, its fauna.

Even without a guide, in a few minutes, we detected a sloth clinging to a tall log.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, laziness

Sloths, Monkeys and Raccoons. Part of a very active fauna

It was yellowish, with two fingers, as we had already learned to distinguish them from the three, these, with gray fur and a black “mask” around their eyes, which makes them look like criminals.

We progress along the trail. Moments later, we come across the first gang of opportunistic primates, white-faced capuchin monkeys, attentive to any slip and exposure of food by walkers and bathers on the beach.

Apes targeted humans by their aerial paths of trunks and branches.

At ground level, the raccoons (mapaches, as the Costa Ricans call them) were also trying their luck, with the same “masked” eyes as the three-toed sloths, but much more disturbed and intrusive.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, raccoon

In this communion with the fauna site, we arrived at the mouth of the Suárez river.

We unveil the open entrance to the wetland.

And we remember the exact place where, in February 2003, Sara had been attacked and bitten by a pack of bloodthirsty mosquitoes that only a run and dive in the sea had saved her.

With very itchy damage.

From the mouth of the Rio Suarez, towards Punta Cahuita. In vain.

We crossed the river. We continue along the north side of the peninsula of Cahuita. From the mouth of Suarez onwards, the trail advances closer to the beach. Often by the beach.

The intimacy with the Caribbean Sea reveals the damage caused by the hurricanes that, in recent years, have hit Honduras more frequently, the Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, the last two countries, already considered outside the usual Caribbean trajectories of cyclones.

We found out how, compared to 2003, the beach had retreated and even disappeared. And like a profusion of large, criss-crossed trunks it stretched out like a strange arboreal micade.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, trunks

We remembered the high point of the hike, the most tropical.

In fact, we were already looking forward to the reward of the stunning Punta Cahuita. It would not be that afternoon that we would get there.

An old cement tank distracts us, a legacy of still boiling waters from an already more than secular oil prospecting that, fortunately for the Costa Rican environment, ended up hanging around.

At a certain point from Playa Blanca, the trail takes us into the peninsula and the forest.

It gives way to a long walkway raised over the flooded ground, with a post for shade and rest in the middle.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, footbridge

A Howling Community of Howler Monkeys

We quench our thirst and recompose our backpacks when a familiar roar, which we have never heard so close and withering, stuns us.

We advance on the bridge. After another few dozen meters, we find ourselves in the middle of a herd of howling monkeys, in a sleepy sociality, little disturbed by the observation of the walkers who gathered below.

One after the other, in disorganized choruses, their roars echoed through the forest. They penetrated, in such a way, into the ears and brains of the humans that they were limited to observing the open and trembling mouths of the singers.

Lost in amazement, one spectator did not notice that one of the monkeys had moved to a log above her. She noticed it when the ape trapped her with a discharge of urine.

In a similar amazement, between photography and video, we observe and document them until almost four in the afternoon.

Unexpectedly, at this hour, Lili Dias, a SINAC park guard, appeared on the opposite side of the walkway.

Little by little, with more determination than the patience of tico, swept all the visitors he encountered along the way, to the entrance to Kelly Creek.

To the Rediscovery of Playa Negra. And, Back to Cahuita Park

We return to the coast of Playa Negra. We found it full of Costa Ricans and foreigners enjoying the last hours of Saturday, animated by reggaeton and other Caribbean rhythms, passed by any DJ, in a bar across the road.

We walked, enchanted by the atmosphere of rumbling bathing the one that not even the sudden new purple twilight removed magic.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, fog

We repeated the previous night's energy recovery formula. Tired of successive walks, we wake up again around nine.

As soon as we did, we re-entered the park, mindful of going as straight as possible to where guard Lili Dias had kidnapped us, almost 4km past the entrance to Kelly Creek.

We're back to spotting sloths and raccoons. The howling monkey clan, this one, had moved elsewhere.

A Lush Eyelash Serpent

Once again deep in the jungle, a native guide notices the observant effort in which we were walking.

Resolve to reward us. “Friends, as I am, I make sure you finish the journey as happy as possible. I'm going to show you something you didn't notice.”

We salute him, intrigued by the unexpected approach.

The guide points us to the branches of a low palm tree. In them, very coiled, was a yellow snake, a mouth, so the guide informed us that his name was Hispanic, known in Portuguese as a viper.

Poisonous, dangerous, the snake remained, at that time, inactive.

Her sleep allowed us to photograph her up close. And a neighboring squirrel circling around, furious at such an intrusion into his domain.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, squirrel

We continue.

The trail reveals a new opening for Playa Blanca, a stretch that was once served by a jetty that the hurricanes completely pulled out.

There were rusty ruins from the posts now, convenient landings for a flock of terns.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, terns

Punta Cahuita's Final Rewarding Stop

After four kilometers, we reach Punta Cahuita. It seemed to us shrunken, devoid of many of the coconut trees that had sprouted before it.

For the rest, it rests on the same coral sand, surrounded by the same emerald green and translucent Caribbean Sea, driven by currents intensified by the tide.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, Punta Cahuita

We got into the water.

We let the bodies float and relax from the tension that walking and photographic equipment forced them to.

We celebrate the return to that extreme of Costa Rica that we have long held as special.

Almost an hour of relaxation later, Lili Dias reappears from the extension of the trail that came from the opposite side of the peninsula, from the entrance to the park of Puerto Vargas.

Cahuita, Costa Rica, Caribbean, beach

We salute you. We leave the good-good warmed up.

In a pleasant conversation with the guard, we completed the final return to Cahuita.


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