explore costa rica

Cahuita National Park

Don't forget to book your vacation rentals with us

Cahuita National Park is one of the most stunning national parks on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast.

Known for its dazzling white-sand beaches, the most well-preserved coral reef on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, and diverse array of wildlife (both above and below the ocean’s surface), Cahuita National Park should be a must-visit national park when exploring all that Costa Rica has to offer.

Overview of Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica

Before visiting Cahuita National Park, here is some general information to know:


Beach near Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park is located on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean Coast. It covers a land area of more than 2,700 acres and a marine area of more than 55,000 acres. This park is roughly a 10-mile drive or bus ride (about 20 minutes) north of the nearest town, Puerto Viejo, a 29-mile drive (about one hour) south of Puerto Limon, and about a 125-mile drive (about 3.5 hours) southeast from San José.

This national park has two park entrances at Playa Blanca and Puerto Vargas. The main entrance at Playa Blanca (Sector Playa Blanca) tends to be more popular than Puerto Vargas (Sector Puerto Vargas) since the town of Cahuita is only a short walk from the parking lot.

You’ll also find the Kelly Creek Ranger Station at the main entrance at Playa Blanca. Kelly Creek Station provides several services to guests, including toilets, showers, and picnic tables. You can also hire a tour guide here. To avoid scams, make sure your tour guide is certified and accredited by the Costa Rican Tourism Board.


Cahuita National Park is open at the Puerto Vargas entrance from 8 AM to 4 PM daily, except for the first Monday of each month. The Playa Blanca entrance is open daily from 6 AM to 5 PM.


Cahuita National Park is the only national park in Costa Rica that does not charge an admission fee, so visiting is free (if you enter at the entrance at Playa Blanca — the entrance at Puerto Vargas is $5 per person). However, in place of an entrance fee, the park strongly encourages donations to keep this great place for wildlife watching, snorkeling, and exploring beautiful and well taken care of.

Popular Attractions & Activities in Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica

Now that we’ve got all the details out of the way, let’s dive into the fun stuff — all the best things to do at Cahuita National Park! Here are the activities you can enjoy in this national park on the Caribbean Coast, teeming with beautiful beaches, fascinating wildlife, and epic adventures.




Snorkeling is the highlight attraction at Cahuita National Park, home to the country’s largest coral reef, which is filled with 500+ colorful fish and majestic sea creatures.

Under the ocean’s surface in Cahuita National Park, you’ll find hundreds of tropical fish, including angelfish, parrotfish, and pufferfish. You’ll also have the chance to see other marine animals, like sea turtles, eagle rays, sea cucumbers, moray eels, and even dolphins, nurse sharks, and manatees.

Snorkeling is only allowed with a licensed guide at Cahuita National Park. You can join tours in Cahuita Town from Cahuita Tours or Willie’s Tours CR.


Sea Turtle Spotting

Sea turtle on beach

Cahuita National Park is a nesting ground for several species of sea turtles, including loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles. You can encounter sea turtles while snorkeling or see them on the park’s nesting ground in Puerto Vargas at various times throughout the year.

You can typically see green sea turtles on the beach from July to October, leatherback turtles from February to July, loggerhead turtles from February to May, and hawksbill turtles from May to November.


Wildlife Watching


In addition to the marine wildlife, Cahuita National Park is a favorite spot among visitors to Costa Rica for spotting mammals, birds, and reptiles. Look for the following animals in Cahuita National Park:

  • Mammals — Howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, sloths, anteaters, and agoutis.
  • Birds — Keel-billed toucans, hummingbirds, and parrots.
  • Reptiles & Amphibians — Iguanas, basilisk lizards (“Jesus Christ Lizards”), poison dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, crocodiles, and boa constrictors.




Playa Blanca and Puerto Vargas are the two white-sand beaches in Cahuita National Park. While both beaches have coral reefs, shady palm trees, and turquoise waters, Puerto Vargas is a protected nesting ground for sea turtles, so Playa Blanca is the best option for swimming and sunbathing.


