Cahuita National Park


1,067 Ha.
Cahuita is one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Its main attraction is a picture postcard reality of white sandy beaches, thousands of swaying palm trees a calm sea of crystal-clear waters and a coral reef.
This reef stretches out like a fan in front of Cahuita Point between the Perezoso River and Vargas Harbor. It is the only por mature reef on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It is a marginal kind of reef and grows over 240 Ha. It is made up of an underwater de platform which is formed by an external ridge and a kind of inner lagoon. The reef is composed of ancient coral debris, sandy patches.
stands of live coral and underwater prairies of turtle grass (Thalassia cestudinum). This grass is an important foodstuff for the green turtle and for many species of fish and mollusks, and it also provides a hiding place for sea urchins and sea snails.
de Some of the more remarkable features that attract the attention of the naturalist who dives through this underwater garden are the different kinds of coral, such as the elkhorn (Acropora pa]mata) and smooth brain corals Diploria strigosa, D. cli vosa and Colpophyflia natans), Venus sea fans (Gorgonia flabellum), sea urchins and an infinite number of brightly colored fish of all sizes. Other species that are frequently seen among the coral formations are Siderastrea siderea which looks like a huge ball, Milepora alcicornis and M. complanata which cause urticaria on contact, Porites divaricata which looks like small fingers. Porites astreoides which is shaped like a mound that is mustard-yellow in color and Monrastraea cavernosa which is very large and greenish.
as y Some of the most beautiful fish on the reef are the queen angelfish (Holacanthus ctharis) with a light blue body. yellow spots us and a yellow head and tail; French angelfish (Pornacanthus paru) which is black with little yellow spots; rock beauty (Holacanthus s tricolor) which has a black body with reddish-yellow edges, head and tail; and blue parrotfish (Scams coenileus) which is completely
blue, occasionally with yellow spots. Other fish that live in the reef waters are the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), little st.ingray (Narcine brasiliensis), and remora (Remora remora), together with 3 species of sharks and 6 of moray eels. Two of the most prevalent sea urchins are the red urchin (Tripneustes escufentus) which is very numerous in the sandy strata, and the long-spined black urchin (Diadema antillanim) which mainly feeds on seaweed. Other reef species include the sea cucumber (Holothuria sp.), lobster (Pan ulirus sp.), sponge, white shrimp (Penaeus sp.), green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Aipheus simus crustacean which drills through
filas limestone. To date, 35 species of corals, 140 of mollusks, 44 of crustaceans, 128 of seaweed, 3 of halophilous phanerophytes. and 123 of fresh and saltwater fish have been identified in Cahuita.
Most of Cahuita Point is made up of swampland. Other habitats include unflooded mixed forest, mangrove swamp with a predominance of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), and littoral woodland with a thick growth of coconut palm trees (Cocos nucifera) and an abundance of sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera). The main tree species in the swamp are the cativo (Prioria copaifera), bloodwood (Pterocarpus officinalis). banak (Virola sebifera , and copal (Tetragastris panamensis), a specie that has a very aromatic resin.
There is a variety of wildlife. Among the frequently seen animals are the howler monkey (Alouatta paiiata) common raccoon (Procyon lotor), and white-nosed coati (Nasua nasua), together with several species of swamp forest birds such as the green ibis (Mesembrinibus cayennensis). green-and-rufcus kingfisher (Chloroceryle inda), yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea). and northern boat-billed heron (Cochlearius cochlearius). Crabs are also very numerous. The 4 species which have been identified are the land hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus) which lives in the forest and on the seashore: black land crab (Gecarcinus Jateralis) which is dark red: white land crab (Cardisoma quanhumi) which is bluish white; and wide red land crab (Ucides cordatus) which lives near still waters.
The remains of a slave ship that sank during the second half of the 18th century comprise the most valuable cultural feature in the park. The shipwreck can be seen at the mouth of the Perezoso River.
The most serious environmental problem facing the Cahuita reef is the accumulation of sedimentary deposits made by the La Estrella River. It has been demonstrated that the sediments are affecting both individual coral formations and the coral community as a whole.

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Cahuita Beach
White beach in Cahuita

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