Cahuita is one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica, protecting 1,067 hectares or 2,637 acres. The park starts at sea level and the highest elevation is 5 meters or 16 feet. It protects coral reef, rainforest, mangrove, and beach habitats. Approximately half of the park is dedicated to protecting the reefs. There are a several trails in the forested area of the park and boat tours are available for snorkeling.
Cahuita National Park is home to numerous species of wildlife. Among the more common mammals are armadillos, raccoons, sloths, howler and capuchin monkeys. There are many species of reptile and amphibians including blue jeans dart frogs and red-eyed-leaf frogs, green iguanas, whip-tailed lizards, green vine snakes and boa constrictors. Perhaps the most notable reptile is the yellow eyelash pit viper, which is a brilliant golden yellow color. Many birds inhabit the park including keel-billed and chestnut mandibled toucans, fiery-billed aracaris, oropendolas, parakeets, parrots, herons, egrets, and more.
The reefs of Cahuita National Park protect many species of marine life. Coral species include blue staghorn, elkhorn, brain coral, frondlike gorgonias, and tubipora. There are many fish including parrotfish, angel fish and an additional 500 species. There are also urchins and over 100 species of mollusks.
Cahuita Park is managed by the government of Costa Rica. It is open from 8 AM to 4 PM daily. There are two ranger stations with public restrooms. The entrance fee is $5 per person. There are no overnight facilities at the park. Most visitors stay in hotels in Cahuita or nearby Puerto Viejo.
More about Cahuita National Park
There are two shipwrecks in the waters of the park. Diving to them is not permitted without a permit to do so. Permits are not easy to obtain.
While snorkeling within the park is very good, the water conditions can be a little tricky with riptides. In addition, coral reefs are very sensitive and can easily be damaged by touch. For these reasons, we only recommend snorkeling with a guide.
At a glance
Region: Southern Caribbean
Closest town: Cahuita
Size in hectares: 1,067 (2,637 acres)
Year established: 1970
Elevation in meters: 0 – 5 (0 – 16 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: no
Public restrooms: yes
Entrance fee: $5pp
Hours: 08:00 - 16:00
Hiking trails: yes
Boat tours: yes
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 90
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 3,380 (133 inches)
Habitat: mangroves, beach, coral reef, rainforest
How to get there
From San Jose, take Rt. 32 east to Limon. When you reach Limon, turn right on Rt. 36 south. Follow this road south to Cahuita and then follow signs to the park.
Weather and packing list
Cahuita is located in an area that is hot and humid. Daytime temperatures often exceed 90 degrees and night time temperatures or usually in the mid to upper 70s. The park receives 3,380 mms (133 inches) of precipitation per year, so be prepared for rain. The driest months of the year are February, March and the second half of August through October.
Visitors should pack a bathing suit, towel, shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block, and insect repellent. Follow this link to our packing list.
Fun Fact: Though Cahuiita is one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica, it is one of the most important and biologically diverse. Due to the small size, observing wildlife is easier than many other locations.