Discover Puerto Viejo: The Definitive Travel Guide
Nestled on the captivating Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo is a vibrant and culturally rich town that beckons travelers with its unique blend of Afro-Caribbean influences, stunning beaches, and lush rainforests. This is a place where reggae rhythms set the pace, where the aroma of tantalizing Creole dishes fills the air, and where the vibrant spirit of the community is as warm as the tropical sun. Puerto Viejo offers a sensory journey that spans from the rhythms of the sea to the rhythms of the heart. Here, you'll discover breathtaking beaches, world-class surfing, nearby national parks and reserves, all framed by a backdrop of verdant rainforests teeming with wildlife. Come, explore the Caribbean's hidden gem, where every day feels like an adventure and every night is a celebration of life. Welcome to Puerto Viejo, where Caribbean culture and natural beauty intertwine to create an experience like no other in Costa Rica.
Puerto Viejo: Where Caribbean Culture Meets Natural Beauty
Puerto Viejo, located on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, is a vibrant and culturally rich town that beckons travelers with its unique blend of Afro-Caribbean influences, stunning beaches, and lush rainforests. Here's a closer look at what makes Puerto Viejo a captivating destination:
Cultural Diversity: Puerto Viejo is a melting pot of cultures, with a significant Afro-Caribbean presence. This cultural diversity is reflected in the town's music, cuisine, and vibrant festivals. Visitors can enjoy reggae rhythms, tantalizing Creole dishes, and lively celebrations throughout the year.
Breathtaking Beaches: The area surrounding Puerto Viejo boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in Costa Rica. Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, and Punta Uva are just a few examples of the pristine, palm-fringed shores where you can swim, surf, or simply relax. The beaches are known for their clear waters, making them ideal for snorkeling and swimming.
Surfing Paradise: Puerto Viejo is a surfing haven, attracting wave riders from around the world. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner eager to learn, the town offers surf schools and breaks suitable for all levels. Salsa Brava is famous for its powerful waves, providing an exciting challenge for experienced surfers. Playa Cocles caters to surfers of all levels, perfect for that surf lesson you've always wanted but have been putting off for years.
Cahuita National Park: Located nearby, Cahuita National Park offers an opportunity to explore diverse ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves, and coastal rainforests. The park's hiking trails are teeming with wildlife, making it a popular spot for nature enthusiasts.
Wildlife Encounters: Beyond Cahuita National Park, Puerto Viejo's surroundings are a treasure trove of biodiversity. Howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, and colorful frogs are among the wildlife species you can spot in the area's lush rainforests. Gandoca Manzanillo National Refuge is just down the coast, offering pristine jungle, mangroves, and gorgeous beaches.
Lively Nightlife: As the sun sets, Puerto Viejo comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Reggae bars, beachfront lounges, and live music venues offer plenty of opportunities to dance and mingle with locals and fellow travelers.
Community Markets: Explore the town's community markets to sample local delicacies, handmade crafts, and fresh produce. These markets are not only great for shopping but also provide an authentic glimpse into daily life in Puerto Viejo.
Sustainability Focus: Puerto Viejo is known for its commitment to sustainable tourism practices. Many accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators prioritize eco-friendly initiatives, ensuring that visitors can enjoy the region's beauty responsibly.
Relaxed Atmosphere: What truly sets Puerto Viejo apart is its laid-back atmosphere and the welcoming spirit of its residents. It's a place where time seems to slow down, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in the local culture and unwind in a tropical paradise.
In Puerto Viejo, you'll find a destination where Caribbean vibes meet natural wonders, creating a unique and unforgettable experience for all who venture to this enchanting corner of Costa Rica.
The beaches near Puerto Viejo are some of the most stunning and diverse in Costa Rica, offering a wide range of experiences for beach lovers. Here are the main beaches you can explore in this tropical paradise:
Playa Cocles: Just south of Puerto Viejo, Playa Cocles is famous for its powerful waves, making it a popular spot for surfers. It's also great for beachcombing and long walks. The beach has a wild and untamed feel, with lush jungle spilling onto the sand. Hotels in the Cocles area include Cariblue Beach & Jungle Resort, Azania Bungalows, Le Cameleon Hotel, and Terrazes del Caribe is a short walk from the beach.
