North of Puerto Limón  is a long, straight coastal strip backed by a broad alluvial plain cut through by the Tortuguero Canals, an inland waterway that parallels the coast all the way to the Nicaraguan border. Crocodiles, caimans, monkeys, sloths, and exotic birds can be seen from the tour boats that carry passengers through the jungle-lined canals and freshwater lagoons culminating in Tortuguero National Park  and Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge .
A few roads penetrate to the northern frontier far inland of the coast, but they are often impassable except for brief periods in the dry season. For locals, motorized canoes (cayucos or canoas) and water-taxis are the main means of getting about the swampy waterways.
South of Puerto Limón is the Talamanca coast, a narrow coastal plain broken by occasional headlands and coral reefs and backed by the looming Cordillera Talamanca. A succession of sandy shores leads the eye toward Panamá. The zone is popular with surfers.
The coast is sparsely settled and, except Puerto Limón, what few villages lie along the coast are ramshackle and browbeaten by tropical storms, though given a boost by booming tourism.
Life along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is fundamentally different than in the rest of the country. Life is lived at an easy pace. It may take you a few days to get in the groove. Don’t expect things to happen at the snap of your fingers.
The black costeños (coast dwellers), who form approximately one-third of Limón Province’s population of 250,000, have little in common with the sponyamon—the “Spaniard man,” or highland mestizo, who represents the conservative Latin American culture.
More than anywhere else in Costa Rica, the peoples of the Caribbean coast reflect a mingling of races and cultures. There are Creoles of mixed African and European descent; black Caribs, whose ancestors were African and Caribbean Indian; mestizos, of mixed Spanish and Amerindian blood; more Chinese than one might expect; and, living in the foothills of the Talamancas, approximately 5,000 Bribrí and Cabecar indigenous peoples.
The early settlers of the coast were British pirates, smugglers, log-cutters, and their slaves, who brought their own Caribbean dialects with words that are still used today. During the late 19th century, increasing numbers of English-speaking Afro-Caribbean families—predominantly from Jamaica—came to build and work the Atlantic Railroad and banana plantations, eventually settling and infusing the local dialect with lilting parochial patois phrases familiar to travelers in the West Indies. Afro-Caribbean influences are also notable in the regional cuisine and in the Rastafarians one meets in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.
Some of the young black males here appear sullen and lackadaisical, even antagonistic (some seem to harbor a resentment of white tourists). But most locals have hearts of gold, and there’s a strong, mutually supportive community that tourists may not easily see: When a local has a need, such as medical care, locals often band together to pay the bills. (Paula Palmer’s What Happen: A Folk History of Costa Rica’s Talamanca Coast and Wa’apin Man provide insight into the traditional Creole culture of the area.)
The Caribbean coast is generally hot and exceedingly wet (averaging 300–500 cm of rain annually). Except for September and October, the region has no real dry season and endures a “wet season” in which the rainfall can exceed 100 centimeters per month. Rains peak May–August and again in December and January, when sudden storms blow in, bowing down the coconut palms, deluging the Talamancas, and causing frequent flooding and closures of the road south of Limón.