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Landmarks > Cahuita
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Established in 1970 to protect the coral reefs offshore, this park protects 2,732 acres (1,106 ha) on land and 55,350 acres (22,400 ha) of marine area. It is one of the jewels of the Caribbean offering opportunities to see both the reef and a rich variety of animal and bird life on the land.
The reef itself is endangered and may only be visited on a guided trip to protect the remaining reef. As well, calm waters are best otherwise visibility can be poor. Fish, corals and mollusks can all be seen.
On land there are nature trails and a wide variety of animal life that can be seen including sloths, white faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, northern tamanduas, pacas, white-nosed coatis, raccoons and agoutis. There are also many birds.
There are many beaches within the park. The busiest is Playa Blanca, the first beach reached from the Kelly Creek entrance but narrow beaches continue around Punta Cahuita until you reach the wide sandy and normally deserted Playa Vargas.
The park stretches all the way from Kelly Creek immediately beside downtown Cahuita to Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo. There is a pedestrian only entrance at Kelly Creek Station and car and pedestrian access at the Puerto Vargas entrance and bus stops at both ends so you can do a one way 8.5 km hike through the park if you like.
The entrance is by donation at the Cahuita/Kelly Creek entrance (the only national park in Costa Rica like this) but is $5 for non-residents at the Puerto Vargas entrance, less for legal residents of Costa Rica. The park is open 8am to 4pm daily.
Within the park there are no commercial services or food/beverage services so bring what you need for the day. At the Kelly Creek entrance there are restrooms and showers. At the Puerto Vargas info center (2.4 km from the Puerto Vargas entrance) there are also showers and restrooms and sometimes informational talks by rangers.
Some recommended tours which include the park are the Cahuita Boat, Snorkel and Hiking Trip and the Cahuita National Park Hike
Disposable water bottles are no longer allowed in national parks in Costa Rica so bring your reusable water bottle!
You will spot much more wildlife on a tour with a professional guide. See the details for a guided hike or for the boat, snorkel and hike tour.