Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean coast is the country’s premier destination for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience. 90% of Costa Rica’s visitors explore the well-maintained areas of the Pacific coast, as the Caribbean is far less developed for tourism. It is also a region of a distinct culture. With Caribbean culture’s heavy influence on the local cuisine and lifestyle, some parts of the Southern Caribbean coast can feel like a different country entirely. We recommend the following Caribbean hot spots and accommodations for your next trip:
Caribbean Hot Spots
Popular with backpackers and younger crowds, Puerto Viejo maintains a palpable surfer vibe due to its close proximity to Salsa Brava, the biggest surf break in Costa Rica. Once a Rasta haven, Puerto Caribbean has since polished its look to accommodate curious travelers who want to visit Costa Rica off the beaten path. Funky restaurants and bamboo bars line the main street, but nearby is more laid back space for everyone to enjoy. Playa Cocles is another great surf spot. It’s less rocky and intense than Salsa Brava. Read more on surfing in Costa Rica.
Cahuita National Park
Cahuita is a little Caribbean beach town just south of Limon. This area remains one of Costa Rica’s best off-the-beaten path destinations. Dirt roads give the relaxed village an old-world feel. Adding to the atmosphere is the vibrant remainder of Afro-Caribbean culture, which infused itself with indigenous cultures in the 1800’s. Playa Negra is the top choice for local beach dwellers, and naturalists can’t get enough of Cahuita National Park and it’s wild charms.
Off The Beaten Path Hotels
Even the most polished Caribbean coast accommodations have a rustic feel to them. Our favorites include Banana Azul because of its beachfront the location, swimming pool, tasty Caribbean cuisine, and plentiful selection of day tours. Rooms are rustic and perfect for catching an ocean breeze. Located just north of town, Banana Azul is perfect for a no-fuss, low-key Caribbean vacation.
The Azania Bungalows sit in a privileged position against Playa Cocles, near enough to Puerto Viejo town to have a good time. This is one of the more luxurious options in the Southern Caribbean, though fans of the Four Seasons might consider it pleasantly rustic. The large, private bungalows make for an appropriately tropical experience while still providing modern comforts, like television.
For a resort-style experience, check out Cariblue. Though small and boutique, Cariblue is a nice transition for travelers who want to visit this off-the-beaten path destination but are used to more mainstream accommodations. The SoleLuna Restaurant prepares local cuisine with a high-end touch, and the Totem Beach Bar provides a more European offering.
Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean coast is full of low-key hotels and unique cultural experiences for curious travelers. Here you can interact with native cultures, visit Tortuguero’s jungle canals, snorkel, hike in the rainforest, and much more.