Hiking Trails

Hiking in jungle

There is one nature hike in Cahuita National Park — Punta Cahuita Trail (Cahuita Rainforest Trail). This moderately challenging 5.2-mile hike starts at the Kelly Creek Ranger Station and ends at Punta Cahuita, a gorgeous point on the beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

The trail follows the coast and is entirely flat. Much of the trail offers wooden slats and safety railings, making it a nice place for all skill levels to hike. Unlike snorkeling in Cahuita National Park, hiking does not require a guide, though a guided hike is a great way to notice wildlife lurking in the trees and along the beaches you might not otherwise have seen.


Cahuita Town

park entry sign

Cahuita, the town next to Cahuita National Park, is easily accessible and a great place to stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner while exploring the park.

Stop at Aroma Coffee Bar & Breakfast to start the day, enjoy traditional Costa Rican cuisine at Soda Kawe, savor some Caribbean food at Cahuita’s Taste Caribbean Soul Food, or sit down at El Rincón del Amor for a nicer meal.

Best Time to Visit Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica

Cahuita National Park enjoys a tropical Caribbean climate. Unlike the Pacific Coast and Central Valley in Costa Rica, which have a distinct green and dry season, Cahuita National Park tends to experience rainfall all year long. The driest months in Cahuita National Park are March, April, September, and October, and the rainiest months are May, June, July, August, November, January, and February.

March and April provide the best underwater visibility and driest weather, making them the best months for snorkeling around the coral reefs and visiting Cahuita National Park.

Book Your
Costa Rica Vacation
Ready to experience the beauty and adventure of Costa Rica? Book your vacation now and discover all that this stunning destination has to offer!

What to Bring to Cahuita National Park

Consider bringing (or wearing) the following items into Cahuita National Park:
  • Lightweight clothes — Cahuita is situated on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean Coast, so it can get hot and muggy. Wear cool, lightweight clothing, like athletic shorts and T-shirts.
  • Comfortable shoes — The trails in Cahuita National Park are flat and well-marked, with wood slats and safety railings. Unlike other national parks in Costa Rica, which have dirt and muddy trails, you won’t need to bring hiking shoes to explore Cahuita National Park.
  • Swimsuit — Bring a swimsuit and dry towel if you plan on snorkeling or swimming.
  • Sunscreen — The ocean and humidity will wash sunscreen off quickly, so apply (and reapply) it all day. Though it isn’t legally required, reef-safe sunscreen is recommended in Cahuita National Park to protect the coral reef’s delicate ecosystem.
  • Bug spray — Cahuita National Park is humid and attracts bugs (especially mosquitos), so applying bug spray regularly is a smart idea. Like sunscreen, reef-safe insect repellent is recommended.
  • Toilet paper — Some national parks in Costa Rica (including Cahuita National Park) don’t always have toilet paper in the bathrooms, so it can’t hurt to bring some with you.
  • Water — As we mentioned, it’s hot and humid in Cahuita National Park, so bring plenty of water into the park and drink it regularly to stay hydrated.
  • Camera — Cahuita National Park has tons of wildlife, so bring a camera to capture the monkeys, birds, and reptiles. Consider bringing a waterproof camera that you can use while snorkeling to capture the fish and marine wildlife under the sea as well!

Stay with Special Places of Costa Rica and Book an Excursion to Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park is one of the top places in Costa Rica for snorkeling, wildlife watching, and marveling at the picture-perfect Caribbean Coast. If you want the classic Caribbean snorkeling experience in Costa Rica — consider visiting this national park!

However, if you plan on staying on Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific Coast, in Guanacaste, there are still plenty of excellent places to go snorkeling here, too, like the Bat Islands and Turtle Island.

Browse our comfortable vacation rentals to find the perfect place to stay in Costa Rica — from cozy homes to luxury mansions — and contact us with questions. We can’t wait to host you!

Other Attractions

After you have visited volcanoes and national parks you may want to observe (or cool off in) some of the many beautiful waterfalls while in Costa Rica. Be sure to view our full list of things to do in Costa Rica to ensure you’re experiencing all of the main attractions while on your vacation.
Find a Property