Eastwards from San José and the coffee-growing highlands sprawl the banana plantations of the sultry coastal plains fronting the Caribbean Sea. Long isolated from the rest of the Latin-influenced country, this region has a predominately English-speaking, Afro-Caribbean culture: a very informal, relaxed atmosphere pervades. Here there are exquisite volcanic beaches at Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.
Accessible only by boat is the partly submerged Tortuguero National Park, with its network of canals, lagoons and swamps defined by a profusion of tangled tropical vegetation. It’s alive with several species of monkey, iguanas, sloths, river otters, poison dart frogs and hundreds of species of birds.