Costa Rica Caribbean Side: Relaxed Atmosphere and Culture

Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is a tropical paradise characterized by its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture.

The region is known for its laid-back atmosphere and slower pace of life, offering a perfect escape.

Here you can immerse yourself in Afro-Caribbean traditions, savor delicious cuisine, and enjoy the lively reggae-infused nightlife.

The Caribbean Side at a Glance

Nearest International Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela

Popular Things to Do

see sea turtles, hike at Cahuita National Park, enjoy the nightlife in Puerto Viejo

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, day tours with transportation

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late July through early December

Main Language

Spanish. Most people in tourism speak English


Costa Rica Colones, but USD is widely accepted


110v/60 (the same as the US)

Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Caribbean Side: Relaxed Atmosphere and Culture

This area is easy to get to from the San Jose International Airport.

It is also where one of the biggest cities in the country is located, Limon.

Limon is where almost all products (such as bananas, coffee, and pineapple) are exported from. 

From the southern tip of the Caribbean coast it is easy to cross into Panama. 

Towns and Cities on the Caribbean Coast

puerto viejo

Puerto Viejo

A popular town with backpackers and surfing enthusiasts. There is also a good night life scene here.



Tortuguero is only accessible by boat. It is a small town that is a must-visit spot to see sea turtles laying their eggs.



A fun Caribbean coastal town that is best known for its amazing national park.



This small village is a chilled-out destination with a nice national park located near the Panama border.

limon view


The biggest city on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast and home to a cruise port and export port. 

bocas del toror beach bar

Bocas del Toro, Panama

A series of islands located in Panama just over the border. This place is paradise on earth.

The Caribbean Side Weather

The Caribbean coast has opposite dray and rainy seasons from the rest of the country.

Here, the dry season starts in August and runs through early December.

The rest of the year you may experience some rain, but in our experience, it is often in the evening or early morning. This is nice because it doesn’t totally mess up your day.

Often July is the rainiest month on this coast. 

The temperature year-round is usually in the upper 80°F (around 30°C) during the day and dips to about  65° F (19°C) at night.

Year-round the sun rises between 5:15 and 5:45am and sets between 5:30 and 6:00pm. 

Don’t forget, you are on the Caribbean coast so, wake up early and enjoy that sunrise!

Things to Do in The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica

In Tortuguero

Walk the miles of beaches | rent kayaks | go on a canoe tour | explore the Tortuguero National Park | check out the Turtle museum | experience turtle nesting | go on a fishing tour

In Cahuita

Explore Cahuita National Park | Go Snorkeling | Watch the Sunrise | Check out the Shops in Downtown Cahuita | Visit the Sloth Sanctuary

In Puerto Viejo

Do Some Beach Hopping | Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center | Check Out the Nightlife | Take a Cacao Tour | Go Surfing | Hike at Manzanillo | Do Some Souvenir Shopping

manzanillo Costa Rica
sloth cahuita costa rica
tortuguero costa rica

Transportation to the Caribbean Coast

We usually suggest renting a car because it will give you the most flexibility in getting around between locations and it will allow you to explore more on your own.

If you plan on heading into Panama after visiting the Caribbean you can always return your car in Puerto Viejo and take a bus to the border. 

The Driving Route

In the beginning of your trip, you will have to do a little driving through San Jose though which can be a bit daunting and stressful.

After making it through San Jose you will drive through Braulio Carillo national park which is really pretty. The roads are well maintained here but there are a lot of curves in spots.

However, there has been a lot of road work here recently (they are widening the road so I doubt it will be over anytime soon) and there have been a lot of major backups.

From there, if you are heading to the southern Caribbean you follow a straight road to Limon and then drive down the coast. I absolutely love the drive along the coast. The roads are in good condition and it’s absolutely beautiful.

If you are heading up to Tortuguero you will drive through some small towns and then will go on a long stretch of unpaved road which end at the boat launch to get to Tortuguero. You can read more about this route in our Tortuguero guide

Which Car to Rent

You do not need a 4×4 for this route, but you might want something with a bit of power while driving through the national park. An SUV is always a good idea. 

Private Shuttle

Adobe just started a private shuttle company and they are great! 

Their experienced certified driver can pick you up anywhere in the country and take you to your hotel on the Caribbean.

You can get a private shuttle price quote here

Public Bus

If you are going to the southern Caribbean, there is a bus that runs several times a day from downtown San Jose. It stops in Liberia, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and outside of Manzanillo. You can find out more on the bus website

costa rica caribbean side

Is the Caribbean Coast Worth Visiting?

Yes, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is definitely worth visiting! It offers a unique and distinct experience compared to the Pacific coast. Here are a few reasons why:

You’ll find pristine beaches with turquoise waters, lush rainforests teeming with wildlife, and stunning coral reefs. It’s a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The region is home to several national parks and protected areas, such as Tortuguero National Park and Cahuita National Park.

The Caribbean coast has a unique cultural blend influenced by Afro-Caribbean traditions, indigenous cultures, and a vibrant local community.

The Caribbean coast offers a range of exciting activities. You can go snorkeling or diving in the coral reefs, take boat tours through the lush canals of Tortuguero, try your hand at surfing in Puerto Viejo, or hike through the rainforests to discover hidden waterfalls.

You Might Also Like Visiting

The Nicoya Peninsula: A remote corner of Costa Rica filled with nice beaches. This is a popular place for yoga enthusiasts and surfers

The Central Pacific Coast: The Central Pacific Coast is one of the most popular beach areas in the country. Here you can visit Manuel Antonio National Park and see tons of wildlife.

The Guanacaste Province: A popular beach area and home to Costa Rica’s other international airport. There are several nice resorts here.

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Destination Guide page for more ideas of places to visit.