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Cahuita National Park – 2021 What to know before you go



Last updated on August 24th, 2023

So ready for Post-Covid travel? If you are looking to visit this exotic side of Costa Rica that will let you relax in those white sand beaches surrounded by nature and the unique vibe of our Caribbean side.

Back in January 2021, after our Christmas trip to the United States, we were so ready to go to the beach plus Eithan’s first birthday was the perfect excuse to be celebrated at the beach.

However, we were lucky to find the sunny, palm tree with the white sand beach that we were hoping for, we learned few tricks from locals to take advantage of for future trips since COVID things are a little bit different (even though when you get there, you will forget that COVID exist).

We want to share them with you on this blog so you can learn what you need to know to be prepared if you decide to visit the area in this.

How do you get to Cahuita?

Cahuita is the first town in the South Caribbean area.

Located at 201 kilometers from San Jose around 125 miles.

If you are traveling to Costa Rica and are thinking to visit the Caribbean side, Cahuita is the first town.

Where to stay in Cahuita, Costa Rica?

In our case, we decided to stay in Cahuita town as our base to explore the area. From there we drove to Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

Many people decide to visit the Cahuita National Park as a day trip and they stay in Puerto Viejo or Manzanillo since both towns are accessible by bus and takes around 30 minutes ride.

We stayed at Bungalows Ache and it was a very nice place to stay since we could use an equipped kitchen that they have available for their guest away from the privacy of the bungalows.

Cahuita town

Visiting Cahuita National Park

The name Cahuita comes from the words “Kawe” which means “Sangrillo” (a tree from the area) and “Ta” which means “Punta” (Sandpit) a coastline formation, so “Punta Sangrillo”.

Park territory size: 1102 ha Marine protected area: 23290 h

Parking Lot

We got into the park through the Playa Blanca area and we saw a restaurant with a Parking lot where most of the cars were parked.

Entrance to Cahuita National Park

There are two entrances to access the park:

  • Playa Blanca area: Due to COVID-19 regulations they are opening every day from 8 a.m. m. to 4 p. m.

Entrance Fee: voluntary cash contribution.

As an important fact to know Cahuita National Park is an example of joint efforts between the community and the National System of Conservation Areas working together.

If you visit other National Parks in Costa Rica the cost for a tourist it’s around $15 per person and this topic has been a never-ending story of discussion.

As you can see here you give a voluntary contribution and the income goes to the National Park management that it’s a duty done between the community and the rangers to protect in order to preserve nature while the community benefits from tourism.

  • Puerto Vargas area: Every day from 8 a.m. m. to 4 p. m.

Entrance Fee: foreigners pay $5 and resident nationals ¢ 1,000.

Credit card payments are accepted.

Cahuita National Park Entrance


On the maps, you will see the name of different trails however it’s mainly one trail split in different tracks.

Here is the distance of the trails so you can have an idea and plan your time inside the park.

  • Trail Playa Blanca (White Beach): The distance of this trail is 1.5 kilometers (almost a mile).
  • Trail Perezoso (Sloth): 1.6 Kilometer (almost a mile).
  • Trail Los Corales (Reefs): 3.1 Kilometer (almost 2 miles)
  • Punta Cahuita: 3.5 Kilometers (2 miles)
  • Punta Vargas

In the Puerto Vargas area, it’s an internal trail that you will see a wetland.

For keen hikers tip: There are some people that trek from Cahuita to Puerto Viejo and they can cross the park north to south. Crossing the park will be around 11 kilometers and this can take around 4- 5 hours. If you are returning to Cahuita might have to take a bus back.



We saw some showers next to the main entrance of the National Park where you can take the sand off before you go to the car/bus.

Swimming at the Park

We asked locals the safe areas for swimmers where they can practice beach activities and relax.

  • Playa Blanca (1 km walk from entrance). Near Suarez river the beach it’s one of the safest.
  • Next to Perezoso river
  • An small beach near Punta Cahuita.

Check always the red flags that are along the beach. It`s important to check the weather and use common sense.

