Culture and History
The lovely town, Manzanillo located on the most southern coastline of Caribbean Costa Rica, was named for the Manzanillo tree. The fruit of this tree is toxic, but the tree is hard to find in the area today.
The town was originally founded by 2 families from the Islands of Bocas del Toro and Bastimientos in Panama and Jamaicans that had immigrated to work in the area.
The Jamaicans brought a West African heritage with them called Afro-Caribbean. There is a unique language known as Patwa that the local people still speak. There are many customs and festivals with strong African influences that you will find to this day. It was a largely fishing-based economy along with the cultivation of cacao and coconuts.
The cacao was a very successful for many years,but unfortunately, in 1990 a fungus devastated the the trees.
The Restaurants and Grocery Stores
In Manzanillo town you will find several sodas. These are small restaurants that serve the local food. This food is a blend of cultures and flavors.
The specialty, of course, is the fresh fish caught right here in Manzanillo served with a spicy Caribbean sauce and rice and beans cooked in coconut milk. Maxi's is a larger restaurant featured in many guide books as a must visit for the area. You will enjoy the great food and lively reggae music from the bar downstairs.
You will also find 3 grocery stores in town, one of which sells fresh produce. They all have the drinks or snacks you might be looking for and if you are staying where you can cook you will find what you need.
The Wildlife Refuge
Manzanillo is located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, established in 1985. There is an association of guides in Manzanillo who will help you discover paths that will fill your senses with the vivid colors of the rain forest and the mysterious sounds produced by different species of monkeys, sloths, lizards, parrots, toucans and other birds that live here.
The far side of the refuge is home to Punta Mona and the Gandoca community. This is about a 75 minute hike with a trained guide going one way. Perfect for ecotourism,you will enjoy its lagoon where you are likely to see otters and waterfowl.
Some of the most pristine mangroves in Costa Rica are here. Also, the leatherback turtle, the largest in the world, comes to these beaches to lay her eggs. There are programs in place here to protect these nesting turtles. These programs are always looking for volunteers if you are interested.
The Reefs and Sea Life
Hire a guide and set out to explore the coral reefs just off-shore or go it alone. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular here.
The blue Caribbean sea on a calm day, will offer you the chance to spot many beautiful fish, octopi and maybe even a sea turtle. If you have time, hire a boat to take you out to spot the 3 types of dolphins that call this area home.