The quantity of beaches on Costa Rica's shorter Caribbean Coast may not rival that of the Pacific, but the region's idyllic swaths of sugar sand bordered by coconut palms and jungle constitute some of the country's most enchanting coastal scenery.
The Caribbean is also an area of exceptional natural wealth, since beyond the rows of palm trees you can often find lowland rainforest that is inhabited by troops of monkeys, legions of tiny lizards and countless bird species.
And submerged off several points are extensive coral reefs that include such intriguing life forms as colorful sponges, sea stars, moray eels and eagle rays.
The ever verdant region is also the cradle of Costa Rica's Afro-Caribbean culture, which implies different cuisine, music and language than what you'll encounter in the rest of the country.
The amazingly straight northern half of that coast resembles an endless palm-lined beach broken here and there by a river mouth. Though dangerous currents make the area unsafe for swimming, its exuberant vegetation and languid waterways teaming with game fish make it a popular destination for nature lovers and sport fishermen.
Tortuguero National Park protects one of the world's more important nesting beaches for the endangered green sea turtle, as well as vast expanses of tropical forest traversed by rivers and canals. While boat trips down those waterways are excellent opportunities for spotting some of the local wildlife, guides can take visitors down the beach at night from June to October, for the unforgettable experience of watching a sea turtle nest.
Quiet fishing communities, coral reefs and rainforest reserves complement the picturesque beaches of the southern Caribbean Coast. Not only are those beaches excellent candidates for travel posters and postcards, they feature safe conditions for swimming and snorkeling when the waves are small.
Several points in the area are surrounded by large coral reefs that are extensive enough to keep skin divers exploring for hours on end. Cahuita National Park was created to protect the country's biggest costal coral reef (a vast marine garden composed of amazing colors and life forms) but the park's forests, beaches and estuaries comprise comparable biological diversity.
The area around Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo offer equally impressive combinations of marine life and tropical forest, and as is the case with Cahuita, the local culture is an added attraction for visitors.
The port city of Limon and the fishing towns of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo were founded by immigrants from some Caribbean island, and the consequent Afro-Caribbean heritage makes the area an interesting switch from Costa Rica's predominant Hispanic culture