Right in the center of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is the city of Puerto Limón, the country’s most important port since the late 1800s and the capital of the Black and Caribbean Culture of Costa Rica.
Like any port city around the world, Puerto Limón is a point for encounters and mixes that turn into interesting and quirky things.
The first encounter that has been registered is Christopher Columbus’s fourth and last trip to America, when he docked at the beach of Uvita ir Quiribrí Island, right in front of Puerto Limón. History says that Columbus was impressed by the amount of jewelry the indigenous people were wearing – or by the lush nature at the beach, depending on which history you want to believe – and called this new area “Costa Rica” or rich coast.
Ever since, many of the cultures that have melted inside Costa Rica entered through Puerto Limón, most importantly Black and Chinese people, who were brought to help with the construction of the railroad that connects San José with the port. This railroad was built by the United Fruit Company under a contract with the Costa Rican government that gave the company 100 years of usage, so for over a century, it was the main mean of transportation for Costa Rica’s exports like coffee and bananas.
Today the city of Puerto Limón, capital of the province of Limón, has two functioning ports, the actual Puerto Limón, and Moín Port, located a few kilometers northeast up the coast.
Things to do in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica
Puerto Limón has managed to stay off the beaten path of tourism in Costa Rica, so if you want to get a real feel of what Costa Rican Caribbean Culture means, this is the place to visit.
The city is small, and you can walk through most of its colorful areas, but we do recommend you avoid lonely streets when doing so. The pirate-feel you get when you are discovering the city comes with a price, and the last thing you want to do is put yourself in danger.
That being said, make sure to take the three block walk along the seawall that connects the port with the north part of the city. Right in the middle of the walk, there is an abandoned-looking outdoor theater, where you can always see local kids playing and interesting graffiti.
Parque Vargas, the most iconic park of Puerto Limón is also next to the walk. There, a lush tropical flora intertwines with colorful benches, an old gazebo and several sculptures honoring Puerto Limón’s history and culture. In front of the park is the municipal building that often hosts art and cultural exhibits.
From Parque Vargas start walking inland through the pedestrian road. Make a stop at the municipal market where you can find all kinds of interesting fruits and vegetables and also some of Limon’s traditional dishes.
Make another stop at the Post Office Building, located in the south-west corner of the market, to enjoy one of the oldest buildings of the city and also the Museo Etnohistorico de Limón where you can learn even more about the history and culture of the city.
If you keep walking in the same direction, you will find the cathedral of Limón and latter on the soccer stadium. These to places gather a lot of Limonenses, especially on Sundays, which turns it into the perfect place to people watch.
If you are into that sort of thing, make another stop at the Municipal Cemetery of Limón, located on the side of the 32 highway, just outside of town. Located on a hillside, this is the resting place for people from all the cultures that make Limón great: Black, Chinese and Spanish/White.
Swimming is not safe in most of the beaches in Puerto Limón, but when the tide is low you can enjoy a walk on the rocky beaches. The only place where you can get wet with a not-so-strong current is Playa Bonita, located 5km northeast of downtown Limón, along the coastal road. This is a place highly visited by locals, another opportunity to see the real Costa Rica.
Excursions from Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
From Puerto Limón you can easily reach all of the beautiful areas of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. To the north, you can find Tortuguero National Park, which you can reach by taking a boat from Moín port. If you drive south you will reach all of the amazing beaches of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo.
If you are looking to do day tours, consider visiting the Veragua Rainforest Park, a private park that protects 4,000 acres (1,618 ha) bordering the La Amistad National Park. It is located only 30 minutes west of the town of Limón, if you don’t have a car, a taxi will be happy to take you. At Veragua you can enjoy nature trails, a canopy tour, an aerial tramway, a waterfall observation platform and exhibits where you can observe native plants and animals.
If you are interested in learning more about bananas, go to the port tourist office and ask for a banana tour. Because there are many cruise ships that stop at Puerto Limón it is easy to organize a tour from this place.
Another option from Puerto Limón is to take a boat tour to and around Quiribrí Island, where Columbus docked in 1502. Ask at the port tourism office for more information.
Weather in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
Puerto Limón can be very hot and humid any day of the year. The weather in the Caribbean behaves a bit different than the rest of the country. During the dry season, it is very rainy in Limón. The best time of year to enjoy this part of the country is September and October, when the ocean is calm and the weather is the driest.
Considering a Trip to Puerto Limon?
We can help you plan a trip to Puerto Limon and other parts of Costa Rica. Start by contacting us to schedule a phone call.