Costa Rica or “rich coast” and officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San Jose?. Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared sovereignty in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following a brief but bloody civil war, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.

Costa Rica has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index placing 62nd in the world as of 2012, among the highest of any Latin American nation. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region. It’s rapidly developing

economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism Cahuita, in the South Caribbean is surrounded by dense tropical forest, shores of the turquoise sea, the black and white sand beaches and coral reef. Negra Beach (Playa Negra) beach, aptly named after its black-sand, offers a pleasant atmosphere and good swimming. East of town is a white-sand beach within Cahuita National Park. Both are host to offshore activity including snorkeling and scuba diving. The coral reef between the two beaches, one of Costa Rica’s finest, is home to and abundance of marine life.

The Afro-Caribbean culture is prominent; an African legacy reflected in the architecture, gastronomy, music, and in the people, whose roots come from turtle fishers that settled here three hundred years ago. Nowadays, Cahuita is a multicultural town, with settlers from all around the world. Cahuita was named by the Miskito Indians, who were turtle fishermen. Cahuita in their language means “place were the sangrillos grow”. The sangrillo is a tree species with yellow flowers which is very common in this area.The town is home to approximately 4,000 or so residents, mainly of Jamaican descent. Mass importation of cheap labor at the turn of the century was exploited to bring in workers for the area’s booming banana plantations.

DEPARTURE TIME Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the tour.
Professional guide Professional guide
Professional guide Professional guide
Entrance fees
Guide gratuity

How to get to Cahuita from San Jose

San Jose to Cahuita: $9; 6:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 4:00

p.m.; 3.5 hours. Departs from the Terminal Atlantico Norte, located on Avenida 9 and Calle 12. Auto Transportes MEPE, 2257-8129.

Limon to Cahuita: $2.5; every hour from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; 1 hour. The Cahuita station is at the east corner of the Big Boy Baseball Stadium. Auto Transportes MEPE, 2758-0618.

Cahuita to San Jose: $9; 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 4:30 p.m.; 4 hours. Departs from Mall Playa Blanca, next to the Banco de Costa Rica in Cahuita. Auto Transportes MEPE, 2750-0023.


From San Jose to Cahuita: The 120-mile journey takes between 3.5 and 4.5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Take Route 32 out of San Jose, driving through Braulio Carrillo National Park. Follow the signs to Guapiles, Siquirres and Limon. In Limon, turn south on Route 36, and follow the signs to Cahuita.


Cahuita is located in an area that is hot and humid. Daytime temperatures often exceed 90 degrees and night time temperatures or usually in the mid to upper 70s. The park receives 3,380 mms (133 inches) of precipitation per year, so be prepared for rain.

You are limited to ONE piece of personal luggage and ONE dive bag.

There are three projects underwater, in the surf and on land: We will be diving every day in the morning if the sea conditions are favorable in 12-15 feet depth with good viz (15-30 feet). Caution should be taken with fire corals, lion fish and eyelash vipers (Bothriechis schlegelii) a venomous snake species in the lowland jungles.

Cahuita National Park Shipwrecks

Cannon Pile Anchors Brick Ballast
To date the two shipwrecks in the park have not been positively identified. Possible candidates are slave ships belonging to the Danish West Indies Company. The ships are Christianus Quintus (a) Christian V and Fredericus Quartus (a) Frederick IV, which are documented to have wrecked in that area in 1710 (Transatlantic Slave Database Voyages 2009; Lohse 2005). These two slave ships and their human cargoes are richly documented in the National Archives of Costa Rica, which is further supplemented by documents from Danish archives. Primary sources provide details of the ships’ voyage on the African coast, the Middle Passage, and discharge of Africans into the Costa Rican community.

Archeological Sites. Fredericus Quartus took on 11 slaves when it stopped for provisions at Cape Three Points (Cabo Tre?s Pontas) on the western Gold Coast and 323 slaves at Denmark’s main trading station at Christiansborg, near Accra. On 15 September, some of the captives revolted aboard the ship while it was anchored off the Slave Coast; the crew killed the alleged leader and tortured an unspecified number of rebels as an example to the others before the Fredericus Quartus sailed for the St. Thomas in the Caribbean. The Christianus Quintus obtained the whole of its cargo on the Slave Coast in the Bight of Benin,
During the voyage to St. Thomas Christianus Quintus V and Fredericus Quartus IV disease and starvation claimed the lives of 135 Africans. The ships were more than 1200 nautical miles off course to their planned destination, finally landing at ‘Punta Carreto’ modern day Cahuita, Costa Rica, on 2 March 1710. Captain Diedrich Pfieff wanted to head to Panama but provisions on board were almost completely exhausted, so the crew sent 650 African slaves ashore and then mutinied, breaking open the ship’s chests of trade goods to secure provisions for themselves.

They proceeded to burn Fredericus and allowed Christianus to run aground in the surf. According to information later supplied by the Danes, most Africans escaped into the coastal forest bush. Reports suggest they were assimilated by the Miskito Indians or absorbed into the local community as slaves. According to oral history, Costa Rican colonists captured 24 of the Africans, who claimed to be culturally affiliated to peoples from the Slave and Gold Coast (Lohse 2005b:135).

Interest in the archaeological project and shipwreck site in the waters off Cahuita Point began with a preliminary site assessment by archaeologist Steven Gluckman in 1978 (now deceased). His site report depicted a map of cannon, a brick area with evidence of manilas or slave trade bracelets (Gluckman 1998:453- 468). In June 2012, maritime archaeologists Lynn Harris (East Carolina University) and David VanZandt (Cleveland Underwater Explorers) visited the site. The results of the fieldwork suggest that there are 2 anchors, at least 10 cannon on a reef representing one site and a cargo/ballast area, containing brick ballast and 2 cannon, in a second area located closer to shore that may either represent part of the original site or a second shipwreck. Another Park Service report stated that they found “cannon, cannon balls, cooper or bronze manacles or armbands used in slave trade, a grindstone under the bricks, and another wooden object also under bricks, several swords, a glass, two plummet stones, a barrel, a glass, and piece of a bottle” (Boza and Mendoza 1981: 279-280). Slave ship archaeological investigations currently have high research priority within the discipline of maritime archaeology. Thematically, these sites represent a neglected aspect of scholarship that includes shipwrecks like Meermin, Henrietta Marie, Fredensborg, and Adelaide.


Cahuita National Park Shipwrecks

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