Don’t swim inside the river because of crocodiles.

If you want a less risky beach it will be Manzanillo, 30 minutes from Cahuita, 15 minutes from Puerto Viejo downtown.

Cahuita National Park

Snorkeling Tours

You can do snorkeling inside the National Park.

There are several companies that you can book to do a snorkeling tour.

The range of prices is between $45 – $55 and depends on where are you staying. If you are staying in Cahuita might be a cheaper price but if you will need transportation from your place, the price might be a little bit more expensive.

Usually, the tour takes around 2 hours and you will have to take the boat in place located close to the National Park.

The tour includes the equipment and some fruits.

Because of COVID-19, some tour operators required that you bring your own mask and wear your mask during the boat ride.

During the tour, you will visit coral patches and see the different fish species and then you will see a coral reef.

After the tour they can bring you back to the pickup spot or drop you at Punta Cahuita so can walk back to Playa Blanca or to Puerto Vargas.

The months that are recommended to do snorkeling are March and April another good month it`s Mid-August until September.

Can kids do the tour?

Recommended for kids 5 years old or older. 

Tour guides

We talked with a couple of tour guides who offer their services to us and other visitors.
A tour guide will inform you of all the details during the journey, and they also allow you to use their telescope to see wild animals up close.

Also, they will explain the different varieties of flowers and plants that there are during the tour.

Where can you hire your official guide?

At the entrance of the Park, before the access bridge, you will usually find several tour guides offering their services.

We recommend hiring an official tour guide since they are the most experienced both in the guide and in providing a quality service to tourists.

Tour guides

What to wear for visiting Cahuita National Park?

  • Snacks and 2 liters of water as it gets really hot
  • Hiking shoes – as the main loop is about 5 km / 3.1 mi long
  • Swimming suit – You’ll definitely want to take a dip
  • Towel
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray

COVID-19 protocols

They recommend going early in the morning since they have a maximum capacity of people.

When we got there; the line was about 30 people long and all the people were wearing a mask and keeping social distancing.

A member of the staff checks your temperatures and provides hand sanitizer.
Once we got into the trail at times its was hard to keep the social distance when groups cross the path and with the humidity, masks are not that comfortable.

To be honest, there were some parts of the trails where no one was around, so we took the masks off and keep the social distance as much as possible because with the humidity it’s not fun to wear a mask.

Our experience

Sadly, we only had time to hiked 2 km. However, that was enough to hang out on a beautiful beach, see the monkeys (howler monkeys and White-faced cappuccinos), iguanas, we even get to see a snake so close that you could touch her, and beautiful butterflies.

The monkeys were the highlight for Eithan he was so curious about these creatures.

For next time we are planning to do snorkeling and do the hike for more kilometers.

Our time in the Caribbean side was very special because was our son’s first-birthday and besides what means to travel with a kid and follow all the COVID protocols.

So, the 4 hours’ drive was worth it.

Have you visited Cahuita Costa Rica already? Would you like to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Let’s connect and subscribe to our newsletter or send us your questions and share your tips!

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Guide to Spotting Macaws in Costa Rica



Macaws in Costa Rica are more than just stunning birds; they grace our skies as our air force.

These brightly colored birds are some of the largest members of the parrot family.

Unfortunately, they are among the most threatened birds not only in Costa Rica but also across Central America

Overview of Macaws in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, two distinct macaw species are present out of the 17 found across Central and South America:

  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Green Macaw

While they belong to the same family, spotting them together in the wild is an uncommon sight.

The Scarlet Macaw primarily inhabits the Pacific coast, whereas the Great Green Macaw can be seen in the Caribbean coast.

Typically, they reside in pairs or small family units. However, on rare occasions, they congregate in large gatherings.

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)

Scarlet Macaws have bright red bodies with blue and yellow on their wings. The two primary populations can be found in Carara and the Osa Peninsula, with a few pairs located in Guanacaste and the North Caribbean lowlands.

They inhabit the forest canopy and perch in trees in semi-open areas.These birds have a preference for large fruits and seeds.

