Cahuita: Exploring the Caribbean, Nature and Culture

Accommodation and food services are the main branch of tourism activity in the district of Cahuita. The activity is concentrated in the community that has the same name, which is recognized nationally and internationally for its beautiful beaches, and for being the point of access to the Cahuita National Park. It is a destination very much desired by many people, for getting rest from the city pace and immerse into the mixture with the Afro-Caribbean culture. In the locality, about 44 micro, small and medium enterprises (MIPymes) can be identified, dedicated exclusively to the tourist activity, being the main motor of the local economy. (EPIPSA, 2015, Pg. 10).

In Cahuita, there are important attractions of international recognition by visitors, such as: Cahuita National Park, coral reef, white sand beaches, coastal forests for observation of flora and fauna; And added to these the local culture, with its music to the rhythm of the calypso, and the gastronomy proper of the Costa Rican Caribbean Area.

In order to operate the Community Tourist Attraction initiative in Cahuita and its area of influence, it is intended to do so through the Cahuita Integral Development Association, with the support of the Cahuita National Park Local Council. This Association is committed to the strengthening and cultural, economic and social link between the community of Cahuita, the National Park and tourist enterprises, through shared governance. For its part, the Local Council is an organ of local participation within the community, made up of different key organizations, which together: co-administer, manage and make important decisions in the management of the Protected Wild Area.

The shared administration (co-management) that exists today in the Cahuita National Park is the result of an important process of agreement between the State and the community, which allowed the transition from conflict to collaboration, where all involved parties obtain benefits. In addition, it allowed the historical-cultural rights of the population on the natural resources of the site that could be affected by the creation of the Park, were recognized and respected through the equitable participation of that population, in the benefits generated by National Park operation.

The joint work between the Integral Development Association, the Local Council of Cahuita National Park and the communities will allow a better administration and management of the historical, natural and cultural heritage between the State and the community for the social and environmental local community and national level benefit.

The Community Tourist Attraction of Cahuita incorporates the local actors within a formal and permanent space, in a horizontal relationship of collaborative and multi sectoral nature, with the participation of public, social and private actors, and with possibilities to influence the actions and necessary decisions for the good management of the Park, and of the benefits that this generates for the zone.
​Historical review of the community of Cahuita.

The first inhabitants of Cahuita came from the first half of the eighteenth century, attracted by the coral reef, which, years ago, was the site of food and shelter of large groups of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). These species were highly desired by the indigenous and black settlers, who, in rowing boats and sailboats, sailed from Bocas del Toro and Nicaraguan coast.

The family of Mr. William Smith, was the first to be established in the year 1828, at the site nowadays called "Punta Cahuita". For many years, these early settlers planted products such as yam (Dioscorea alata), cassava (Manihot esculenta), cocoa (Theobroma cacao) and coconut (Cocos nucifera); and raised ranches with floors and walls of maquenque palm (Socratea durissima) and roofs of pressed leaves.

In 1915, during the government of President Alfredo González Flores, the present town of Cahuita was founded. The president, in gratefulness to the population for the aid received during the shipwreck of his ship, donates a land in which the new town is demarcated.

At that time, the main economic activity of subsistence developed by the inhabitants of Cahuita, was the sowing of cacao and the artisanal fishing; but due to the fall in the prices of this product and diseases that attacked crops, their inhabitants were forced to start new forms of subsistence such as logging and ranching.

With this panorama, in the year 1970, the National Cahuita Monument is created, to protect the coral reef; and in 1978, it was declared National Park. It is one of the first National Parks created in the country, for the conservation of nature and benefit of all Costa Ricans and visitors.

The community of Cahuita has devoted great efforts to the conservation of this National Park since its creation. This is why, in 1998, the Management Committee of the Cahuita National Park, made up of members of local organizations, and representatives of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) was formed. This Committee develops actions for the conservation and sustainable use of the various ecosystems of the Park, making important contributions to the development of the community.

The name Cahuita comes from the terms "Kawe", which means "Sangrillo" (tree of the zone) and "Ta" that means "punta", that is to say "Punta Sangrillo". It has 57,550 acres (23,290 ha) of marine coverage and 2,723 acre (1,102 ha) of land. In this territory, there is a set of ecological systems such as coral reefs, which, by their structure and diversity, are considered the most developed in the Costa Rican Caribbean Area (Jiménez et al., 2011).

Cultural wealth.

In the 18th century, with the arrival of the Afro-descendants, cultural ties were created between the different ethnic groups, from Africa and Jamaica, leaving as legacy customs and traditions, such as: architecture, which is clearly shown as the Jamaican style, which consists of building

The Caribbean gastronomy, stands out for using ingredients of the region, such as coconut milk, for the production of the famous Caribbean Rice & Beans or the unique "Rondón"; In addition, of the well-known "Patí", a cake of pastry of meat, with spices and hot pepper. Among its dishes is also the "Plantain tart", and the "Pan Bon".

El Calypso began to be heard in the Caribbean of Costa Rica from the year 1870, when people of black ethnicity arrived from the islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Saint Kitts. Since then, the community of Limón has been making Calypso music and rhyming in those melodies. The name given to Calypso's songwriters in Limón is calipsonians, which means: "a person who tells gossip, recycles rumors and transmits the news, while positively resists the onslaughts of the colonialists in the 19th and 20th. (Monestel, M. 1993).

​Exploring the wonders of the reef in the Costa Rican South Caribbean.

