Limon, Costa Rica, sometimes called ‘the gateway to Tortuguero National Park’, provides a natural stopover for visitors en route to the remote but gorgeous beaches of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. World travelers looking forward to a glimpse of the ecologically diverse Tortuguero wildlife often find themselves parked in Limon for several hours or overnight. Although Limon, Costa Rica is not a city known for tourism first and foremost, a bit of exploration is still worth the time and effort.
The most successful port city on the nation’s Caribbean coast, Limon, Costa Rica ships thousands of pounds of bananas every single day to the U.S., Canada, Europe, and countless other global destinations. Christopher Columbus is believed to have first landed on Isla Luvita just off the shores of Limon, and was reportedly so awed by the scenery that he came up with the name “Rich Land” or “Costa Rica” to describe what he saw.
Visitors stopping over in Limon might start their exploration of this bustling port city by parking themselves in the Parque Vargas along the seawall and watching the multicultural residents go about their hectic day. The Parque Vargas is also home to a number of exotic tree sloths that can be spotted fairly easily lumbering from branch to branch.
A walk around downtown will impress fans of colorful Central American architecture. Many of the original inhabitants of Limon, Costa Rica built exotic storefronts and residences with elaborate and twisting wood work, and then painted them with bright, indigenous designs, giving the downtown area a rugged, old world charm.
(Walking about town after dark is not recommended, however, as Limon is known for muggings and robberies once the sun goes down.)
A nice play to stay or dine in Limon, Costa Rica is the Hotel Maribu Caribe. Built into a hillside overlooking the Caribbean, the hotel features a formal dining room with a curving outside veranda; a perfect place to sit and watch the waves roll in while enjoying a tall, cool drink. The Park Hotel and the Hotel Corcori offer basic Tico fare (local food featuring rice, black beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh fish and beef) and pleasant accommodations at a reasonable price.
For visitors who can’t imagine a Costa Rican experience with a beach excursion, a popular surfing beach, Playa Bonita, is just a short taxi ride away from the city. The swimming at Playa Bonita is a bit rough and the water is not the cleanest, but the waves are great, and visitors looking for some time in the sun and the sound of the sea will be able to drench themselves in both without any problem here.
Finally, Limon, Costa Rica is famous for its annual Carnaval festival, held around Columbus Day, October 12th. Nonstop reggae. Soca, and calypso music fill the air for an entire week while Limon residents take to the streets dressed in outlandish costumes for dazzling parades.
Hotels fill up fast at Carnaval time, so make reservations early if this annual citywide party sounds like a fun part of your itinerary. And again, be careful! Like any unrestrained celebration, Carnaval can get a little wild and wooly, so take sensible precautions and stay safe.