Playa Chiquita: A short drive or bike ride from Puerto Viejo, Playa Chiquita offers a more tranquil atmosphere. It's known for its calm waters, making it ideal for swimming. The beach is lined with tall palm trees and is perfect for picnics and relaxation. Hotels in this area include Hotel Aguas Claras, Shawandha Lodge, Namuwaki Lodge, and the Treehouses Lodge.
Punta Uva: Located a bit further south, Punta Uva is often considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. It boasts clear turquoise waters, fine golden sand, and a lush tropical backdrop. It's great for swimming and snorkeling, thanks to its coral reefs. aWa Beach Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel in Punta Uva.
Manzanillo: This beach is located in the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. It's a bit farther south and offers a quieter, more secluded experience. Manzanillo is a protected area with calm waters, making it perfect for snorkeling. In fact, this may be one of Costa Rica's best-kept secrets and hidden treasures.
Playa Puerto Viejo: Located in town, this small, local favorite beach has relatively calm water, protected by rock outcroppings.
Playa Negra: On the north side of Puerto Viejo, Playa Negra stretches for several kilometers. The dark sand gives Playa Negra its name. Hotels in this area include Banana Azul and Sonora Jungle & Yoga Retreat.
Cahuita National Park: While not in Puerto Viejo, this park is a short drive away and features several beautiful beaches along its coastline. The park's main beach is a stunning white-sand stretch with calm, crystal-clear waters.
Each of these beaches has its charm, and whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, you'll find it along the Caribbean coast near Puerto Viejo. Don't forget to explore the vibrant local culture, enjoy fresh seafood, and savor the reggae rhythms that make this region so unique.
Hotel Aguas Claras: This boutique hotel is an oasis of luxury and tranquility nestled in the jungle near Playa Chiquita. With beautifully designed rooms, a pool, and a restaurant, it offers a serene escape just a short drive from Puerto Viejo.
Hotel Le Cameleon: Located in Playa Cocles, Hotel Le Cameleon is a stylish and modern boutique hotel known for its minimalist design and easy beach access. It has a sleek pool, a gourmet restaurant, and a beach club.
aWa Beach Hotel: Situated in front of Playa Punta Uva, aWa Beach Hotel offers stylish rooms with a beachfront setting. The views from their restaurant are spectacular, and you'll find yourself just steps away from the surf.
Terrazas del Caribe: Located a short walk or bike ride from Playa Cocles, its large swimming pool and lush gardens create a tropical paradise. The on-site restaurant serves delicious Caribbean and international cuisine.
Lomas Del Caribe: A family-friendly option, Lomas Del Caribe provides equipped multi-bedroom villas with private swimming pools.
Hotel Cariblue: Nestled between the jungle and the sea, Hotel Cariblue offers a range of accommodations, from rooms to bungalows. The property features a large pool and a restaurant serving tasty Caribbean dishes.
Hotel Banana Azul: Known for its warm hospitality, Hotel Banana Azul is a beachfront boutique hotel on Playa Negra with beautifully appointed rooms and a lively bar. It's also famous for its delicious breakfasts.
Azania Bungalows: Located near Playa Cocles, Azania Bungalows provides comfortable bungalows amidst lush gardens. It's a peaceful retreat for nature lovers, with howler monkeys often seen in the trees.
Whether you're seeking luxury, beachfront views, or a more budget-friendly stay, Puerto Viejo has options to suit all tastes and preferences. These hotels capture the essence of the Caribbean, offering a relaxed and unforgettable experience in Costa Rica.
Puerto Viejo offers a wide array of activities to make your visit memorable. Here are some of the best things to do in this vibrant coastal town:
Beach Hopping: Explore the stunning beaches along the coast, each with its own unique charm. Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, and Punta Uva are among the favorites. You can swim, sunbathe, or simply enjoy the natural beauty.
Snorkeling in Punta Uva and Gandoca Manzanillo: Grab your snorkeling gear and explore the colorful underwater world of Punta Uva and Gandoca Manzanillo. These areas boast rich marine life and coral reefs, making them ideal for snorkeling adventures.