They are sometimes seen at beaches, enjoying the fruits of the tropical almond.

They often commute long distances daily between their roosting and feeding sites. While they remain quiet when perched and eating, they can be quite noisy during flight.

Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)

The Great Green Macaw is very large with a green body, wings that are bluish on top and yellowish underneath, and a flash of red in its tail.

They are becoming increasingly rare, primarily found in the Caribbean lowlands and foothills, both in forested and semi-open areas.

These birds travel vast distances in search of fruits from tall trees, especially the wild almond.Unfortunately, they are endangered, largely due to habitat loss.

Hunting and live capture for the illegal pet trade also contribute to their decline.

Where to Find Macaws in Costa Rica

Definitely, spotting the Scarlet Macaw is easier than finding the Great Green Macaw. Based on our experience, we recommend the following places:

  • Carara National Park or its surroundings: We’ve personally witnessed a large group of Scarlet Macaw on the trail named “La Meandrica” within the park. During the mating season, we’ve observed some macaws nesting in tall trees. Moreover, if you’re around the Jaco viewpoint, you might spot macaws feeding on almonds.
  • Corcovado National Park & Drake Bay: This is one of our favorite spots in the entire country due to the abundance of wildlife. As wildlife enthusiasts, we’ve visited this area multiple times, and spotting the Scarlet Macaws here is quite easy. It’s common to observe them around the small town of Drake Bay. If you venture into the Corcovado National Park, you’re almost guaranteed to see them, along with many other bird species and animals.
  • South Caribbean Side: Seeing the Green Macaw has been less common, but we’ve definitely sighted them when visiting Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, or Manzanillo. However, it’s been a bit more challenging to see them perched in trees.
  • Ara Manzanillo: If you’re visiting Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo, don’t miss this stop. Firstly, you’ll be supporting a local NGO dedicated to protecting the Green Macaw. Secondly, you’ll have an opportunity to see the Green Macaws up close, offering a fantastic photo opportunity. The entrance fee is $20 for adults, while children under 12 are admitted free. Tours run from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, so be sure to reserve a spot by calling +506 8971-1436.
  • Macaw Recovery Network: This project champions the protection of macaws. While we haven’t personally visited, they do offer tours for visitors. If you wish to support them, you can also become a donor. For more details, visit their website at

Tip: Check out the almond trees: If you’re on the Pacific side beaches, especially in Jaco, Esterillos, Uvita, or Manuel Antonio, you can boost your odds of seeing macaws by starting with the almond trees. After identifying this crucial food source, keep an eye on the adjacent beaches where macaws come to eat. Remember, timing is essential – these colorful birds fly from their nests to the almond trees in the early mornings and head back to their nests in the evenings.


Macaws are stunning birds that, as a wildlife lover and enthusiastic wildlife photographer, you definitely don’t want to miss.

Capturing them in flight or while they’re eating is truly a beautiful moment.

However, beyond just photographing them, we’ve learned from projects like Ara Manzanillo about the significance of protecting these endangered species.

Equally important is educating the newer generations so they can appreciate, care for, and love these birds that have sadly been affected by the illegal pet trade.

For this reason, we encourage you to visit initiatives such as Ara Manzanillo and the Macaw Recovery Network.

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Turrialba Volcano National Park: One of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica!



Last updated on June 4th, 2020

Turrialba Volcano is not the first one to come to your mind when you think to hike a volcano in Costa Rica.

The names of Arenal and Irazu Volcano always show up first and are always busy with tourists.

However, Turrialba Volcano is the second tallest volcano in the country after Irazu Volcano, and in the last few years, it has frequently been in the news because this is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica!

Between 2015 and 2016, Turrialba was responsible for shutting down San José  International airport because of an explosion that launched ashes, gases, and incandescent rocks 13,000 feet into the air.

So, yes, this buddy has kept people busy during recent years, causing the closure of Turrialba Volcano National Park, which is now focused on monitoring and investigation.