There are snorkeling activities in the marine area of the Cahuita National Park, to explore and observe the beauties of the reef, its biodiversity, under a high standard of quality and safety.
Fifteen minutes from the boat departure, is the most developed coral reef on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, with 14,826 acres (6,000 hectares), where you can find: 135 species of fish, 35 species of corals, 140 species of molluscs and 128 species of algae.

Submerged in a magical world of colors and capricious shapes, you can also see: Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare), snappers (Pagrus pagrus), parrot (Scaridae), stingrays (Manta birostris), sharks, brain corals (Diploria strigosa), Coral moose (Acropora palmata), fire coral (Millepora) and a great variety of mollusks and algae.

At the end of the tour, you return to the pier.

Attractions:

Scenic beauty, beaches, coral reef and marine biodiversity.

Product Features:

This product is offered throughout the year; however, there are days when weather conditions such as strong winds and tides do not allow their development. It consists of a boat tour around the marine area for the observation and learning of wildlife.

The activity can be developed in several paths authorized and regulated within the National Park, such as: El Perezoso (the Lazy) and El Eduardo (the Eduardo), which have very well developed patches or reef areas.

​Exploring the exuberant rainforest.


Explore and get to know the very rainy humid tropical forest and the different species of flora and fauna in which they interact.

This product responds to a great expectation for those who visit Cahuita, with the desire to venture into the tropical rainforest.

The route is made along a land path, entering both the sector of Puerto Vargas and the sector of Playa Blanca Cahuita National Park.

The trails that stand out are The trail Los Cativos of 1.36 mile (2.2 km) (Elevated platform newly built), in the sector of Puerto Vargas, which allows direct contact with the exuberant tropical rainforest. The trail El Perezoso, with 1.73 mile (2.8 km) (located between Suárez River and the Perezoso River); and Playa Blanca trail, with 1.05 mile (1.7 km) (from the entrance stand by the sector of Playa Blanca to Suarez river).

It is possible to do the tour independently, although it is recommended the support and accompaniment of a local guide accredited for a better experience and thus appreciate the biodiversity along the route.

During the tour it will be possible to observe the flora and fauna in its natural state along a  large trail of trees, such as: Sangrillo, Cativo, Almonds and  Coconut; In addition to animals such as: monkeys, sloths, raccoons, pizotes, tinsel snake; And birds, such as: trogons, toucans and hawk crab, among many more animals and plants. It is an excellent complement to activities such as snorkeling, a recreational walk through the community of Cahuita, and enjoy the Caribbean gastronomy of the site such as "Rice and beans" with fish in Caribbean sauce or "Patty"”.

Given the proximity between the Protected Wild Area and the community of Cahuita, the cultural complement is ideal to combine with this hike.

Attractions:

Wet rainforest, flora and fauna.
 

Surfing lessons in the Caribbean.


Surf classes for enthusiastic and challenging people, who want to get started in the practice of this sport. It requires a good disposition, attitude, and desire to learn.

Surf classes are offered for adults of all ages, and children from 4 years old and up. For the first class of Surf no experience is needed, since there are professional instructors specialized in teaching the whole process of this sport, from the beginning. All that is needed are people with a desire to have fun and joy in the water.

The surf class begins at Playa Negra, which is a beach with a sandy bottom, perfect for beginners, where there is no coral reef. Here it begins with a warm-up, and then the instructor explains and teaches each student the technique to stand on the surfboard. For beginners, a "longboard" board is included, and the instructor will take care of and guide the student from warm-up to the end of the lesson.

Sharing with the indigenous culture of Talamanca.


Experiential experience of direct contact and sharing with the local culture, achieving a real integration and knowing the way of life of the native cultures of Talamanca.

It consists of a guided tour to make known and learn about the indigenous culture of the indigenous peoples of Talamanca, territories such as: Kéköldi, Bribrí and Cabécar. By means of a direct and experiential contact, the visitor will become familiar with the customs and traditions of the local people, participating in activities such as: ceremonies, demonstrations, cocoa production based on organic cocoa, and other cultural practices such as culturing corn. Also, aspects of tradition, such as: dancing, singing and shamanism.

Attractions:

Native culture, traditional houses, scenic beauty, rivers, waterfalls, traditional crops, songs, dance and handicrafts.

Agro tourism, promoting local food security.


It consists of visiting model farms, agro tourism and organic production places, to observe the crop processes; Learn the practice of planting and tasting fruit, as well as other elaborate products, such as: cheeses, yogurt or chocolate. This visit can be guided or independently.
 

Attractions:

Traditional crops, planting and harvesting processes, nature and scenic beauty, tasting of organic products.

Spawning of turtles in Playa Negra and Playa Grande de Cahuita.


To witness the spawning of sea turtles, as an extraordinary phenomenon of their life cycles, while learning about the conservation efforts of a developing society.

It consists of a visit to the beaches (Negra and Grande, in Cahuita), to observe closely the spawning of sea turtles.

Seasonal activity, which takes place between the months of March to June, where it is possible to observe the Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coryacea); And between July and October, you can see the Turtle Carey (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Green Turtle (Chelonya mydas).

The guide takes advantage of the walk, based on interpretive techniques, to share aspects related to the natural history of the turtles, emphasizing reproduction and the nesting process. In addition, interesting facts about Costa Rica's biodiversity conservation trajectory and the Protected Wild Areas model are presented.
 

Attractions:

Sea turtles, spawning, and natural history, beaches.
​Phones: (506) 2755-0461
             (506) 2755-0302
E-mail: encadenamientoturisticocahuita@gmail.com