Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast confounds expectations in many ways. Its unpredictable climate, limited infrastructure and often wild coastline means it does not feel a Caribbean beach destination in a traditional sense. Accommodation standards here are also not quite on a par with the rest of the country, but those prepared to look beyond some of these shortcomings (and brave the weather) will find a unique cultural mix, quite unlike anywhere else in Costa Rica. Afro-Caribbean influences dominate here, and the ramshackle town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a genuinely enjoyable place to explore with its tasty food stalls, laid-back bars and reggae beats. It is also a gateway for visiting some of Costa Rica’s few remaining indigenous Central American communities. Puerto Viejo also serves as the most convenient base to explore some of the best swimming and surfing beaches in the area, as well to take hiking and snorkelling excursions to the nearby pristine wildlife refuges of Cahuita and Gandoca Manzanillo.