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

Limón Costa Rica Cruise Port Tips

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

Think of it not as a cruise destination but a jumping off point for seeing Costa Rica’s famous ecotourism adventures and sightseeing.

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

Quick 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 Puerto Limón via cruise should also 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.

But 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.

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.

Playa Bonita is the nearest safe beach, located about one mile north of the city. It has a picnic area.

Otherwise, visitors take a day trip to major regional attractions.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Major regional attractions include Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero National Park and Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Tortuguero canal
Visitors to the Tortuguero canals see numerous species of wildlife.
Cahuita is 43 kilometers south of Limón and is reachable via Route 36, which mostly runs along the Caribbean coast.

It is part of the Cahuita National Park, which protects the country’s largest coral reef. It’s a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Anyone with extra time might combine a trip to Cahuita with Puerto Viejo, which lies south of Cahuita and is 58 kilometers from Limón.

Visitors can shop for handcrafted arts and crafts, drink coffee at a quiet café or feast at gourmet restaurants.

Beachgoers will find good swimming along with snorkeling and diving among nearby reefs.

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.

Braulio Carrillo National Park is a much farther drive at 122 kilometers. It is popular for the vast reserve of virgin forest, hiking and other adventures.

Visitors with more time on their hands may take a two-hour one-way trip to Costa Rica’s capital at San Jose. The distance and travel time may discourage people with a tight schedule.

Limón Shore Excursions

Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park; © Costa Rica Tourism Board
Like most cruise ports, Limón has shore excursions ranging from quiet to adventurous, although here the emphasis is on adventurous.

Two of the most adventurous are zip lining, which had its start in Costa Rica, and the Aerial Tram Ride at Rainforest, a large preserve next to Braulio Carrillo National Park.

For zip lining, we took the 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.

A quieter excursion is the Tortuguero Canals with views of wildlife and numerous photo opportunities.

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.

The whitewater rafting on Reventazón River is Class III out of I to V. That means it is moderately challenging.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

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

Playa Bonita is just three 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. 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

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 for rain.

Temperatures maintain an average high 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.
  • U.S. dollars are widely accepted.
  • A bus terminal is a five-minute walk from the docks, but taxis are a better option.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Tips   

October 26, 2018

More Tips