Imagine living in a laid-back Rastafarian beachside fishing village, deep in Costa Rica’s most pristine and undeveloped province. Cahuita is so surrounded by nature that throughout the day you might hear the calls of monkeys in the surrounding forests. Over the years, many Jamaicans settled in this area, the culture is distinctly different from the rest of Costa Rica, much more in keeping with a laid-back calypso vibe. The cultural influence is so strong in fact that many of the locals speak not Spanish but a Creole patois on a daily basis. In addition to rich Afro-Caribbean culture and its beautiful beaches, this small town of barely 8,000 is also known for its dessert crepes and delicious grilled chicken.
Cahuita is located 30 miles south of the provincial capital of Limon and is one of several nice coastal communities in the area. Expats may consider living in any of the small coastal villages in the area, such as Playa Cocles, Manzanillo, Playa Chiquita, or Punta Uva. These villages were all just small fishing villages until recently “discovered” by tourists and expats. But don’t picture obnoxious loud tourist crowds gawking at things and making a nuisance of themselves, the kind of people who have discovered this area are more like digital nomads or low key tourists who really want to appreciate the atmosphere of a place — the kind of people who themselves contribute to the place. The influence of this increased interest has led to a healthier development of bars and amenities than one might find in a truly backwater fishing village. Despite its small size, you’ll find such necessities as banks and supermarkets.
Puerto Viejo has taken over from Cahuita as the regional “center.,” and is currently the biggest community in the area. Even this is only an urban area of 3 x 4 blocks but within that area you will find a tight concentration of shopping, bars, and hotels. So, if you want a little slice of urban life in this otherwise sleepy and undeveloped area, this is the place for you.
Playa Cocles is the most developed of the local villages, and even has lifeguards patrolling the beaches, which may be a serious point to consider for those living abroad with children.
At the opposite end of the spectrum,Playa Chiquita is very undeveloped. There’s no down town area, but various amenities are sprinkled around the area, including even a gourmet supermarket.
Punta Uva is the choice for those who want maximum nature — completely surrounded by the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge so wildlife sightings here are particularly abundant.
Manzanillo is literally the end of the line — the road ends here, and even then, it only got this far in 2003. If you romantically want to live at literally the end of the line, this is it. It’s less developed but laid back and rastifarian. You can live a more rustic simple life here.
One significant advantage to settling in Costa Rica for retirees is that for a low monthly fee (calculated based on income), even expats can join the national healthcare system (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social). Once you’re a member of this, everything from check-ups to prescription medication and even surgeries are covered by the plan!
Cost of Living
A two-bedroom apartment will typically run you around $800 a month. Groceries will be $150 a month. Altogether an expat’s typical budget in the area is around $1000 a month depending on the lifestyle you lead.
Things to Do
Forget pushing a cart around a grocery store, you’ll probably find yourself buying your groceries at the farmer’s market, or feria, on Saturday mornings. Here you will buy your fresh tropical fruit or just-caught fish directly from the farmers and fishermen (but there’s also grocery stores if you prefer that).
Playa Negra – The entire six-mile beach between the village of Puerto Viejo and Chahuita National Park is a beautiful black sand beach. You can easily stake out a favorite spot far from the crowds and while away hours surfing, sunbathing, or lounging in a hammock drinking pipa fria — the juice of fresh coconuts. And even this gorgeous beach is far from the only beach, the beaches continue north of Chahuito endlessly up the coast so wherever specifically you find a place to drop anchor there will be a beach near you! In addition to beach-bumming, there are many gorgeous places to snorkel or scuba dive to marvel at the tropical fish.
Cahuita National Park – this national park just south of Cahuito includes coastal forest and beaches as well as a large marine area (2,732 acres on land and 55,200 acres off the coast). It contains a very large variety of both exotic rainforest land animals and marine life (123 species of fish, 35 species of coral, 44 species of crustacean, etc). One can go scuba diving or snorkeling to see the ample marine life as well as explore a shipwreck within the park.