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Published: April 22nd 2013
It was bound to happen one day. We have traveled so far and for so long and we have had no problems whatsoever. But how and when was hanging upon us, as it usually is for all long-term travelers. Panama and Costa Rica are considered rather safe so we did not give them much thought in that respect.
We were not even supposed to stop in Costa Rica. It is considered touristy, expensive and well too modern. Did not sound appealing to us, to be honest. What you read about places is never 100% true so as usual our plans were altered by a certain traveler we met in Panama. She told us about a little village very close to Panama border which she loves and adores and comes back there every year for a few weeks. It is also the only place where National Park is free in CR and there is abundance of flora and fauna which is worth the stop. It was properly sold to us – don’t you think?
The border crossing was supposed to be the most chilled out in the whole Central America. It was far from that, we can tell you that.
Not only we had to stand there for nearly 6h, in open sun without shade but also local people constantly pushed through the line, stopped the immigration officers to talk and just slowed the whole thing down. We heard the likes of: “We deserve to go first”. “There is a 2 locals per 1 tourist rule”, “We are so fatigued and so hot, we cannot stand it”…
yeah, cause foreigners are super-humans and can stay in open sun the whole day without being irritated!!! Not to mention some imaginary 3$ exit fee, which locals don't pay....obviously. Honestly, it was the worse border crossing ever. Such traffic and only one officer per entry or exit!!!
We finally got to Cahuita after whole day travels (really only 100km or so) and were lucky to find cheap beds and could relax a bit. It was late so we only manage to buy some food and cook dinner. Ohhh the pricing…quite shocking but we were prepared for that. With 9$ per night dorm bed and cooking all the food in-house it is still not so bad. Besides we already knew that the best thing in this place is free – National Park, of
course. This is exactly where we went first thing after breakfast.
Cahuita has a very weird location. One part of town is located alongside Playa Negra with black volcanic sand, strong rapids and not-so-appealing beach but the other part is on the edge of National Park with beautiful Playa Blanca, tranquil waters and nice sand made of shells. Every entrance to the 8km long trail through the National Park and the beach is free but needs a donation of some money. So funny because at the end of the trail is Puerto Viejo, popular tourist destination and the entrance fee over there is 10$.
The first day we just enjoyed the beach but already on the way to find a nice spot we managed to see 5 sloths, raccoons, loads of birds and Capuchins. All that without even trying:-) You can imagine how excited we were for the next day. We put our trekking shoes on, packed some lunch, camera and hit the trail. Just when we entered we met two park rangers who showed us viper snake and sloths and we took one up on his offer to show us more. They already said it was their
job to walk the trails but we gave him 10$ tip anyway. The guy was great and without him we would have spot much less than what we saw.
There were sloths – many, many sloths – howler monkeys, birds, lizards, iguanas, raccoons and very rare white-nosed coati, even basiliscus. We loved every bit of this long trail even though on the way back we were so tired we had to almost drag our feet behind us haha Funny how on Cahuita's side rangers make sure everybody knows not to feed animals. On the other side, run by the government, guides bring on fruit with them to get animals to pose for photos – shocking!!! It creates very bad habits with monkeys; especially Capuchins that are brave enough to go and steal food. We knew better than that but still got in trouble…
We already walked far away from the main tourist beaches and through all boardwalks etc when we saw a very big Capuchin in front of us. Usually they stay on the trees and follow people who might have any food or carry things in their hands, but this one….this big guy was on the ground
and kept moving towards us. To be honest ‘his’ confidence and rather brave moves shocked us and we froze. No more rabies injections for us, thank you very much. So we stood there while the Capuchin came around, climbed over Tomek’s arm to his backpack, opened it and took the banana out. Then it jumped on the tree and peeled the banana with a very content face. The monkey robbed us of a fruit it was not supposed to know about!!! How smart and how...rude!!! We could only laugh but we were still very glad that ONLY this sort of robbery has happened to us since we left home…LUCKY US!!! Additional information:
• It is very easy to get to Cahuita by local transport. It costs only 11$ each to take a bus-bus-bus combo instead of 30$ for a direct boat from Bocas. Boat passengers have to stand in the immigration queue as well so it is not really that much faster
• Was it worth it to stop in Costa Rica in the end? Yes it was – we don’t know about any other places, but Cahuita is low key, pretty authentic and offers amazing wildlife
experience. We cannot be grateful enough to the person who recommended this place to us
• We loved Cahuita's bar scene with live reggaeton and 2for1 drinks – this place is beautiful and loads of fun as well
• Costa Rica came actually cheaper to us per day than Panama – we spent 31£/48.6$ per day
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