Surfing or Surf Lessons: Puerto Viejo is a renowned surf destination. Whether you're an experienced surfer or a beginner, you can catch some waves at Playa Cocles or take surf lessons from local instructors.
Visit to BriBri Village: Immerse yourself in the indigenous BriBri culture by visiting a local village. Learn about their traditions, taste their cuisine, and discover their way of life in the heart of the rainforest.
Bike Riding Down the Coast: Rent a bicycle and explore the scenic coastal road. Biking allows you to soak in the natural beauty and discover hidden beaches, wildlife, and lush jungle scenery.
Day Trip to Cahuita National Park: Just a short drive from Puerto Viejo, Cahuita National Park offers hiking trails, wildlife viewing, and some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rica. Explore the park's stunning coastline and underwater wonders.
Walking Along the Beaches: Puerto Viejo's beaches are perfect for long, leisurely walks. Stroll along the shoreline, collect seashells, and enjoy the soothing sound of the waves. Take obvious precautions such as not walking alone or at dawn, dusk, or nighttime.
Nightlife: When the sun sets, Puerto Viejo comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Enjoy live music, dance to reggae and calypso rhythms, and savor cocktails at beachfront bars and clubs.
Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for wildlife during your stay. You might spot sloths, howler monkeys, toucans, and colorful frogs in the lush surroundings.
Whether you're an adventure seeker or prefer a more relaxed pace, Puerto Viejo offers a mix of activities that allow you to connect with nature, culture, and the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle. Explore the diverse landscapes, experience the local culture, and create lasting memories in this tropical paradise.
Puerto Viejo is known for its vibrant food scene, offering a mix of Caribbean and international flavors. Here are some of the best restaurants in Puerto Viejo:
La Pecora Nera: This Italian restaurant serves up delicious Mediterranean dishes and homemade pasta. With a stylish atmosphere and friendly staff, it's a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Restaurante Tamara: Tamara Restaurant in Puerto Viejo is a culinary gem known for its delicious blend of Costa Rican, seafood, and Latin flavors. Conveniently set in town, it offers a relaxed ambiance where diners can savor fresh seafood dishes, mouthwatering grilled meats, and a variety of vegetarian options. With its warm and inviting atmosphere, Tamara Restaurant provides a delightful dining experience in the heart of Puerto Viejo.
Cafe Rico: A charming cafe with a bohemian vibe, Cafe Rico offers a healthy Costa Rican, American, and Caribbean dishes, as well as quality Costa Rican coffees. It's a great place to start your day in Puerto Viejo and to meet fellow travelers.
Soulsurfer: As the name suggests, Soulsurfer caters to surfers and beach lovers. They serve up stacked burgers, sandwiches, and smoothies with a laid-back, beachfront atmosphere.
Todo es Posible: This vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant offers a diverse menu with a focus on organic and locally sourced ingredients. Their creative dishes include pizzas, colorful salads, wraps, and hearty vegetarian options.
Como en mi Casa Art Cafe: Located in town, this cafe is a hidden gem in Puerto Viejo. They serve up tasty breakfasts, sandwiches, and homemade desserts, all in a tranquil and artsy atmosphere.
Restaurante El Sol Del Caribe: Known for its Caribbean and international cuisine, this restaurant offers a wide range of seafood and meat dishes. It's an excellent place to sample local flavors and enjoy a relaxed evening.
Pura Gula: A popular spot for seafood lovers, Pura Gula offers a menu filled with fresh catches of the day. The beachfront location provides stunning views to complement your meal.
Salsa Brava Restaurante Caribeño: This beachfront eatery is a vibrant Caribbean-style restaurant known for its lively atmosphere and delicious food. It offers a diverse menu featuring Caribbean and international cuisine, including fresh seafood, tropical cocktails, and traditional dishes, making it a popular dining spot for both locals and tourists looking to enjoy a taste of the Caribbean in a lively setting.
KOKi Beach Restaurant & Bar: Located right on the beach, KOKi is a beachfront restaurant and bar that specializes in fresh seafood and tropical cocktails. It's an ideal spot to listen to the waves crash while savoring your meal.
