The super chill town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is a great place to start or end your journey through this amazing country. Where surfers catch the waves all day long and where reggae(ton) music is played on every corner of the street, this laidback town let you forget about time and worries. In Puerto Viejo Costa Rica you can truly experience the Pura Vida lifestyle with an Afro-Caribbean ambiance. But if you want to be active and go out exploring, there are still lots of things to do in and around Puerto Viejo. Visit Cahuita National Park to spot monkeys, sloths, racoons and other wildlife. Or cool off at one of the waterfalls close to Bri Bri town. Find in this complete guide all the best things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN PUERTO VIEJO COSTA RICA
Visit Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is one of the smallest National Parks in Costa Rica protecting an area of 1067 hectare of rainforest, mangrove and coral reefs. It has an 8 km point to point trail leading visitors through the rainforest and along the stunning white sand beaches. Exploring Cahuita National Park is one of the must things to do in Puerto Viejo as it will give you a great sense of what Costa Rica’s nature is about. The park offers a lot of bio-diversity and is home to numerous species of wildlife. So while walking on the well maintained paths you can spot plenty of wildlife. After that, you can relax on some of the beautiful beaches of Cahuita National Park.
Explore the Bri Bri waterfalls
If you’re looking for some refreshing vibes inland, then explore the Bri Bri waterfalls which are only a 20 minute drive away from Puerto Viejo. Located near the indigenous town of BriBri, you can combine exploring the waterfalls with a tour to learn more about the BriBri culture. There are three different waterfalls in Bri Bri to explore. They are called Volio waterfall, Two waters waterfall and Catarata Ma-Cu, also known as the BriBri sparkling waterfalls. They are all pretty closely to each other located so if you’re in for a day of chasing waterfalls then you can easily combine a visit to all three Bri Bri waterfalls in one day.
Read everything about the Bri Bri waterfalls near Puerto Viejo in our complete guide
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center sloth sanctuary
If you want to learn more about rehabilitation of wild animals, then you should visit the wildlife refuge center of Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo. This temporary home for sick, injured, and orphaned animals relies on donations which is where your entrance fee is part of. During a visit you will get a guided tour along all the animals, learn about the work they do for wildlife and learn about the animals itself. The main focus at the wildlife refuge is on sloths, monkeys, other mammals, birds, and reptiles.
The entrance fee is $22.00 USD per person, children under 10 are for free
Chill at the Puerto Viejo beaches
Of course, some of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo is enjoying the beautiful beaches around. There are a few options to choose from in Puerto Viejo, but outside of Puerto Viejo town are also a few beautiful beaches to explore. Playa Negra is the longest beach downtown Puerto Viejo, but this is also the more local beach without much facilities around. However at Playa Puerto Viejo which is directly located in the centre, you are close to all the beach bars.
Do a chocolate tour and experience the BriBri culture
Cacao plays an important cultural role in the history and life of the Bribri indigenous communities. It has helped to sustain their livelihood and sacred belief system. They welcome small groups into their village to experience the BriBri culture. During a tour you can learn about their respect for nature while a member of the BriBri society will share their knowledge of all the plants and trees amongst them and the amazing medicinal properties they have. The BriBri people strive for their independence and self-sufficiency allowing them to preserve their indigenous culture. Definitely one of the tours you must do if you are interested in learning more about the culture and traditions of this indigenous tribe.
Go surfing and relaxing at Playa Cocles
Playa Cocles is one of the nicest beaches near Puerto Viejo with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise water. This 1.6 kilometre (1 mile) long white sandy beach is some of the most developed beaches near Puerto Viejo with cafes and restaurants around. There are also street food stalls, surf shacks and even a volleyball and slack line set up on the beach. Playa Cocles is one of the best beaches for surfing along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Therefore the waves are sometimes too big to safely swim here. But you can still have a very good time here with plenty of other activities around. The beach next to Playa Cocles is called Playa Chiquita and connects Punta Uma with the next beach, Playa Grande. These beaches are even more quiet than Playa Cocles if you want a more serene vibe than the lively beach vibes at Playa Cocles.
Read in our complete guide everything about Playa Cocles
Visit Manzanillo National Park
The small laid back fishing village of Manzanillo is the last town along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This charming and characterful town with its vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture has two main attractions to explore. The fabulous golden white sand beach and the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge which has helped to maintain the pristine nature of the local environment. If you’re staying in Puerto Viejo or even further up north in Cahuita, then a visit to Manzanillo can’t be missed! Entrance to the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Park is a donation for the park. You can hike along the coastal trail that starts in the town of Manzanillo and stretches 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) one way all the way to Punta Mona.
Experience the Pura Vida lifestyle
After three months of traveling trough Costa Rica we must say that we personally loved Puerto Viejo for the Pura Vida vibes. With a mixture of Afro Caribbean, Bri Bri Indigenous, Ticos, Americans, and Europeans alike, Puerto Viejo offers a diverse and multicultural vibe. And this you can feel while walking through Puerto Viejo, interacting with the locals, tasting the different cuisines. Especially during sunset the reggeaton will blast through the stereos. Accompanied by your favourite cocktail, this will really give those Pura Vida vibes. A feeling which is hard to describe, but you will definitely feel it once in Puerto Viejo.
Check out the stranded boat on Manzanillo beach
Manzanillo Beach in Limon is considered being some of the most scenic beaches in Costa Rica. And we understand why! The beautiful 4 kilometres long stretch of white golden sand accompanied by waving palm trees and turquoise ocean water invites you for a laid back day. This tropical paradise has an amazing coral reef offshore that is perfect for snorkelling and swimming. There is also a huge stranded ship along the shore of Playa Manzanillo which is worth checking out. Especially if you have a drone it is very cool to take pictures from.
