Amongst mangroves and white beaches
During your Caribbean MSC cruise take a slow boat north from Puerto Limón – one of several established “black” Central American coastal cities, like Bluefields in Nicaragua and Lívingston in Guatemala, a typical Caribbean port – along the Tortuguero Canal to see luxuriant vegetation and colourful wooden houses on stilts.
Another nice excursion is Veragua Rainforest: a fascinating “research and adventure park” that provides a quick and sleek introduction to some of the region’s rich biodiversity. Owned and operated entirely by Costa Ricans, Veragua holds several smartly designed animal exhibits – including one that mimics a nocturnal habitat for frogs – as well as an aerial tram, a zip line and an elevated trail through the rainforest leading to a waterfall.
The highlight of this holiday destination, though, is the research facility, where you can talk with the resident biologists and learn more about the ongoing study of the park’s stunning collection of butterflies. The Parque Nacional Cahuita covers a wedge-shaped piece of land that encompasses the area between Punta Cahuita and the main highway and, most importantly, the coral reef (arrecife) about 500m offshore. On land, Cahuita protects the coastal rainforest, a lowland habitat of semi-mangroves and tall canopy cover that backs the gently curving white-sand beaches of Playa Vargas to the south and Playa Cahuita to the north.
The small Sloth Sanctuary sits on a tiny island at the mouth of the Río Estrella. The sanctuary functions as an important rehabilitation and research centre for injured and orphaned sloths, and, not surprisingly, is the best place in Costa Rica to see them up close. Several walking trails traverse the grounds and there’s an observation platform for bird watching. You may also spot white-faced, howler and spider monkeys. On the one-hour-thirty-minute canoe tour through the delta you can catch a glimpse of caimans, river otters and all kinds of birds.