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 Puerto Limon is a port city that at one time was a vibrant shipping port for the banana trade that flourishes around Puerto Limon. Abandoned, for the most part for the port of Moin some 10K to the north of Puerto Limon, the city fell victim to a savage earthquake in 1991 from which it has never really recovered. The cities rough appearance leaves some visitors with the felling that it is unsafe, but Costa Ricans are known for their hospitality and friendliness. However, one should be careful about wandering the city by one's self, as they would in any major city. The real reason for visiting Puerto Limon lies in the surrounding areas, as there is much to see and do.
 
The country’s most important port, Puerto Limon was founded in 1870 as a port city to export bananas and grains from Costa Rica to various parts of the globe. One of the oldest cities on the continent, Puerto Limon was established in 1502 when Christopher Columbus landed here during his exploration of the New World. Located in Limon province along the Caribbean coast, Puerto Limon is the provincial capital of Limon and lies some 160 km east of the city of San Jose.
 
Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central America. This country's most important port is Puerto Limon. Columbus "discovered" Costa Rica on his fourth voyage to the Americas and was so impressed that he named it Costa Rica. Columbus landed at an ancient village near Puerto Limon and it proved to be one of the best ports on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This country, full of volcanic mountains, lush valleys, and virgin tropical rainforests supports a diverse mixture of plant and animal life. Costa Rica has preserved almost one quarter of its land area as national parks or preserves. Some of the interesting shore excursion options revolve around these national parks or the Costa Rican countryside. Here are five possibilities of things to do with a day in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

The original Spanish explorers, assuming the towering mountains of Costa Rica would reap fortunes in gold and silver, named the country "Rich Coast." Although those riches never materialized, Costa Rica forged ahead and is today seen as a democratic, economic powerhouse in an often-turbulent region. The country, the richest in Central America, has certainly earned its name.

Costa Rica sits at the crossroads of the Americas. It is positioned halfway between North and South America, with one coast facing the Pacific and the other the Caribbean. Halfway between North and South America politically as well, Costa Rica is a thriving republic, and the only Central American nation with no army. Despite that fact, Costa Rica has enjoyed an unprecedented century of peace in an area where peace is hard to come by.

But Costa Rica's not in the middle on everything. As a country, Costa Rica is leading the pack in dedication to preserving its natural environment, a focus the rest of the Americas would do well to observe. The first bio-diversity institute in the world is located in Costa Rica. A whopping quarter of the nation's land is protected, which means beautiful jungle preserves and over 2,000 varieties of orchids.
 
Puerto Limon, a port town on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, has a somewhat limited tourist infrastructure but as a regular port of call for several major cruise lines, it serves as a convenient hub for reaching nearby attractions and natural wonders throughout the country. There are a handful of sights to see in the city itself, but most visitors head out of Limon on a day trip, for which numerous options exist. Passengers on cruise lines that regularly call at Puerto Limon, such as Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises,NCL , Windstar Cruises. Star Clippers offer a menu of excursions in Costa Rica. Options generally include some wildlife-themed tours, such as a visit to a sloth sanctuary combined with a jungle canoe ride. Other examples include scenic driving tours of cocoa, pineapple or coffee plantations, a ride on the historic banana route railway, river rafting on the Reventazon and a day trip to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.
 
Where You are Docked
Cruise ships dock in Port Limon, on Japdeva, in Limon. The port is about four miles from the airport and has easy access to both rails and roads. Taxis are plentiful around Puerto Limon, you should have no problem finding one. But you should negotiate your price prior to entering the cab, as drivers will take advantage of you if you are not assertive. Cruise ship visitors will enjoy this beautiful, lush country. Puerto Limon is located on the Caribbean coast of this tropical island. The Caribbean gateway to the coastal and inland attractions of Costa Rica is Puerto Limon. On your visit here, you must visit the beautiful rain forest.
 
Getting Around
There are buses from Limon to places like Cahuita ($1 each-way), Moin (50 cents) and even to the capital San Jose, more than 100 miles away. These leave from the bus terminal, which is a five-minute walk further down Avenida 2 from the museum.
 
If your ship is in for the usual 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. day, taking the bus to San Jose is not a sensible option. The journey takes three hours each way, which leaves little time there, and traffic jams could delay you and cause you to miss the ship. Even the one-hour Cahuita journey is a risk as the buses only run every two or three hours. The same applies if you hire a car from the desk in the terminal -- the roads are just not that good in Costa Rica and traffic delays are a constant problem.
 
More reliable (because you don't have to wait for one) and still a relatively cheap method of transport are the red taxis which can be hired at the dockside or by the terminal -- although a trip to San Jose, which has little more than a decent museum, pretty cathedral and lively central market to recommend it, is still probably not worth the hassle and expense.
 
Although the taxi fares are posted (for example, $20 to Cahuita), these are all negotiable. Their drivers' English is patchy so, if you are looking for a guide as well as a driver, check this first.
 
