Cahuita is our favorite national park in Costa Rica. We love that you are deep in the jungle, but the beach is literally right next to you. It is so beautiful and far less crowded than other national parks in the country. We created this guide to help you have the best visit to Cahuita National Park as possible.
Basic Cahuita National Park Info
Hours: 8am to 4pm
Cost: There is no set cost. They will ask for a donation at the rangers station. Feel free to give what you want. We usually give about $5-$7 per person.
To Bring: Lots of water, binoculars, swimsuit (there is a bathroom with changing stations), towel, camera, strong sunscreen, bug spray, rain jacket.
To Wear: Every time we’ve been to Cahuita National Park it has rained half way through our hike. Despite the rain, it tends to stay hot hot hot. I usually wear some kind of sport shorts I don’t mind getting wet, a t-shirt, sports bra, and bring a rain jacket. When it starts raining I usually just take off my t-shirt and wear my sports bra. If I get a bit cold I throw on my rain jacket. For shoes, I like something like Chacos that are comfy for hiking but can also get wet. I also recommend a rainproof cover for your backpack.
The Amount of Time You Need: You could spend a whole day here. The hike is really nice and there are several beaches along the trail with picnic tables. You could bring a lunch and your bathing suit and just chill.
Cahuita National Park is located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It is about a 3.5 hour drive from San Jose. The vibe here is totally different from the rest of the country and we love it!
There is a public parking lot that you need to pay a few dollars to use right before the park entrance in Cahuita. If you arrive around 8am the parking lot usually is not open yet. We have always parked on the side of the road across from the small grocery store. We have never had any problems, but make sure you don’t have anything valuable in your car just in case.
We like Waze for directions. Just type “Cahuita National Park” as your destination and it will lead the way.
Helpful Cahuita National Park Tips:
1. Get There Early
The national park opens at 8 am and although it doesn’t get nearly as crowded as other national parks, we still like to get there early. As the morning goes on a lot of people will show up to spend the day at the beach. If you want to do the same it is nice to do your hike early and secure a picnic table and beach spot before more people come. Also, there is a chance it might rain. Every time we’ve gone it has started to rain around 11 am. By starting early you can wrap up your hike around rainy time (if it rains).
2. Hire A Guide?
Before you pay for your admission you will be bombarded with people asking if you want a guide. It is best to make your decision ahead of time and give them a firm “no” if you are not interested. Otherwise, they will try to convince you for as long as it takes.
We have never hired a guide here but we’ve walked by guides leading tours and they all seem really knowledgeable. The guides also carry a telescope with them so you have the chance of getting a really close look at all the wildlife.
The nice thing about getting a guide here is that because it is a less popular national park you most likely won’t have a big group if you hire a guide. It may just be you and the guide.
You can haggle with them about the price, but usually, you can expect to pay about $20.
3. The wildlife is ridiculous
The amount of cool animals in this national park is just insane. We’ve seen sloths, tons of monkeys, pit vipers, colored crabs, lizards, creepy spiders, and probably many other things I can’t think of right now. If you have binoculars definitely bring them and a strong camera lens.We've seen sloths, tons of monkeys, pit vipers, crabs, lizards, & big spiders in #CahuitaClick To Tweet
If you want to have some fun you can have a wildlife competition. This is something Thomas and I always do (because we are both competitive to the max). Whenever we spot a new animal that we hadn’t seen yet the person who spotted it first gets a point. At the end of our walk, the loser has to buy lunch.
I’m always the loser. 🙁
4. The trails are easy
The paths in Cahuita National Park are flat and very clear. You may end up doing A LOT of walking if you try to do most of the park, but there is no need to wear hiking boots.
5. You have to cross waterways
There are a few parts in the park where you will have to cross offshoots from the ocean to continue your walk. These are not deep (about mid calm level for me and I’m ridiculously short). This is why I recommended a shoe like Chacos in the “What to Wear” section. I like Chacos because I can walk in water with them but they are stable enough for long walks as well.
6. There is only one restroom
The only restroom as at the entrance of the national park. I’ve used it before and it is not the nicest. OK, it’s kinda gross. If you don’t want to wear your bathing suit, but want to change in to it before swimming your best bet is to find an empty spot to change and hope that nobody comes.
7. There is nowhere to buy food or drinks in the park
You need to bring all your food and drinks into the park with you. It gets really hot so definitely, bring a lot of water.
Note: Food is allowed in the park, but don’t feed any of the wildlife.
Enjoy your time in the national park and let us know what interesting wildlife you saw during your wildlife competition. 🙂
If you need some tips for what else to do in Cahuita, hotels, and restaurants; head on over here.
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