According to Costa Rica's tourism ministry, some 80% of the visitorshere come for the white (or black) pristine beaches around the Southern Caribbean Coast. The Caribbean offers untouched nature, and according to one authoritative source, is the second most biologically diverse region in Costa Rica. Between Puerto Viejo and Cahuita to the north, some 30 kilometers, stretch nothing but long, empty beaches dotted with coral reefs. On this 3 to 4 hour walk you won't probably meet anybody. But make sure you bring water and waterproof suncreen if you decide to make this trip.
From Puerto Viejo south to Punta Mona (Monkey Point), about 25 km, is nothing but fabulous beachfront. Small, private beaches are interspersed with wide bays. Coconuts trees dot the white and black sand beaches mixed along the coast line, all the way to the border of Panama.One of the most stunning swim spots along this coast is Punta Uva beach, about 8 km south of Puerto Viejo. Swimming is recommended and safe in this protected bay. The snorkeling is phenomenal but only under good weather conditions. This is also a great spot for kayaks, which are rented, along with snorkeling gear, by '"El Ranchito" restaurant on the beach.
Just around the rocky point from Punta Uva beach to the south, in front of Arreceife restaurant, is a great spot for snorkeling. The reef formations are close to the shore and very attractive due to a large variety of corals. The reindeer coral formations in front of this beach are unforgetable.Now for some words of caution. It goes without saying that any ocean can hold danger. Certified divers learn early on that you "never turn your back on the ocean." Costa Rica's Caribbean coast is far safer for swimming than its Pacific coast, but there is reason for caution, as rip tides and strong beach breaks occur. If in doubt about current conditoins, consult a local and perform this simple test--put a large leaf or other buoyant object into the water and watch it float for a while. If it goes quickly out to sea, beware! First, just 1 km south from Puerto Viejo is the surfer's paradise around the Break Bay Island. Surfers from all over the world come to surf Costa Rica's best waves at this beach. Be careful though when swimming in this untamed ocean, as this beach is known for it's strong rip tides. Life guards post colored warning flags in the sand, but do not venture out too far without a surfboard.
Next, from the Las Palmas Hotel in Punta Uva and south down up to the village of Manzanillo we do not recommend swimming. Rip tides are very often reported and usual at this stretch ofbeach. But for a great walk or to have a private spot to hang out, this is a recommended area. Swimming again is safe in front of Manzanillo, from the MINAE office down to the creek at the entrance to the Refugio foot path where you enter the park.
From Manzanillo south to Punta Mona (Monkey Point) is about a 25 km walk or baot ride, as there are no roads. The beaches are gorgeous and interchanged with beautiful rock formations and overhanging palms. At most parts along this coast line swimming is not recommended and can be dangerous because of the shallow water and sharp coral formations underneath. The reason for this is the earthquake of 1991, when most of the Caribbean coast was elevated by over one meter. So the non-living coral formations you will see close to shore are a result of sun bleaching. Once you reach the area around the island at Monkey Point, the water is again safe.