Cahuita National Park was created in 1970 to protect the coral reef that lies off Punta Cahuita. As the best example of coral in the country, snorkellers who swim or join a tour to the reefs will see brain coral and leafy sea fans in the crystalline waters, and colourful coral fish darting nimbly among through the reef. However, the reef has suffered as a result of the earthquake of 1991 as well as from chemical run-off from banana plantations and increased sediment run-off due to deforestation. The marine portion of the protected area covers over 22,400 ha, the land portion is much smaller measuring just 1106 ha.
You can stroll through a small area of the park by entering from Cahuita, turning around after you’ve been far enough. Or, if you walk through, which makes for a comfortable day’s walk, you eventually arrive at Puerto Vargas and the junction with Highway 36 from where you can catch a bus back to Cahuita. A 7-km path follows the coastline around Punta Cahuita moving through the coconut palms and entering the mixed forest where you have a good chance of seeing howler monkeys, coatis, raccoons, snakes and butterflies. Areas of swamp are good places to see green ibis, yellow-crowned night herons and northern boat-billed herons.