Snorkeling and Hiking in Cahuita National Park

Trip Start Apr 15, 2011
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Trip End Apr 23, 2011


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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Monday, April 18, 2011

Sorry that updates have not come sooner, Jen was sick for a day and we pushed back one of our tours. Anyway….today we went snorkeling and hiking in Cahuita National Park. The park is north of Puerto Viejo, but is only about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. We weren't quite sure what to expect because neither of us had ever been snorkeling, and the guides told us to make sure to have long pants, shoes, etc for the hike that would follow. Also, I hate water. My grandmother tried to drown me when I was young (not really drown, but she gave me a complex).

Our tour bus was late, and the original time they had given us was wrong. So we were up about two hours before we had to be so both of us were a bit cranky. Then when the van showed up 45 minutes late I was rather upset and Jen was borderline irate. Not a good way to start a day.

We drove into Cahuita which is nothing more than a few stone and dirt roads. The van stopped near a few well worn boats that we assumed must be for the locals. After all, we paid for a tour! Alas, we were getting into one of those rickety boats after all. With about 11 people in it, it sat very low in the water and I doubted it’s seaworthiness. We were given masks and snorkels that weren’t pretty to look at, but worked well. Our safety briefing included…well..nothing. The guide did ask if we wanted a life vest if we wanted "to be lazy." Oh Costa Rica!

We headed out in the skiff into the Caribbean and spent about 15 minutes in the boat before reaching our snorkeling location. Once we arrived we were pointed in the direction of the coral reef and told to get out of the boat. Over the side I went and I believe my heart is racing just thinking about that moment. Let me reiterate…I HATE the water. I nearly had a heart attack as I fumbled putting the snorkel in my mouth, and moments later when the briny salt water leaked into my mouth I panicked and my body when into shutdown mode. Thankfully, after only a few minutes of painful swimming I reached the reef with Jen and my fear turned into awe as I saw some of the most beautiful coral inches from my face. Colors of all shades washed over my goggles and I forgot that I hated the water, and instead became lost in this maritime world.

We visited one other snorkeling spot that day where feeling much more comfortable I did a few free dives to the bottom so that I could swim among the blue and yellow fish. After getting back in the boat we headed for a different beach in Cahuita, where our guide literally drove the boat into the shoreline. When my feet touched the sand I was tempted to yell, “Gracias por terra firma!” but I kept it to myself.

What was nice was that up on the beach, under a small shelter we had lunch waiting for us. Fresh pineapple cut up with mixed nuts and berries and a local cookie selection for dessert. There is something very satisfying about biting into a freshly cut pineapple on a hot day while standing in the shade on a tropical beach. I could relieve that sweet, succulent moment over and over.

We weren’t on the beach for more than 10 minutes when the first monkeys showed up. They were white faced Capuchins, and they were very interested in our food. So much so that they walked right up to some of us, before the guide scared them off. We managed to get some pictures first though, and before long more monkeys showed up in the trees overhead including Capuchins and also Howler monkeys. Guess what they’re famous for?

After finishing our light lunch and snapping dozens of monkey photos, we headed off on a trail that hugged the beach. To the locals, it was merely a pathway for accessing the beach. To tourists, it was a zoo without any windows or cages. We saw wild raccoons (it’s normal for them to be out in the day), more monkeys of course, sloths, iguanas, and many plants that were surprisingly edible. After about a 45 minute walk we were back in the town of Cahuita, where a bus returned us to our hotel. That’s about it for today!
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