Cahuita National Park
Size: 24,067 hectares
Distance from San Jose: 241 kilometers
Dry season: February, March, June, September and October.
Founded as a national monument in 1970 and a national park in 1978, protecting 1067 hectares of wilderness land, 600 hectares of coral reef and 22,400 hectares of marine area. The two main areas, Cahuita and Puerto Vargas, feature very picturesque beaches and the largest coral reef in the Costa Rican Caribbean. Several species of marine life can be seen here, including coral (brain, moose and deer-horn, fire, rose and lettuce), molluscs, crustaceans, turtles, colorful fish (angelfish, isabelitas, etc.) and many others.
The park also protects its distinctive plants, both marsh and coastal areas, as well as animals such as monkeys, sloths, squirrels, coatis and many insects and birds. Light-sand beaches, thousands of coconut palms, turquoise waters and a coral reef, this is one of the most scenic regions of the country. The park offers various activities such as hiking, swimming, diving, sunbathing, beach volleyball, considering the wealth of biological diversity, or doing nothing and enjoying the beautiful scenery. To make a comfortable visits, Cahuita offers the following services for visitors: information, drinking water, toilets and showers, picnic tables, trails and a campground.
Cahuita is one of the most beautiful regions of the country. The main attractions are the white sandy beaches, thousands of palm trees and a sea of crystal clear waters and a coral reef. Cahuita comes from the words “kawe” that means mahogany, and “ta”, means the point. This national park was founded in 1970 to preserve the country’s largest coral reef.
The reef stretches out like a fan in front of Cahuita point between the Perezoso River and Harbor Vargas. It is the only mature reef on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. There is a marginal type of reef and grows over 240 Ha. It consists of a submerged platform, which is formed by an external ridge and a sort of inner lagoon. The coral reef of old rubble, composed by sand patches, is the living coral and turtle grass prairies underwater. This grass is an important food for green turtles and many species of fish and mollusks, and it also provides a hiding place for sea urchins and snails.
Much of what you see exposed at Punta Cahuita was well under water before the 1991 earthquake, and now you have to go through to get to the sea. The quake is the latest disaster befalls the reef, but it has other problems. Silt from deforestation in the Talamanca Mountains kills behind the park, as well as soil and pesticide runoff from the banana industry killing the reef. Besides almost suffocated the coral polyps, silt is mixed in the symbiotic relationship that many coral with blue-green algae that live within the animal tissues and provides it with a good portion of its foods. There is still much worth saving in Cahuita, and it is hoped that the government will be more interested in the problems that threaten Costa Rica only mature reef.
Some of the notable features that are the attention of naturalists, who dives through this underwater garden are the different types of coral, such as the Elkhorn and smooth brain coral, Venus sea fans, sea urchins and an infinite number of lure colorful fish in all sizes.
Two of the most common sea urchins are the red sea urchin, which is very abundant in the sandy layers, and the black long-spined sea urchins, which feed mainly on algae. Other reef species include sea cucumber, lobster, sponge, white shrimp, green turtle and the Alpheus simus crustacean drill through the limestone. To date, 35 species of coral have been identified, 140 of mollusks, 44 crustaceans, 128 of algae, 3 of halophilic phanerophytes, and 123 freshwater and saltwater fish in Cahuita.
Most of Cahuita Point is made up of marsh land. Other habitats are unflooded forest, mangrove swamp and beach trees with a thick.
The remains of a slave ship that sank in the second half of the 18th Century fell comprise the most valuable cultural feature of the park. The shipwreck be seen at the mouth of the river Perezoso.
The most serious environmental problem in the Cahuita reef is the accumulation of deposits of La Estrella River. It has been shown that the sediments are affecting both individual coral formations and coral community as a whole.
Camping is on the well-organized camp, which has water, toilets and barbecues allowed, but it’s pretty crowded on weekends and holidays.
Trees found here: cativo, coconut, sea grapes, palm, red mangrove, banak, copal and blood wood. Fish found on the reef: French angelfish, rock beauty, queen angelfish, blue parrot fish, great barracuda, little stingray, and remora, also 3 species of sharks and 6 of moray eels. Animals found here: white-nosed coati, howler monkey, common raccoon, land hermit crab, white land crab, wide red land crab and black land crab. Birds found here: yellow-crowned night-heron, green-and-rufous kingfisher,green ibis and northern boat-billed heron.