Visiting Punta Uva, Costa Rica

Punta Uva, which means Grape Point, is named for the Sea Grape plant found in the region. It is a laid back coastal village located on the Southern Caribbean of Costa Rica in the province of Limón. An easy 8.5 km (5 miles) south of Puerto Viejo between Punta Cocles and Manzanillo, Punta Uva is less than an hour’s drive to the Panama border crossing at Sixaola.

Perhaps one of the best things about Punta Uva is that it isn’t over-developed and preserves its natural beauty and slow pace. Home to a variety of small restaurants, hotels, guest houses, and cabins, it is far enough away from the lively party scene of Puerto Viejo to have a tranquil vibe, yet conveniently close to supermarkets, clinics, banks, and nightlife in nearby towns.

Cultural Melting Pot

The Southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is renowned for its fusion of rich and diverse cultures and ethnic diasporas. Layers of Indigenous, West African, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, European, and North American peoples and histories have intertwined in this place over time, creating unique culinary, musical, folkloric and linguistic traditions found nowhere else in the world.

The Caribbean coast is home to a complex linguistic heritage. English and Spanish are spoken, as well as local Patois influenced by Jamaican English, French, Spanish, and West African languages and dialects. This makes it one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the country, and a great place to learn colorful local slang.

Nothing evokes the joyful and laid back spirit of the Caribbean coast like the rhythms of calypso and reggae. The Southern Caribbean is the birthplace of some of Costa Rica’s most talented musicians. You can enjoy live music at local bars and restaurants.

Beach

While still off the beaten path, Punta Uva is quickly gaining a reputation as one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches for its golden-white sand, aquamarine waters, and lush green jungle. Coconut palms, Manzanillo, and Indian Almond trees provide shade on sunny days. Stay away from the Manzanillo tree (which has much smaller leaves) as its sap is toxic and always be alert to the possibility of falling coconuts.

Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

Punta Uva borders the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, a private-protected area that conserves the tropical rainforest, vibrant coral reefs, and is a nesting site for green, loggerhead, leatherback, and hawksbill sea turtles. Its hiking trails provide an excellent opportunity to watch wildlife including sloths, monkeys, birds, and iguanas.

While in the area, read Costa Rica’s famous works of literature, La Loca de Gandoca (The Madwoman of Gandoca) by Anacrstina Rossi (1992), an ecofeminist novel about the author’s struggles to save the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge from development and environmental destruction.

Food and Drink

Local cuisine is marked by the bold and exquisite flavors of Caribbean ingredients such as coconut milk, spices, cinnamon, chile, lime, ginger, and seafood. In Punta Uva, you will find open-air, beachfront restaurants where you can enjoy a cold cerveza or agua de sapo, which literally translates to toad water, but is actually a refreshing local drink made with lime, ginger, and cane sugar called tapa de dulce. Although the quantity of restaurants in Punta Uva is small compared with Puerto Viejo, you can still find a variety of delicious options including the traditional Caribbean, Asian fusion, Italian, vegetarian, and vegan fare.

What the Weather is like in Punta Uva

The weather on the Caribbean slope is decidedly tropical with both warm sunny days and tropical rain showers throughout the year. The Caribbean slope tends to differ seasonally from rest of the country, with MayNovember generally a bit drier compared to the Pacific slope. Weather and surf conditions vary greatly from day to day and season to season. Always check local conditions and be careful of changing weather, rip currents and choppy seas.

On a calm day, the sea can be crystal-clear and as smooth as a mirror. Visitors often come to the Southern Caribbean during the wettest months of the rest of the country, September, and October, in hopes of enjoying some respite in the form of sunshine and warmer, drier weather.

Adventures in Punta Uva

Outdoor adventure activities abound in and around Punta Uva.

Swimming & Snorkeling

Punta Uva is known as a prime spot for swimming and snorkeling, thanks to the bathtub-warm water and coral reef that is home to marine species including crabs, tropical fish, starfish, and even small octopus. Be careful of jellyfish and sea urchins and never touch wildlife or the reef itself, which is very sensitive to pollution, insect repellent, boat rudders, and human contact.

Stand-Up Paddle

Several local outfits offer stand-up-paddle boarding tours, lessons, and rentals on the ocean or the Quebrada Ernesto river, which is shrouded on both sides by lush jungle foliage and teeming with wildlife.

Scuba Diving

Check out PADI-certified scuba diving courses for all levels, including the exhilarating option of night diving.

Sea Kayaking

Sea kayak rentals and guided tours are the best way to explore the coast’s sand-colored cliffs, river, and sea caves. If you go on your own, be mindful of changing weather, currents, and tides.

Surfing

Many of the local surf schools will arrange lessons or rentals at Punta Uva, which is known for its reef break, fast waves and not being too crowded.

Hiking

You will find excellent trails for wildlife and especially bird watching in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve. There are also public trails through the jungle with breath-taking ocean vistas that can be taken from the end of the paved road at nearby Manzanillo.

Boat Tours

Boat tours are available with local tour operators who are able to navigate the complex reefs and know the best places to fish and dolphin-watch. Make sure that your boat has proper life-jackets and radio communication with a land base, as cell phone reception varies depending on your location.

Biking

For those seeking relaxation rather than adrenaline, a leisurely bike ride along the coast from village to village is a quintessential southern Caribbean activity. Be mindful if there are cars on the road as there is no official bike lane.

How to Get To Punta Uva

National flights are available from the capital San José to the small airport of Limón. From there it is just over a 1-hour drive to Punta Uva. Punta Uva is about a 4 to 5-hour drive from the Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) in the central valley, depending on traffic and conditions.

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