After visiting some of the most renowned beaches in Costa Rica, I thought I had experienced it all. It wasn’t until I visited Puerto Viejo that I realized there is still so much more to see in this amazing country. The vibe here is totally different than anywhere else in Costa Rica and I love it. There is a heavy Caribbean influence everywhere you look. This coupled with the many beaches, parks, and different animals, you will never run out of things to do in Puerto Viejo.
The Caribbean coast has been gaining popularity throughout the years and you can see why. The weather is different than the rest of the country, so don’t expect it to be sunny every day. During the week that we spent in Puerto Viejo, it rained about 3 or 4 days a week. It was honestly quite nice sometimes. Getting here is very easy as well! So I hope you get to experience this place for yourself one day.
How to Get to Puerto Viejo
Transportation around Costa Rica can be confusing sometimes, especially if you want to take public buses. The journey to Puerto Viejo is actually quite easy. Below are ways to get there and how much it costs.
San Jose to Puerto Viejo
Basically, every main destination in Costa Rica will have a shuttle service that you can find to take. The cost for that would be around $55. A cheaper and fairly easy alternative is to take the local bus. They have direct buses leaving multiple times every day to Puerto Viejo. The cost is 5700 colones, which will save you a lot of money. It is a 5-hour bus ride that will stop in the neighboring towns of Limon and Cahuita before going to Puerto Viejo.
Limon to Puerto Viejo
Getting here from Limon is very easy and cheap. Unless you have a car, I would only suggest taking a bus. The taxi is not worth it. There are buses leaving every hour from Limon that take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there. The cost will be from $2-$4 and is an extremely efficient way of getting to Puerto Viejo.
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Top Things To Do in Puerto Viejo
I wish we could have spent more time in this amazing town but I will definitely be back. Depending on how long you are planning on staying here, this blog will help you choose which activities are more realistic to do. The activities will be in the order of easiest to do during your stay. Once you arrive you will not want to leave this laid-back Caribbean atmosphere.
Visit the Popular Jaguar Rescue Center
The Jaguar Rescue Center is probably the most popular non-beach activity in the area. This rescue center is home to many animals who are sick, injured, or orphaned. The main goal is to rehabilitate these animals to a point when they are able to be released into the wild. Many of the animals you will see though aren’t able to return because for various reasons. There are two tours per day (one in Spanish and one in English). The times for them are 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. The price is $20 and extremely worth it. This was by far my favorite thing I did while visiting Puerto Viejo.
Rent Bikes and Explore the Town
One of the best ways to get around Puerto Viejo is to rent a bike. This easy and fun means of transportation is popular because of the small slow-paced streets throughout the town. It is a cheap way to see a lot and also a great workout! Renting for 24 hours is very cheap. We rented from Ciclococles and it was 4000 colones or around $6 per day.
Try the Local Caribbean Style Cuisine
It comes as no surprise that you should be eating well while visiting. The food here is unique when compared to the rest of Costa Rica. You need to fuel for the long days of activities ahead and it is easily a top thing to do in Puerto Viejo. Our favorite restaurant that we visited to try some Caribbean food was Soda Lidia’s Place. Everyone who worked here was very nice to us and made us feel at home. Lidia herself even came over and talked to us after we ate to make sure everything was good. Lidia’s place is towards the back, off the main roads of Puerto Viejo but is a must-visit when coming to Puerto Viejo.
Enjoy the Nightlife
The thing that brings many people here (especially backpackers) is the bustling nightlife it offers. There are many bars and happening places spread throughout the town that will pique your interest. We went during the Super Bowl and we had no problem finding a place to watch the game either! Maybe that is a good or bad thing for you but the town is lively every night of the week. You will not run out of places to go and things to do in Puerto Viejo.
Explore the Many Beaches of Puerto Viejo
It may be obvious since this town is located on the Caribbean coast but there are many beaches to explore and they are all very unique. The two closest beaches are the black sand beaches of Playa Negra and also the more popular beach of Playa Cocles. Playa Cocles is a short bike ride away and has more waves than its neighboring beaches. If you are staying at the Selina then this will probably be the beach that you visit the most. If you keep biking up the road you will pass playa chiquita, playa punta uva, playa grande and playa manzanillo. We spent most of our time visiting playa punta uva as well as playa cocles. Punta Uva is way more of a relaxing vibe and cocles is great if you want a lot of things going on.
Enjoy Breakfast at the Famous ‘Bread and Chocolate’ Restaurant
If you are a breakfast lover like me, then you have to try Bread and Chocolate. We had to wait in line but it was totally worth it. If you get an americano coffee, they will bring it out in your own french press. It is basically 2 coffees for 1. The food is also spectacular. If you have a chance then you should try their famous in-house recipe of barbeque jerk sauce. I paid 500 colones extra and would have paid more. It was that good.