Relax at wonderful Playa Punta Uva
The beach at Playa Punta Uva was our most favourite beach in the Puerto Viejo area. This stunning gold sandy beach is located along the road to Manzanillo and has lots of natural shade thanks to the trees that grow on the beach. It is a very laid back beach without facilities or surfers so you can have a super chill beach day here. Bring your own drinks and snacks and you’ll have a fantastic chill day at this beautiful tropical beach.
How to get to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
There are several options to get to Puerto Viejo. The closest local airport is Limon airport. From San Jose you can fly in 40 minutes for about $90 with Sansa into Limon and then you have to take the bus or a shuttle to Puerto Viejo.
Another option is to go with the public bus which departs every day at 6 AM, 10 AM, 3.45 PM and 4 PM from Terminal Atlantico Norte (Autotransportes Mepe). It takes about 5 – 6 hours depending on the traffic and costs 6100 colones (~$10 USD) one way per person.
A taxi from San Jose to Puerto Viejo will costs you anywhere between $200-$250 for couples or small families. If you have a rental car it will be a beautiful drive to the Caribbean coast. You won’t need a 4×4 to get there.
Best time to visit Puerto Viejo
If you’re coming for sunshine then the best months to visit Puerto Viejo are February to April and August to October. These are considered the dry months with the most sunshine during the day. The Caribbean coast has an opposite climate of the rest of Costa Rica. It is often said that when the rest of Costa Rica is rainy, it’s time to head out to the dry Caribbean. The rainy season in Puerto Viejo goes from November to January and once again from April to August. January is the month you want to avoid in Puerto Viejo as it sometimes brings heavy rains and floods.
How to get around in Puerto Viejo
If you have a rental car it’s a perfect way to get around in Puerto Viejo. All the roads are paved and you can easily visit the places mentioned in this blog post. However, if you came with the public bus, there are still plenty of options to get around. The buses drive all the way down to Manzanillo, and you can also get to Cahuita National Park with the bus. But, if you want to explore more inland, for example to the Bri Bri waterfalls, or your accommodation is located outside of the centre of Puerto Viejo, then you can also rent a scooter or bicycle. These are unfortunately not cheap options. Below you can see the prices as they were in March 2021.
Best places to eat in Puerto Viejo
In Puerto Viejo you can taste a fantastic combination between typical Costa Rican food mixed with the Caribbean cuisine. From our 3 months traveling through Costa Rica we have had, without a doubt, the best food in Puerto Viejo!! Here our favourite places to eat in Puerto Viejo.
- Stashu’s Con Fushion
- Beach cafe Tiki Bar
- Comida Caribeña for the Caribbean food
Best tours in Costa Rica
If you want to explore the best of Costa Rica, then it is highly recommended to book a tour. During most of these tours you will combine a few locations on one day so you can see the diversity that Costa Rica has to offer. Because of Costa Rica’s popularity it is highly recommended to book your tours in advance as it is likely that tours sell out. So don’t wait with booking until you get to Costa Rica. Choose your favorite tours here and secure your booking! All of these tours include air conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and the entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
- Cahuita National Park and Tortuguero Canal boat tour. Explore Costa Rica’s Caribbean side with this wildlife-rich shore excursion to Cahuita National Park. Admire the biodiversity of the Tortuguero Canals, hike across Cahuita and enjoy Puerto Limon’s city highlights.
- 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Excursion from San Jose. Visit one of the most important destinations in Costa Rica on a guided tour. Explore a beautiful natural paradise, tour the famous Tortuguero Canal and see diverse flora and fauna during this 3 day tour.
- Manuel Antonio National Park combo tour from San Jose. Explore the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park and its beautiful white-sand beaches. Discover the abundant wildlife on the park’s rainforest trails. Enjoy included breakfast and lunch, and make stops to see crocodiles.
- Night jungle tour Manuel Antonio tour. The best of the wildlife comes alive at night. Allow yourself to live amazing encounters that happen only at night in the rainforest. See wild night animals, and discover a whole new world.
- Irazú and Turrialba Volcanoes Guayabo Tour. Visit Irazu volcano and the “Central Town” at the foothills of the active Turrialba Volcano. Experience a unique history and culture, shaped by the tallest and most active volcanoes in Costa Rica.
- Poas volcano, Coffee plantation tour and La Paz waterfall gardens. Visit 3 destinations in one day on this guided tour from San José. Learn about coffee production, visit the Poas Volcano Crater, and experience the incredible nature around La Paz Waterfall Garden.
- Tortuguero Park Day Tour with Breakfast & Lunch from San Jose. Spend the day discovering the luscious landscapes of Tortuguero National Park. Explore this vibrant rainforest, see native wildlife in its natural habitat, learn about the local ecosystem and enjoy a delicious Costa Rican breakfast and lunch.
- Celeste River and Llanos de Cortez Waterfall from Tamarindo. Hike through Tenorio Volcano National Park and visit the beautiful blue river. Discover the rainforest and swim at Llanos de Cortez waterfalls while observing sloths, red-eyed leaf frogs, toucans, and butterflies.
- La Fortuna 4 activities on 1 day; base hike Arenal volcano, hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall and hotsprings
More Costa Rica travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the best things to do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica.
For more Costa Rica travel guides, have a look at our other Costa Rica travel blogs.