But no worries. There are other ways to visit and explore the area through local tourist projects. Maybe you won’t see the crater, but you can get pretty close and still be safe.

How To Get to Turrialba Volcano

There are 2 common ways to get to this volcano. We took this route:

From San José, take the highway#2 toward Cartago and Irazú Volcano.

Take the exit toward Pacayas and continue to La Pastora.

When you arrive at the Torre Alba soda, turn left and drive up non-stop until you reach Hacienda La Central.

Google maps:

General Information about Turrialba Volcano National Park

The National Park is closed until further notice. But there are other places nearby where you can see the volcano.

  • Altitude: 3340 meters – 10,919 feet, the second tallest volcano in the country. 
  • Weather: Temperatures around 16 Celsius (around 60 Fahrenheit). 
  • Wildlife: Located in the tropical cloud forest. It’s hard to see wildlife on the trail that we did, but there are species like coyotes, skunks, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, opossums, sloths, weasels and puma.  Birds like woodpeckers, hawks, goldfinches, tanagers, and hummingbirds.

About Hacienda La Central

The small village of La Central is located at the entrance of the Turrialba Volcano National Park.

It has a few farms, a school, and the Hacienda La Central, the closest private property that has a local tourist project where visitors can hike an area close to the volcano.

It became popular with locals that want to visit the area responsibly since the Turrialba Volcano National Park was closed back in 2012.

There are other tours that promote going beyond the limits of the National Park, but of course we totally discourage you from taking those tours that are risky.

Hacienda La Central is a farm owned by a Costa Rican family who has been dedicated to farming and cattle.

The main cattle field is called La Central,  which today is where visitors meet, as it is near the school, chapel, dairy, grocery store, and the Danza con Nubes cafeteria.

It is a small restaurant, a perfect place to eat one of the typical dishes or just have a coffee, a “freshwater” or an excellent hot chocolate. Its small lawn terrace is the ideal place to observe the Turrialba volcano.

This used to be the meeting point before the ascent to the crater of the Turrialba Volcano began.

Our experience

We made a day trip to this area that has incredible views, especially if you visit during the dry season (December until April).

The light of the sun was perfect to take some pictures, and we got there around 8:00 am. Our hike was arranged to start at 9:00 am.

There were people waking up from their tents, since locals like to camp there.

We went to the restaurant and had a cup of coffee and a hot chocolate. We saw some vendors setting up their products like gloves and wool hats and food also.

More cars were arriving and at 9:00 am. A staff member from Hacienda La Central called everyone’s name and gave us some information about the hike.

It’s 6 kilometers long and it’s a loop.

They took us through a cattle field where you can see views of Irazu and Turrialba volcano.

Then the guide took us to a spot called: “El Hoyo” (The Hole) where there was a small canyon with a river that has changed its color to orange because of the iron from the volcano.

From there is the coolest part of the hike where you can see the contrast of the vegetation and the volcano ash — green and gray.

Nature tries to start over again, but with the ashes and materials from the volcano, it’s hard to see life there. The trees are like paper and it smells strongly of sulfur.

We hiked about 20 minutes more through old buildings like an old dairy farm. Then we saw the limits where the Turrialba Volcano National Park area starts. So we were still in a safe area.

It was a big group — mainly locals — and everyone seemed surprised that Ligia was hiking with her 8-month pregnant belly and asking her why!? But the hike is not difficult at all. So everyone can do it.

When we finished the hike we were hungry enough to eat a big tortilla and continue to our next place to visit in the area. 

Important things to take into consideration

  • Hike Difficulty: Easy but there are no paved trails. Ligia was 8 months pregnant when she did it. 
  • Vehicle: Sedan is possible during the dry season but we definitely recommend renting a 4WD to Explore Costa Rica.
  • Camping: For adventurers or enthusiasts of active volcanoes, you can set up your tent there and spend the night to observe the volcano’s eruptive night activity. 
  • Costs: Hike tour ₡ 5000 ($10 US) per person (groups larger than 5 people). / Camping ₡3000 ($6 US) per night per person / Parking Lot: ₡1000 ($2 US)/ Use of Picnic area: ₡ 1000 ($2 US)

What to bring?

