Puerto Limon is Costa Rica’s main port on the Caribbean, and it is the capital of Limon Province. Brought from Jamaica in the 19th Century to build the rail line to San Jose from Puerto Limon, most of Costa Rica’s African descendents live in the province. Mekatelyu speakers, or Limonese creole, also live here.
Tourists from around the world come to Puerto Limon every autumn to participate in the fall festival commemorating Columbus’ first anchorage here in 1502. About 76 thousand people live in the Puerto Limon area.
Puerto Limon is very near the place where Columbus first sighted Costa Rica in 1503. It has a deep port that is protected by sandbars, making it a natural location for a port. Spanish merchants and smugglers used it as a port during the colonial period, and it was sometimes the target of pirates and attacks by the Miskito indigenous peoples.
In the late 1850s, Puerto Limon became more important as a port. It was opened to foreign trade in the late 1860s. In 1890, it was linked to Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, by railroad passing through difficult terrain. A banana industry grew up around the tracks, giving Costa Rica a cash cargo, and the United Fruit Company was dominant through the first decades of the 20th Century.
Immigrants from China and Africa came to work on the railroad and banana plantations, giving Puerto Limon a unique multi-cultural flair. In 1995, the railroad suspended operations. Banana crops fell dramatically due to Panama disease, but they have increased with the introduction of a new disease-resistant type of banana.
Today, Puerto Limon handles more cargo than any other port in Costa Rica. Most of its cargo consists of exports to Europe and the United States.