The super chill town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca 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 lets 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, raccoons 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.
12 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 hectares 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. Here you can snorkel at the well-preserved reef.
Exploring Cahuita National Park is one of the best 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 biodiversity 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 close to each other 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.
Go horseback riding on the beach
Enjoy a relaxing 2-hour horseback ride along the turquoise blue sea and white sand on a beautiful horse. It is the best way to connect with nature and experience the Pura Vida life. Horse riding on the Puerto Viejo beach should definitely be on your bucket list! First, you will ride through the jungle before getting to the stunning Punta Uva, which is the most beautiful beach in Puerto Viejo. Take your horse up to the lookout for priceless views of the coast.
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center sloth sanctuary
If you want to learn more about the 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 of all the animals, learn about the work they do for wildlife and learn about the animals themselves. The main focus at the wildlife refuge is on sloths, monkeys, other mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Learn to dance the Salsa and Bachata
Grab your dance shoes and learn the techniques of Salsa and Bachata dance by an experienced teacher. This is the only Latin dance class available in the Talamanca area and a must-do for dance lovers. You will learn timing and rhythm, then warm up with some open steps and you will cover basic turns. Lastly, you will dance with a partner to get the real feel of it.
Chill at the Puerto Viejo beaches
One of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo is to enjoy 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 many facilities around. However, at Playa Puerto Viejo which is directly located in the center, you are close to all the beach bars.
Go on 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 one 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 slackline 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 are both beautiful gems to explore.
If you’re staying in Puerto Viejo or even further up north in Cahuita, then a visit to Manzanillo can’t be missed! You can hike along the coastal trail that starts in the town of Manzanillo and stretches 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) one way to Punta Mona. Going with a guide is highly recommended for your safety and navigation in the jungle.
You can also book a night walk to discover the amazing creatures that live in the jungle but can only be seen after the sun goes down. This is only possible accompanied by an expert naturalist who will show you the secrets of the nocturnal wildlife. You will use your flashlight to spot frogs, snakes, tarantulas and other fascinating animals. This is a fantastic tour for adventure seekers and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be in the wilderness, surrounded by sounds and sights that you have never experienced before.
Go white water rafting
Prove your paddling skills and go on this full-day whitewater rafting tour from Puerto Viejo de Limon. Experience some of Costa Rica’s best whitewater rafting trips down the Pacuare River. You will navigate more than 50 rapids ranging from class II-IV on an 18-mile (29-km) run through a scenic river gorge. Surrounded by verdant cliffs, waterfalls, and unspoiled tropical rainforest you will be completely immersed in nature. Keep an eye out for wildlife like sloths, coatis, and toucans during calmer stretches, and stoke your energy level with included breakfast and lunch.
Check out the stranded boat on Manzanillo beach
Manzanillo Beach in Limon is considered one of the most scenic beaches in Costa Rica. And we understand why! The beautiful 4 kilometers 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 snorkeling 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 favorite 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. Or go kayaking and explore the stunning mangrove and crystal clear waters.
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 of typical Costa Rican food mixed with Caribbean cuisine. From our 3 months traveling through Costa Rica we have had, without a doubt, the best food in Puerto Viejo!! Here are our favorite 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 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.