  • Rain Jacket 
  • Snacks 
  • Water

Contact information

To make your reservation, you can contact them directly and ask for Hugo who speaks English

Contact: 506- 8414-4682 or [email protected]

Related reading

  • Guayabo National Monument
  • Irazu Volcano

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5 interesting facts about these Costa Rican ruins



Last updated on August 17th, 2020

There are many ancient ruins sprinkled all around Central America, and Costa Rica is no exception. Even if it doesn’t have places like Tikal or Tulum, Costa Rica has places for people that are looking for cultural tours.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I’m in nature or visiting a historical place, I love trying to imagine what it used to be like “back in those days.”

Even when it’s hard to picture it, it’s still fun knowing that the ground we’re walking on was once a busy city street or a marketplace to trade stuff. Or that the crumbling ruin I’m looking at used to be the tribe chief’s home.

Knowing a bit of history not only helps me imagine what it used to be like, but it is also integral to understanding its cultural significance.

A brief history of Guayabo Archaeological Site

More than just watching old rocks (as some people like to write in reviews on Tripadvisor) this place is an awesome place to learn history.

Some people might tell you that Costa Rica doesn’t have culture, but the more we explore, the more we learn more about our country. 

So, here are the 5 main facts we think you need to know before visiting Guayabo National Monument:

  1. The archaeologist that discovered this place back in 1968 was Carlos Piedra Aguilar, known as the grandfather of archaeology in Central America. He thought that it was an indigenous cemetery. Only a small percentage (around 20%) has been excavated.
  2. On the grounds of Guayabo, there have been signs of life dating back from 1,000 B.C. to 1,400 A.D. It was a village for around 2,400 years in total. Researchers aren’t entirely sure of the exact population of Guayabo, but they believe that it mostly influenced by the South American native tribe called the Chibchas. Because of the tropical weather, they couldn’t find bones to do tests and determine the DNA of the population. 
  3. There is evidence that Guayabo back in those days was a city, let’s say like the San José of today. It was an important spot to do business between the people from tribes from North and South America.    
  4. Nerdy fact #4: The Guayabo National Monument was designated in 2009 as a World Heritage of Civil Engineering according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This is because of the technology used to design a network of aqueducts to transport water from a spring in the mountains to the city.  

… And this blog post would be done if the idea was just to share the most interesting things to learn about this place in a short “listicle” style. 

However, my friend, our goal is to share deeply about must-see places that are not that touristy — places you can’t find a lot of information about. 

It’s easy to find those facts above on other websites, but we’re going to walk you through what we did when we visited Hacienda La Central and Guayabo National Monument, because these places might fit with what you are looking for.

Best ways to visit

The Guayabo National Monument is located in Turrialba, where there is also a town that hosts an active volcano (Turrialba Volcano) and the Pacuare River, home of one of the world’s best whitewater rafting adventures. 

Take in consideration if you want to do whitewater rafting and also visit the volcano and the ruins will be a better place to stay in the area at least one night.

Tip: We recommend to do the volcano and Guayabo National Monument the first day, then stay in Turrialba and do whitewater rafting the next day.

But if you are looking for more like a one day tour that you can do easily from San Jose, you can do what we did. 

1. General Information:

The land is under the protection of SINAC, same institution that managed the National Parks in Costa Rica.  The primary difference lies National monuments have objects of historical, cultural, and/or scientific interest.

  • Schedule: They open daily (including holidays) from 8:00 am until 3:30 pm 
  • Cost: $5 per person Foreign Adults and kids  + Tour Guide service cost (Depends on the number of people)
  • Access: The monument is located 30 minutes from Turrialba Downtown (around 10 miles away). However, we came from another route that has a road paved for most of it and gets unpaved for a small sections, we always prefer recommend a  4×4 to be safe.
  • Parking Lot: They don’t have one. We have to leave the car outside on the street in front of the entrance and a “wachiman” like we call the guys that help to park and take care of the cars will help you to park in exchange of few coins at the end. 

