South Caribbean

From Limón to the border with Panama, the southern Caribbean coast is dotted with quiet beaches and small communities that until relatively recently have been cut off from much of the rest of Costa Rica. Once the preserve of Bribrí and Cabecar people who lived in the southern Talamanca mountains, the indigenous populations were joined by Afro-Caribbean groups who built the railroad and worked on banana plantations in the early 1900s. This single means of transport was the only line of communication until the late 1970s when the road from Limón crept south slowly linking the isolated villages. The tarmac road finally reached Manzanillo in 2001.

The slow advance of progress has had some benefits, limiting the voracity of coastal development, retaining an element of cultural diversity and keeping a generally relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. Of course, this being Costa Rica, natural events always have a part to play. On the 22nd April 1991 an earthquake hit the area, raising some parts of the southern coastline by over a metre. Rivers were re-routed and temporary crossings replaced the bent and broken bridges ruined by the tremors. The bridges have been replaced now but at points along the coast you can still clearly see the 'shelf' on the land.

Accommodation is focused in the quickly growing towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca but a particular appeal of the region is the (generally pleasant) sprawling of individual lodges in quiet hideaways filled with a character and imagination as varied as their owners - many of them expatriates from around the globe who have fallen for the south coast's idyllic charms.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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