What to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: travel tips

What to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: travel tips

Central America

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca or just Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, is a small beach town on the country's Caribbean coast. If there's one thing I've noticed around the world, it's that it doesn't matter the place: where there are surfers, there's a good beach. And I'm not just talking about sand and sea, which they obviously know how to choose well because it's their natural habitat. I'm talking about the relaxed atmosphere, the good restaurants, the nightlife and the activities and tours offered in the place. And in Puerto Viejo it's no different.

Where is Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is part of the department of Limón, a Caribbean province of Costa Rica on the border with Panama, famous for being a true natural paradise due to the combination of dense jungles, verdant mountains and postcard-worthy beaches.

The local population is largely Creole, which means that many of the natives there are descendants of Africans who were brought to the Americas as slaves. But before ending up there, they put down roots in Jamaica and created their own language – a mix of English with diverse influences from speakers of different ethnicities, languages ​​and social classes – and culture with its own identity.

Beach in the center of Puerto Viejo

History and culture of Puerto Viejo

It was only with the construction of the railway in Limón and the resulting banana plantation that these people left Jamaica and began to call Costa Rica home, from 1870 onwards.

By putting down roots there, they also changed the local culture. In Puerto Viejo, reggae sounds in the bars on the sand (but it still doesn't displace reggaeton), dreadlocks and Bob Marley t-shirts spread through the streets flooded with a peaceful hippie atmosphere. And there is no shortage of craft, clothing and organic product stores and international food and style restaurants. fusion, the latter were influenced not by Jamaicans, but by the dozens of immigrants from all over who fell in love with Puerto Viejo and decided to stay there. The scenery is completed by the blue sea and the vibrant tropical vegetation that grows around it.

Puerto Viejo, in Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo, in Costa Rica

Travel Insurance for Costa Rica

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What to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: tourist attractions

Beaches of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

The main beaches in Puerto Viejo are:

  • Black Beach
  • Playa Cocles
  • Chiquita Beach
  • Uva Point
  • Big Lemon
  • Manzanillo

Puerto Viejo and its surroundings are so full of good beaches for swimming that you could spend a day at each one and still leave without seeing them all. Playa Negra, in Puerto Viejo, is famous for the dark sand that gives the place its name and also for being frequented by both swimmers and surfers, despite the calm waters. Further south, heading towards Manzanillo, is Playa Cocles, which is dangerous for swimming due to strong currents in the region. Next are Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva and Grande Limón.

Puerto Viejo, in Costa Rica

Uva Point

Puerto Viejo, in Costa Rica


A very common activity in Puerto Viejo is to rent a bicycle (some hostels offer it for free or at low prices, ask yours) and head along the coast towards Manzanillo, stopping at all these beaches along the way and many other smaller ones there are. to discover yourself. The one-way journey from the city center to Manzanillo is 13 km, and passes through banana and cocoa plantations and hidden roads.

Cahuita National Park

Heading from the center in the opposite direction, north along Playa Negra, you reach Cahuita. It takes half an hour by public bus and 16 km by bike. There, you can visit the Cahuita National Park and visit other of the best beaches in the region, which are within the reserve, in addition to having contact with the exuberant local nature, with very rich fauna and flora that, there, are very well preserved. Entry is on a donation basis, the suggested value is 5 dollars.

At local agencies in Puerto Viejo you can also book diving, snorkeling and kayaking trips, as well as other water activities and tours around the region.

Tour of a chocolate farm in Costa Rica

Central America is well known for the production of excellent quality cocoa – and for the chocolates they make with it. After all, that's where the plant originated and it has been part of the diet of the people who have inhabited this region for centuries. On the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, this production is also very important and drives the local economy, from the planting process to the sale of chocolates made by small local producers. It is possible to take a tour to visit these places, learn about the delicacy production process from the first stages and even taste it fresh from the factory.

I recommend the Caribeans Coffee Shop and Organic Chocolate tour which, in addition to being delicious and very instructive, also has a cool project for ecological and economically sustainable production, valuing local labor and paying three times more than the market price. by cocoa purchased directly from producers, eliminating intermediaries. This is very important in this industry, which is one of the most exploratory in the world.

The tour includes a walk through the cocoa plantation, tasting the plant in its natural form, chocolate tasting and a workshop that explains the stages of production. It costs 32 dollars per person and needs to be booked in advance by emailing [email protected].

Tour of Bribri indigenous communities in Costa Rica

The Talamanca region, of which Puerto Viejo is part, has long been inhabited by the Bribri people. Although it has suffered from the invasion of its territory and the exodus of its population to urban areas in search of better living conditions, its culture and people still survive in small communities located on the outskirts of Puerto Viejo.

Today, there are several tours that take visitors to these communities to learn about the culture of these original people, as well as their traditions, language, ways of life and art. If you are interested in the topic, I recommend the Visit.Org tour, which is a platform that brings together tours committed to sustainability and the communities involved, employing local people, helping with the development of the region and promoting cultural immersion through ethical tourism and mutually beneficial. The two-day immersion tour costs $93, food and overnight stay included. A one-day tour costs $56.

Where to stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

The best places to stay in Puerto Viejo are in the center and on Playa Negra. The latter has cheaper hotel options, but is a little removed from the hustle and bustle of bars and restaurants, in a more deserted and peaceful region. You can walk from one to the other in about 15 minutes, so it's not a problem.

I stayed there, at One Love Puerto Viejo, a small hostel with comfortable rooms and an inviting backyard that is a three-minute walk from Playa Negra and has shared rooms for $8 and private rooms for $19.

For those who prefer to stay in the center, there is the trendy Selina Puerto Viejo and the Lion Fish Hostel, as well as several options ranging from hostels for backpackers to luxury resorts. Check them all out here or in the list below, which shows the best discounted offers:

How to get to Puerto Viejo: bus or car?

By bus, the trip from San José to Puerto Viejo takes around four hours. The roads are well paved, although curvy and busy, and bus services are reliable. However, here's a tip: in some companies, there is the option of traveling standing up, even on long journeys, and many people buy tickets to sit in the aisle or on the stairs, paying the same price.

If you prefer comfort, make sure the ticket attendant gives you a ticket with a numbered seat. They usually let you know when it's time to travel in the corridor, but I've seen people complaining that they didn't know this when they paid for the trip.

Many people prefer to rent a car to travel around Costa Rica. This avoids frequent returns to San José, which the local bus system forces us to do, since the capital serves as a hub from which almost all bus lines that run between departments come and go.

If you are thinking about this, see here how to rent a car with the best value for money in the country. An alternative to avoiding trips to San José, if you cannot or want to drive, is to hire private shutters for transport. They are offered at travel agencies in the main tourist attractions and are a practical option, although more expensive.

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