Puerto Viejo's dining scene is diverse, offering something for everyone, from traditional Caribbean dishes to international cuisine and vegetarian options. These restaurants capture the essence of the area, where you can enjoy delicious food in a relaxed, tropical setting.
You do not need a rental car to visit Puerto Viejo. Private transfers are available from anywhere in Costa Rica and shared shuttles are available from some popular tourist destinations. In town, Tuktuks are fairly common as taxis and there are plenty of traditional taxis available. Many visitors rent bicycles and cruise up and down the coast.
From San Jose, take Rt. 32 all the way to Limon. In Limon, turn right on Rt. 36 and follow it all the way down the coast until you reach Puerto Viejo. Though this sounds like an easy drive, it is not. If you are driving, be sure to use a GPS and lower it out of sight as you drive through the city of Limon. You can contact us for private or shuttle transportation options as a safer alternative.
All in all, Puerto Viejo is one of the most unique beach destinations in Costa Rica! It’s not for everybody, but just right for many…
Puerto Viejo, located in a lush tropical rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, experiences a typical tropical climate. The weather can be quite humid and rainy, but it's warm and inviting throughout the year.
The driest months in Puerto Viejo are generally September, October, March, and April. During this period, you can expect less rainfall and more sunshine, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and beach exploration. These are also the clearest times for snorkeling.
Temperature-wise, Puerto Viejo remains pleasantly warm year-round. Daytime temperatures typically range from the mid-80s to low 90s Fahrenheit (around 29-35 degrees Celsius). Evenings are milder, with temperatures averaging in the upper 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (25-28 degrees Celsius).
It's important to note that despite the drier months, Puerto Viejo is still part of a rainforest ecosystem, so some rainfall can occur even during the dry season. However, this doesn't usually hinder travel plans or outdoor adventures. To make the most of your visit, plan activities in the morning when the weather tends to be more predictable, and keep in mind that occasional late-afternoon showers are common.
Puerto Viejo Packing List
Here's a comprehensive packing list for a trip to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. This list is tailored to the tropical climate and activities you might encounter in this beautiful region:
Lightweight, breathable clothing: Pack lightweight, breathable shirts, shorts, and dresses. Quick-drying fabric is a plus.
Swimwear: You'll spend a lot of time at the beach, so bring at least two swimsuits.
Rain jacket or poncho: Costa Rica experiences occasional rain showers, even in the dry season.
Long-sleeved shirts and pants: These are useful for cooler evenings and protection from bugs but not completely necesssary.
Sun protection: Wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunblock with high SPF.
Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes or sandals suitable for outdoor activities and hiking.
Flip-flops: Ideal for the beach and casual outings.
Undergarments and socks: Bring extras for changing out of sweaty clothes.
Daypack or beach bag: A small daypack is handy for beach trips and hikes.
Reusable water bottle: Stay hydrated with purified water, which is widely available.
Snorkeling gear: If you plan on snorkeling, consider bringing your mask, snorkel, and fins.
Insect repellent: A strong mosquito repellent is essential.
Mobile phone: Preload maps, translation apps, and other useful travel apps.
Camera or smartphone: Capture the stunning scenery and wildlife.
Chargers and power bank: Keep your devices charged during your adventures.
Passport: Ensure it's valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates.
Visa: Check Costa Rica's visa requirements for your nationality.
Flight tickets: Print or have electronic copies accessible.
Travel insurance: Consider travel insurance with medical coverage.
Driver's license: If you plan to rent a car.
Health and First Aid:
Prescription medications: Bring enough for your entire trip.
Basic first-aid kit: Band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, etc.
Personal hygiene items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, razor, shaving cream, and feminine products.
Cash: While credit cards are widely accepted, having some local currency (Colón) is useful for small purchases.
Travel guidebook: If you prefer physical copies for planning.
Travel pillow and earplugs: For comfortable rest during long journeys.
Ziplock bags: Handy for organizing and waterproofing items.
Remember that you can buy many items in Puerto Viejo, so don't stress too much about forgetting something. It's better to pack light and enjoy your trip.
Fun Fact: Puerto Viejo means Old Port in English. There is another Puerto Viejo in the Sarapiqui region which is often confused by tourists.