Area:  3549.2 sq. miles
(Fourth province in size: 18% of national area)
Population:  432,923 (2000)
Main City:  Limon (Limón)
Population Density:  80,4 per square mile
Elevation:  10 feet
Average Temperature:  78.1°F
Annual Rainfall:  118-157 inches

History and General Information

The name of the province and the city of Limón comes from a unique lemon tree that was supposedly found in front of the governor’s office. Limón is perhaps most famous for being a landing spot for Christopher Columbus in 1502, but there is much more to the province than that. Before Columbus, there were a wide variety of native peoples living in the region. Among them were the Huétare, Pococie, Suerre, Tariaca, Terbi and Viecita tribes. In the latter half of the 17th century, cocoa became a popular crop in the Matina Valley. With the construction of a primitive railroad system in the late 1800’s, banana plantations soon became a more lucrative and popular agricultural choice. Today, the chief products of Limón are banana and palm-oil. The residents also grow pejibaye, cocoa, bamboo, beans, fruits, and coconuts. There is some cattle farming and fishing in the area as well.

Limón is unique from the rest of Costa Rica. Much of the culture has been heavily influenced by the Afro-Caribbean peoples that have migrated to the region over the years. You will find that the region is enriched with unique cuisine, customs and an overall laid-back attitude exclusive to Limón.

National Parks

Tortuguero National Park

The name Tortuguero is Spanish for “turtle-catcher”, and turtles are definitely the main attraction at the Tortuguero National Park. The Caribbean beaches are home to green sea, loggerhead, and hawkbill turtles. And from February to July, leatherbacks, the largest sea turtles in the world, can be found nesting there. But while the nesting sites are certainly immaculate spectacles, there is much more to see in Tortuguero. Eleven different habitats make up the Tortuguero National Park: high rainforest, littoral woodland, slope forest, swamp forest, holillo forest, herbaceous swamp and herbaceous lagoon. And that means that the labyrinth of canals and jungle is filled with tons of exotic birds, mammals and reptiles (including crocodiles and caiman).

The Tortuguero National Park has three main stations. The Cuatro Esquinas Headquarters is located in the north within the town of Tortuguero. From there, you can take the El Gavilan Trail to the beach or either the La Ceiba or the La Bomba trails which both lead to a scenic view atop Tortuguero Hill. There are campsites available in this area.

In the south is the Sector Jalova Station. Here you will find the Jalova Lagoon, near the town of Parismina. There are also beautiful nature trails that stem from at this station.

To the west, lies the Aguas Frias Station. From here the Los Raudales Nature Trail takes you up 1,000 feet to the breathtaking lookout point, Lomas del Sierpe.

Whatever your nature cravings might be, Tortuguero National Park has it all.

La Amistad International Park

Costa Rica and Panama share the responsibility of this massive, 990,717 acre park. The Costa Rica side, in Limón amounts to 479,209 of these protected acres. Due to its location and variance in altitude, La Amistad International Park houses some of the most diverse plant, animal and bird species in the world. In fact, about 2/3 of all of Costa Rica’s wildlife can be found in the park, including jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs, puma, coatis, peccaries, margay, ocelot, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, armadillos, pacas, deer, agoutis and over 500 species of birds.

This amazingly preserved spectacle of nature is virtually untouched, but there are several locations where visitors are allowed to camp. The rugged terrain has very few trails, so the accompaniment of a guide is strongly recommended. Indeed, La Amistad International Park is one of the last great natural reserves in the world, and certainly one of the most astounding.

Different regions of La Amistad can be explored at the several different National parks located in Limón:

Aviarios del Caribe Wildlife Refuge

A series of Canals and a lagoon make up this reserve for migratory birds. The Aviarios del Caribe Wildlife Refuge offers guided canoe tours, wooden boardwalks and observation platforms. This is truly a bird watcher’s paradise. One hour south of Limón.

Barbilla National Park

The Barbilla National Park is located in the Talamanca Mountain Range. The park serves to protect the Caribbean forests. It is also home to large portions of the Rio Dantas, Sector Dos Ramas, Laguna Ayil and Cerro Tigre rivers. Just 2 miles from the city of Siquirres.

Cahuita National Park

The Cahuita National Park serves to protect the southern Caribbean beaches and lowlands. An impressive coral reef and more than one species of sea turtle call this national park home. Scuba diving and Snorkeling are available to visitors. The park is located 4 miles from the city of Cahuita.

Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

Located between the Rio Cocles and the Rio Sixaola rivers, the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife reserve protects the beaches and lowlands up to the Panamanian border. Famous for its dolphins, manatees and sea turtles, the park is also home to a majestic coral reef, perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. The park is just outside of Punta Uva.

Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve

Protecting the foothills of the Talamanca Mountain Range, the Hitoy Biological Reserve makes up a rugged section of La Amistad International Park. Much of the exotic wildlife, such as jaguars, peccaries, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, armadillos, pacas, deer, and agoutis can be found here, as well as some gorgeous waterfalls and river basins. This national park can be treacherous and is best explored with a guide, but with a bit of care and hard work, the experienced outdoorsman will get a lot out of this amazing reserve. The park is located 40 miles southwest of Limón.

Kéköldi Indigenous Reserve

Located 15 minutes from Puerto Viejo, the Kéköldi Indigenous Reserve is a reserve for the indigenous Bri Bri Indians. Here you may take tours of the unique Bri Bri farms, and get a firsthand look at the culture and lifestyles of the Bri Bri people. With over 12,000 acres of protected land the Kéköldi Indigenous Reserve also offers hiking tours to the majestic waterfall, bird watching and a look at the endangered iguana farms.

Tours And Activities In Puerto Limón

There are plenty of fun and exciting tours and activities right in Puerto Limón. Numerous tour companies offer city tours, boat tours, canal tours, banana plantation tours, rainforest wagon tours, coastal tours and zip-line canopy tours. Other activities include white water rafting, biking, bird watching, sport-fishing, golf, hiking, horseback riding, jetskiing, paragliding, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and water skiing. With lots of great restaurants, bars and night clubs, you’ll never find yourself bored in Puerto Limón.

Beaches

Playa Vizcaya

Playa Vizcaya, near Cahuita, is named thus because it contains the mouth of the river Rio Vizcaya. With grayish sand, Playa Vizcaya is known for its bounty of beautiful palm trees and perfect swimming conditions.

Playa Negra (Cahuita)

Just north of the town of Cahuita, Playa Negra (Black Beach) is named for its dark sand. This sandy beach is also known for its distinct inlets and coral platforms. The surf here is moderate to strong.

Playa Blanca

Part of the Cahuita National Park, Playa Blanca (White Beach) is named for its light colored sand. Boasting a magnificent coral reef, this long beach is the site of both ideal swimming conditions and dangerous ones.

Puerto Vargas

The beach of Puerto Vargas is also part of the Cahuita National Park. Another long beach, reaching from Punta Cahuita to the mouth of the Río Carbón, the surf along Puerto Vargas ranges from mild to strong.

Playa Negra (Puerto Viejo)

Also named Playa Negra (Black Beach) for its dark sand, this beach is located just outside the town of Puerto Vargas. Because of its high manganese content, the sand here is even darker than the Playa Negra near Cahuita. There is very little plant life at this Playa Negra, the main streets of Puerto Viejo run just behind it. The surf here is moderate to strong.

Playa Cocles

Playa Cocles (Grapnels Beach) has two main points. One shares the same name as the beach and the other is Punta Pirriplí. From the latter, a small and beautiful island can be seen. Such islands are rare along this coastline, making Playa Cocles a tourist hotspot. There are places to rent surfboards, bicycles, horses and motorcycles. The surf here is moderate to strong.

Playa Chiquita

This beach, bearing the same name as the world’s most famous banana company, Playa Chiquita (Small Beach) is made up of a very rocky coastline mixed with rich, tropical vegetation. A bend in the coastline forms a secluded oasis of calm and clear water, perfect for relaxation and sunshine.

Punta Uva

Separating Playa Chiquita and Play Manzanillo is Punta Uva (Grape Point). Lying out from its sandy shores there is a magnificent coral reef, ideal for scuba diving.

Playa Manzanillo

Next down the line is Playa Manzanillo (Little Apple Tree Beach). As the name might suggest, this curved beach is bursting with lush vegetation. The rich greenery, especially the palms will make you feel like you are truly in a tropical paradise. It has light colored sand and a moderate to strong surf.

Playa Mona

Playa Mona (Monkey Beach) must be approached by foot from Playa Manzanillo. The walk is about 5 kilometers, but this beautiful beach is worth the hike. The seclusion lends itself to a rich surrounding forest. There are several spots of coral that make for diving and the scenery is exceptional.

Playa Gandoca

After Playa Mona, the coastline opens up into Playa Gandoca. This beach’s grayish sand is home to nesting leatherback sea turtles from April to August. Also home to the mouth of the Rio Sixaola, which serves as the Costa Rica-Panama border, Playa Gandoca holds the Blue Ecological Flag award, marking it as an exceptionally clean and safe beach.