Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Costa Rica

Limón Costa Rica Cruise Port Guide

Costa Rica cruise port tips

The Limón Costa Rica cruise port, or Puerto Limón, is an island of humanity surrounded by vast rainforests.

Although small, the cruise terminal has many of the common features of a Caribbean cruise terminal including shops, phones, tourism guides and excursion operators.

It’s better to think of Puerto Limón not as a cruise destination by itself because it isn’t as developed as other cruise ports in the western Caribbean. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for seeing Costa Rica’s famous ecotourism adventures and other tourist attractions.

We didn’t go there expecting great beaches or elaborate shopping districts unlike other major ports. Instead, the highlight of our visit was a ziplining excursion among tall trees and chattering monkeys.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Limón city has limited tourism activities.
  • The nearby national parks have the most tours and attractions.
  • Know that country roads are rough; use excursion buses when possible.

Anyone visiting the Puerto Limón cruise port should prepare themselves for rain. The huge volume of rain that falls on the country every year is why it is known for its jungles and rainforests.

The rain also means Puerto Limón is not a place to expect sunshine and full days on the beach improving a tan and lounging in the water.

We were lucky during our visit. Giant black clouds hovered over the country during our entire visit, but they didn’t rain on us once.

Visiting there is more about a different attitude and taking advantage of excursions and attractions that make Costa Rica a popular vacation and cruise destination.

The city itself has a small number of appealing shops, the waterfront Parque Vargas, and a local museum called Museo Etnohistoria de Limón, which is open Monday through Friday.

Otherwise, visitors often take a day trip to major regional attractions. Shore excursions that visit multiple locations are common.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Tortuguero canal
Visitors to the Tortuguero canals see numerous species of wildlife. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Walking Around Attractions

Puerto Limón is the second largest city in Costa Rica with a population of about 55,000 people. It doesn’t have quite the same attractions as other Caribbean ports with colonial architecture, old forts and restored plantations. This port has a heavy emphasis on nature excursions outside of the city.

Still, it has a few well-known attractions such as Vargas Park and Market Central. Cruise visitors may find it worthwhile to pay for a guided tour at about $50 per person.

Shore Excursions

Major regional attractions include Cahuita and Tortuguero National Park. They are common destinations for Puerto Limón shore excursions, especially ones that combine both destinations in the same tour.

Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park; © Costa Rica Tourism Board

Cahuita is 43 kilometers south of Limón and is reachable via Route 36, which mostly runs along the Caribbean coast. It is part of Cahuita National Park, which protects the country’s largest coral reef. It’s a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Tortuguero National Park, north of Limón, is one of the top ecotourism destinations in the country. Rainforest wildlife is often hard to see because of the dense vegetation.

But it is easier in Tortuguero because most of the wildlife spotting is done from quiet boats that travel along canals in the forest.

An example Limón excursion from one operator cost $125 per person. It included a hike in Cahuita National Park, a visit to a banana plantation and a boat ride on the Tortuguero canal.

A less expensive excursion to just a plantation and a canal ride cost $65 per person. Prices are subject to change.

Adventurous visitors can try zip lining in the Costa Rica rainforest. We took a one-hour trip to Veragua Rainforest Reserve. After a safety briefing, we went over 12 different zip lines as high as 100 feet in the air with exciting views of the surrounding forest, birds and monkeys.

Zip line tours cost between $100 and $150 per person depending on the amount of time.

Veragua Rainforest Research and Adventure Park includes the largest indoor nocturnal frog exhibit in the world, butterfly garden, reptile vivarium and a hummingbird garden. The park is 55 minutes west of the cruise terminal.

It also has a tram ride through the rainforest canopy, walking trails through the primary rainforest and a waterfall, along with panoramic views of La Amistad International Park.

Other available excursions include a sloth sanctuary, a coffee bean plantation tour, banana plantation tour, whitewater rafting on the Reventazón River and snorkeling or diving at the nearby national parks.

Whitewater rafting on Reventazón River is Class III out of I to V. That means it is moderately challenging and usually suitable for families with older children and teens. The cost is about $145 per person.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Cruise lines offer few beach excursions compared to other Caribbean destinations because there are few good beaches near Puerto Limón.

Playa Bonita is just four miles north of the cruise terminal. Some tours takes guests there. Otherwise, a taxi or rental car is necessary.

Cahuita National Park and Puerto Viejo are two other options that have beaches. Puerto Viejo is 37 miles southeast of Puerto Limon along the coast. But Cahuita is on the way and closer, so it’s better to go there.

Shopping / Restaurants

Passengers will find one of the most colorful streets in the Caribbean. Avenida 2 by the cruise docks has green, orange, blue and yellow checkers on the sidewalks. Shops and street vendors sell fresh fruit, clothing, souvenirs and other items.

If cruise visitors buy anything here, they should make it the coffee.

Getting Around / Transportation

Costa Rica has an extensive public bus system. A bus terminal is a five-minute walk from the docks, but taxis and tourist bus companies are better options.

Several local and international car rental agencies have offices in Limón and serve the cruise port.

Weather / Best Times to Go

Puerto Limon monthly weather
Puerto Limon monthly weather. © Scott S. Bateman

We visited Limón during a dry season, which means it doesn’t get pounded with rain every day. Instead, on this day it was simply quite cloudy and threatening.

Average monthly rainfall ranges from a low of about six inches in September to a high of about 18 inches in July and December. It is one of the rainiest destinations in the Caribbean.

February, March, September and October are the best times to go to minimize the risk of rain.

Temperatures maintain an average high temperature in the mid 80s Fahrenheit and high 20s Celsius throughout most of the year.

Other Tips

  • Spanish is the official language, but English is common in Limón. Not so much outside of the city.
  • U.S. dollars are widely accepted.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 04, 2024

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