It is definitely worth taking the short (three-mile) trip to Moin where you can hire a boat along the Tortuguero Canals. There is an entrance fee and extra charge for a guide as well as the boat hire for independent visitors but, on this critic's recent trip there, passengers paid $50 for return taxis and boat trip for two compared with the approximately $92.50 per person cost of the ship's tour (which does include a buffet meal).
 
There is also a desk for local tour operators (Caribe Tico, Blue Limbo, Mambo Tours) within the terminal. They offer alternatives to the ship's tours to the Cahuita Coastal National Park, Tortuguero Canals, Rain Forest Aerial Tram as well as a two-hour Limon tour and an eight-hour trip to San Jose. There is also a range of more active trips, including horse-riding, watersports, and canopy tours
 
 
Things To See and Do
A significant landmark of Limon is Parque Vargas, a waterfront park bordered by the sea wall. The park is landscaped with palms, tropical foliage and flowering plants, and affords views of scenic coastal rock formations. The port city has one museum of note, the Museo Etnohistoric de Limon, where you can see cultural and historical exhibits relating to the local area. To haggle for souvenirs and local crafts, visit the central market or head to the pier where a handful of stores await cruise ship passengers.
 
There are many different choices one has when visiting Puerto Limon. First the city is worth exploring even though it is not the perfect environment for carefree tourists. The open air market is interesting and the side streets are worth a visit. There are several Internet Cafes and communication centers. This would be an excellent port to take a ship sponsored shore excursion if you are at all squeamish about taking off on your own in a foreign land and do not speak any Spanish at all. That said, there are local tour operators and taxis set up right off the ship if you want to "do it yourself" in Puerto Limon. But, be aware that they are paying a premium to be there and will also stick you with a guide that expects a tip. Just outside the port gates there are a number of other taxis and tour operators that are not willing to pay to gain entrance to the port and will offer you more for less, as it were. Following would be the main attractions if you chose to do as shore excursion.
 
A Fall Festival
Limón’s biggest yearly event, and one of the liveliest festivals in Costa Rica, is Carnaval, around Columbus Day (Oct 12). For a week, languid Limón shifts into high gear for a nonstop bacchanal orchestrated to the beat of reggae, soca, and calypso music. During the revelries, residents don costumes and take to the streets in a dazzling parade of color. Festivities include marching bands, dancers, and parade floats. If you want to experience Carnaval, make your reservations early because hotels fill up fast. (This advice goes for the entire coast.)
 
Puerto Limon's Playa Bonita
Folks looking to spend the day relaxing at a beautiful beach do not have to go any further than Playa Bonita Beach some 4 kilometers from downtown Puerto Limon. It is a short taxi ride, but be sure to arrange for transportation back to the port. There is a restaurant and bar here, as well as a small shopping area. There is also a rideable left break here for surfers.
 
Isla Uvita
Isla Uvita, a 20-minute boat ride from Puerto Limon, is notable as the place where Columbus landed on his last voyage across the Atlantic. A boat trip can be arranged at the pier or through hotel concierges, and Lonely Planet recommends taking a picnic with you as the island is undeveloped with no tourist facilities. The powerful waves off Isla Uvita are renowned among local surfers.
 
Tortuguero Canals
Embark on a fascinating journey down the canals system that links remote Barra del Colorado and Tortuguero with Puerto Limón, and discover the less traveled Caribbean side of Costa Rica. One very interesting thing to do is to take a panga up the Tortuguero Canal to enjoy the wildlife and coastal scenes. The canal connects several rivers and parallels the coastline from just north of Puerto Limon all the way to the Nicaraguan border some 200 kilometers to the north. During the excursion one sees many different and unusual birds, cayman, bats, water plants and sometimes, sloths.
 
Tortuguero Canal Two Toed Sloth
The Tortuguero Canal also opens up miles of deserted coastline. Here is a shot of a beach that tou can took at one stop. There is a high potential for excellent surf in the area to the north.
 
Tortuguero Canal Deserted Beach
One option that is available from Puerto Limon is to take an all day excursion to Costa Rica's capital city of San Jose over 100 kilometers from the port. This is a great trip if you are new to Costa Rica as it takes in a national park, the city, some local communities and offers time for shopping opportunities.
The Rain Forest Ariel Tramway is one of only three in the world. This offers a tram ride through the canopy of a rain forest to see the flora, bird and wildlife. Be aware that most tours arrive too late in the day to really see many animals, which are normally sleeping midday.
White water rafting on the Reventazon River is an excellent class III rafting trip that may be enjoyed by everyone. The Green train is a narrow gauge railroad that operates between Puerto Limon and the village of Banaito where local crafts are available.

 
Rain Forest Aerial Tramway
A two-hour drive brings you to this private reserve, offering an almost overwhelming diversity of plants, animals, and insects. The tram provides you with an unusual treetop view of the rain forest. Take an unforgettable tram ride above the rainforest's treetops and observe wildlife found only within the canopy system on a 1,200-acre private nature preserve.