2. Visiting in the morning or afternoon?

Since we visited during January that is dry season we took the chance to do it during the afternoon and prefer to hike near the volcano in the morning. 

Since the hike at Guayabo Monument is easier even if it’s raining in the afternoon is better than do the hiking at Turrialba Volcano when its raining.

3. Should you hire a tour guide?

It’s a very personal decision.

However, we read reviews from other people that was worth it since is place with a lot of history. 

The tour guide went beyond our expectations. Martin Umaña was his name and let me tell you he has a heart of anthropologist that really take you back 3000 years ago and just make your visit very special.    

On top of that, we love to support the local association of guides since we know they make a leaving from visitors. 

We would have never learned all this information without one.

They have a office next to the window ticket where you pay your entrance. Also you can learn more about them here: Link

4. Trails:

The trail that we did was around 1.6 kilometers (less than a mile).

 It’s pretty easy to walk. It will take around 1 hour and a half. 

There is a small hill to get to the Lookout point but nothing too strenuous. 

The trail is like a loop and pretty easy to follow.

Top Tips for visiting

Where to eat? 

Picnic areas or just a couple local restaurants before  

What to wear? 

  • Comfortable clothes, 
  • Closed shoes
  • Rain Jacket/ umbrella
  • Insect repellent
  • Bottle of water
  • Cap/ sunblock 
  • Walking stick *Optional

Our Visit to Guayabo National Monument

Preparing for our visit

  1. Wake up early: 

Since we didn’t planned to stay overnight, we wanted to kick to spots in one day.

We arranged with Hacienda La Central to take the 9:00 am hike and explore the Turrialba  Volcano area.

So we left San Jose around 6: 15 am and got to Hacienda La Central around 8:00 am  and was perfect to have some extra time to get  breakfast.

Our hike there finish around 11:30 am and rush it a little bit and just grabbing a sandwich to have lunch on the way because we need to be at Guayabo National Monument before 1:30 pm. 

After hiking Turrialba Volcano at Hacienda La Central, we took the route and drive for around hour and  a half  down to the town Santa Cruz de Turrialba and then we got to the Guayabo National Monument. 

From Hacienda La Central to Guayabo National Monument was around 1 hour and 15 minutes.  

  1. Booking  uSure in advanced

We contacted the local Association of Tour Guides uSure and made the reservation to took the tour with a Tour Guide and settle our approx arriving time at 1:30 pm.

Take in consideration that Guayabo close at 3:30 pm so the latest tour will be around 2:00 pm, if you get late they will do a shorter trail of 800 meters.  

If you have Whatsapp it’s easier to do the reservation or send a email to them. 

As locals, they required a wire transfer of the entrance into their bank account in advanced but we saw people just walk in and were able to pay as they walk in. 

However, they highly recommend if you want the tour in English to book with at least 8 days in advance. 

Exploring the monument:

After we bought our entrance across the street we saw a little grocery store, use the restrooms and also families were having lunch in the picnic area. 

We hear that you can camp there, if you are interested I am sure the uSureCR the local association can help you with more information. 

So our tour guide, Martin Umaña was there waiting for us and we started the tour talking about the wildlife of the area.

We did spot wildlife like the Toucans, white-faced monkeys and we are sure that in the 573 acres of land that belongs to the monument there is a lot of wildlife protected. 

Then we got the explanation of the artistic manifestations found in the area like the monolith (rock) with the shape of Jaguar and snake. 

The monolith (rock) with the shape of Jaguar and Snake
The mounds

The tombs, the aqueduct, the mounds and  just learning more about pre-columbian history the time went fast.    

We left the place with a lot of new information about our ancestors surrounded by a nice atmosphere and the view of the Turrialba Volcano at the back. 

Guayabo National Monument,  definitely is a nice historical spot of Costa Rica. That you can do in a short visit in the middle of the nice countryside. Good for a day trip including other spots around! 

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