Get a Workout in on the Beach Gym in Puerto Viejo
If you are the type of person that likes to feel good and get a workout in while traveling, then there are some different options while visiting Puerto Viejo. I tried out the gym Caribbean Fitness Center. It was small but it had all you needed to get a good workout in. The price was about 5000 colones or $7 for a day pass. If you don’t want to spend money on that then there is a gym located directly on Playa Cocles. It is free and you will be lifting weights on the sand with an amazing view. I didn’t get as good of a workout here but it was free so I couldn’t complain. It was fun to finally get to try out one of these beach gyms.
Surf at Some of the Famous Breaks
Many people don’t think of the Caribbean towns of Costa Rica when thinking about surf breaks but Puerto Viejo is home to many of them. The famous Salsa Bravo is one of the best in the country but you should only attempt this break if you are experienced. There have been many trips to the hospital by all skill levels. Playa Cocles is your best bet and is home to many surf competitions each year. The waves are more forgiving here for beginner and intermediate surfers.
Snorkeling is a popular activity when visiting this area. Puerto Viejo itself might not have the best areas to do this but you can try out playa punta uva, Manzanillo, or make your way to Cahuita National Park. For the best snorkeling experience, you want the water to be clear. This involves there not having been much rain in the previous few days. The Grape Point Reef is located at Playa punta uva and is probably the best spot to go on your own. You can rent snorkel gear in town if you don’t have any or book any of the many tours from Puerto Viejo.
Visit Cahuita and its National Park
Cahuita is home to one of the top national parks in the country. If you are truly interested in snorkeling then this is the place to be. Cahuita National Park is home to the largest Coral Reef in Costa Rica. To get to Cahuita from Puerto Viejo, you can take a bus that costs 800 colones or around $1 one way to Cahuita. The park is a short walk away from the bus station there.
If you want to snorkel in Cahuita then you cannot bring your own snorkeling gear. The cost to enter the park is free but many people leave a donation. There are also other great activities located within Cahuita or on the way like their famous chocolate tours. If you are looking for a quieter day to relax, Cahuita is a great choice for a day trip from Puerto Viejo.
Visit Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
Located in the southern part of the Limon Province region of Costa Rica, this rainforest is home to various species of animals. It is the only place on the Atlantic Coast that has a mangrove swamp that is filled with oysters along the reefs. When visiting this region you will see many different birds like toucans, crocodiles, West Indian manatees, green sea turtles, leatherback turtles, and many more. You can do a hike or “nature walk” to Miss May Point or Punta Mona. Both of these trails seem to have many perks but Punta Mona doesn’t have the best reviews on Alltrails. This is mainly due to the amount of mud throughout the trail but the pictures still seem to be very cool if you want to go and try to spot some unique animals.
Visit the Local Tribe in Bribri
If you are looking for some things to do in Puerto Viejo that are very unique, this is it. Located 20 minutes from Puerto Viejo is the town of Bribri which is home to the largest indigenous groups in all of Costa Rica. I recommend booking a tour when visiting as you will get a much better experience. They will show you their way of life and most likely a chocolate tour as well. Located in this area as well are two waterfalls. You can easily spend a whole day here and come back to Puerto Viejo exhausted.
Go White Water Rafting in the Pacuare River
This area is the most popular place to do whitewater rafting in the entire country. It is not too extreme and consists of 52 rapids during an 18-mile stretch. This amount of rapids in one location is hard to find elsewhere in the world. This is a day trip that you will not forget. If you are looking for the most adventurous activity you can do in the region, then this is it. Book a tour through the popular exploadores outdoors located in Puerto Viejo.
Visit Bocas Del Toro in Panama
This might seem like a weird activity to suggest as it is in another country but Puerto Viejo is extremely close to the Panama border. Many people who come to this part of Costa Rica end up making the trek over to this famous region of Panama for a few days. There are multiple shuttles that can take you there daily and is popular for a reason. Bocas Del Toro is a set of islands at the border that are famous for its clear water, relaxation, and surfing. You might be able to find a good party or two. Shuttles cost around $35 and also provide a boat to the island of Bocas. This is a very popular thing to do in Puerto Viejo and only takes 4 hours.
Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo
- Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel (Best Overall): Located just 1 minute from the beach, Le Cameleon is a luxurious yet affordable accommodation. It has features of a beach club, outdoor spa, and pool access.
- Kalunai Hostel (Most Budget-Friendly): Centrally located in Puerto Viejo, Kalunai Hostel is a favorite amongst backpackers. Some perks are a roof terrace and bikes for rent.
- Relax Natural Village (Top Rated): Nestled in the quieter part of Puerto Viejo, this adult-only accommodation is highly regarded in the area. This is rated 9.7 for couples on booking.com
Thank you for reading my guide to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. I hope you found it useful and that you can use it to plan your next trip here. This is seriously an amazing place and you will not run out of things to do in Puerto Viejo. This is a different side of Costa Rica that everyone should be able to see one day.