Canopy Zipline Tour
Enjoy this exhilarating experience as you glide through the rainforest on specially-built traverses and cables for a bird's-eye view of the rainforest canopy.

Sloth Sanctuary
The Buttercup Center offers visitors a unique chance to learn more about the curious and gentle sloth. Ask questions and meet the resident creatures on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Plantations
Costa Rica's plantations dot the landscape with their rich history, offering tours through rows of enormous banana and coffee plants, fields of sugar cane, and trees ripe with cacao and macadamias.

Veragua Rainforest
At this research center and park, see the world's largest indoor nocturnal frog exhibit. Visit a butterfly garden, a reptile habitat and a hummingbird garden. Ride a canopy tram and hike the trails.

Train Tour
Ride aboard the historic railroad that birthed Costa Rica's banana industry and enjoy the lush scenery just outside your window, where you might spot howler monkeys and two-toed sloths!

Rio Dante Rain Forest Hike
A professional guide assures that you won't miss anything during your walk through this riverside rain forest. The variety of birds and orchids is especially memorable.
Tortuguero Canals, Typically a two-hour excursion through the Caribbean jungle waterway. You'll see crocodiles, monkeys, sloths, caimans, and colorful exotic birds. The area is a favored nesting site for the Pacific green turtle.

Banana Plantation Visit
Know how the banana is grown and harvested? Find out the life of a banana as well as a tour that usually includes a look at papaya and yucca fields.
 
River Rafting
Lined with verdant foliage, the Reventazon River offers a glimpse at local wildlife-including toucans, herons and iguanas-and offers an exciting ride along its Class II rapids.
 
Most cruise passengers usually take a shore excursion that includes transportation by motorcoach. There is really not much to see in Puerto Limon.

Parque Vargas is probably the best attraction in Puerto Limon. The park is on the waterfront, which affords a gentle breeze. Beautiful palm trees line the park, and other tropical trees and flowers are found in abundance here. A rare treat is to see a sloth, the famously slow and lazy animal that can be spotted with great care in the trees here. Stroll along the sea wall for views of the rock formations on which this town was built.
 
There is a small museum in town, the Museo Etnohistorico de Limon (tel. 506/758-2130). There are local cultural and historical exhibits here. Call ahead to make sure the museum is open, as it keeps strange hours.

For a true sense of Costa Rica, or just to people watch, visit the central market, which you can't miss, as it is in the center of town. You will find some hidden gems among the food stands here, and some good values on shopping.

Try and take an excursion to Isla Uvita, a small island less than a mile east of Limon. You can arrange to hire boats to visit the island, and there are also organized tours that are best arranged through in advances through  hotels or your cruise ships.

If you are lucky enough to be in town for Columbus Day, you're in for a treat. The town comes alive, in celebration of Columbus visit to Isla Uvita. Generally, the celebration lasts all week, and the town swells with visitors from all over the country and around the world.
 
Eating Out
Dining options are pretty limited in Limón. In addition to the place listed below, the restaurant at the Park Hotel is a good bet. Try to sample the local staple paty, a fried dough concoction that is stuffed with a slightly spicy ground meat filling. You’ll find paty vendors all over downtown Limón.
If you’re looking for a panoramic view head to Bar & Restaurante El Faro ((tel) 2758-4020) or the Red Snapper ((tel) 2758-7613; www.redsnappercr.com), which are located near each other up on El Resplandon, the highest point in town, near all the city’s cellphone towers. Both serve up traditional local fare and fresh seafood, and occasionally offer up live music on weekend nights.
 
Shopping
There are quite a few unique craft items to consider. We purchased several wooden boxes that were carved out of solid hardwood into designs with hidden compartments to hide jewelry and other treasures. They are actually very clever and unique and quite inexpensive. There were also lots of wood carvings and items, leather goods of all kinds, silver jewelry and the traditional souvenirs. Cashews are huge in this area as is cashew wine, a unique tasting beverage that you will not forget. HINT: If you are offered raw cashew nuts in the shell, do not bite into them as the oil in the shell is poisonous and will immediately cause a rash like infection on whatever skin touched it (I know from personal experience.)
 
If you want to shop for souvenirs, head to the cruise ship terminal whenever a ship is in port, and you’ll find more than your fair share of vendors. Finally, if you’re interested in architecture, take a walk around town. When banana shipments built this port, local merchants erected elaborately decorated buildings, several of which have survived the city’s many earthquakes, humid weather, and salty sea air. There’s a certain charm in the town’s fallen grace, drooping balconies, rotting woodwork, and chipped paint. One of the city’s most famous buildings is known locally as the Black Star Line ((tel) 2798-1948), located on Avenida 5 and Calle 6. Also called Liberty Hall, this building was built in 1922, as the headquarters for Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association. Restored several years ago, it serves today as the city’s social and cultural meeting place. Check here for traveling art exhibits, and the occasional live music, dance, or theater performance.



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