Visiting Limon Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Caribbean side has a unique atmosphere and a fascinating history. Limon is largely known for its creole and black population. It has evolved separately from the rest of Costa Rica for many years and so developed its own styles, languages, and ways of life. During the Spanish colonization, Limon was spared because of its extreme temperatures as well as indigenous resistance. Because of this, it feels almost like a different country! Limon is both the name of the province and the capital. It is by far the most culturally diverse province in Costa Rica. The indigenous as well as black populations still inhabit this part of Costa Rica. The combination of past slavery, Jamaican workers and the indigenous culture, has turned Limon into an extremely varied cultural treasure.
The vibrant and culturally eclectic capital of Limon is a must visit. The museums and gorgeous architecture will draw you in but the everyday life and its people will make you want to stay. Here you can best experience the Afro-Caribbean culture that so strongly defines these parts of Costa Rica. If you are lucky, you might not even have to visit a national park to see one of Costa Rica’s most famous residents. The sloths can sometimes be seen climbing the palm trees in town!
A large amount of the Afro-Caribbean Population was forcibly brought to Limon through the slave trade. To many it influenced the new way of life the Costa Rica’s Caribbean is now known for. Later on, particularly during the 19th century, workers were hired from nearby islands like Jamaica. This is why English Creole is now a dominant language. If you want to experience this unique blend of cultures, you can so at the annual Carnival festival. It takes place in mid-October and lasts for 12 days.
Tortuguero National Park
As the name suggests, this is the place you visit when you want to spot turtles. If you plan on doing some hiking, you should visit Cahuita National Park instead. Tortuguero is best explored by the canals that map out the park. The Leatherback, Green sea turtles and Hawksbill are commonly spotted.
Cahuita National Park
This stunning National Park is often overseen. The fact that Cahuita is a little less visited can benefit you greatly. With 55,000 acres of protected waters, some of Cahuita’s magic is definitely seen under water. Cahuita National Park has 600 acres of living coral reef. So snorkeling enthusiasts will want to put this gem on their list!
Costa Rica and Panama both share the majestic Talamanca mountain range. Untouched by Spanish colonization, these mountains are still home to indigenous groups. It includes the stunning Chirripó National Park which encompasses three provinces–Limon, San Jose and Cartago. Cerro Chirripó, after which the park is named, stands proudly at 3,820 metres. The highest peak in Costa Rica! The other National Parks as part of Talamanca are The Cordillera de Talamanca and La Amistad national parks. They have both been designated by UNESCO a World Heritage site.
Other than Puerto Limon, there are several more towns worth your time. Siquirres is the perfect little town for the traveler looking to get away from booming tourism. Make sure to look into the Bana tours in this region as they can offer you a unique insight into Costa Rica’s agriculture. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is closer to a party town. Still colorful in its traditions, but also suitable for those who like a good bar and some dancing. Not to mention the gorgeous beaches! Guápiles is the first major town you hit when you travel from San Jose to Puerto Limon. The town has become a little busy now but still maintains some traditional values. Especially in its banana plantations.
Visit between February-March or September-October: The rainy and dry seasons in Caribbean province of Costa Rica is different than the Pacific Side. Limon’s dry season is between February-March and September-October. However Limon and its surrounding area is hot and humid all year round, so anytime is a good time to visit. If hiking is your focus, you should visit during the dry season.
Attend the Carnival Festival: Costa Rica has stunning nature but we shouldn’t forget the people and its traditions! With the abundance of Afro-Caribbean lifestyles, the annual Carnival Festival is definitely worth a visit.
Visit nearby towns: The nearby town of Puerto Viejo is a great locations for those who love the laid-back Tico lifestyle as well as a good party. Some of the other towns offer more remote but also offer great traditional value.
Cross the border: Limon is not very far from the Panama border. In fact, you can book a shuttle straight to Bocas del Toro. A paradise for those in love with Caribbean beaches!
Puerto Limon is located at around 160 km east from San Jose. You can take private as well as shared shuttles. Your best option, however, would be to rent a car. This way you get the freedom to explore the whole of Limon and even the more remote locations.
For some of the best food in Limon with a great selection of local dishes (including the famous casado), visit Soda El Patty in Puerto Limon. If you desire some international dishes as well, definitely book a table at Red Snapper. At Kalisi Coffee Shop, you can combine a super casual (and local!) atmosphere with amazing food. Don’t forget to try the traditional “rice and beans” while you’re on the Caribbean side. It is a wildly popular dish that features coconut rice.
Where to stay
Limon doesn’t have a huge selection of hotels but the ones that are there, are both charming and comfortable. The Tree House Lodge, is true to its name and has a number of small lodges that look exactly like a luxurious tree house. It is surrounded by lush, tropical rain forest and is bound to please the nature lover. If you want to be closer to the action, you might like, Shawanda lodge or Hotel Banana Azul. They are located in the vibrant and stunning Puerto Viejo.