In Puerto Viejo, time seems to move just a bit slower than in the rest of Costa Rica, which is already known for its relaxed atmosphere. This coastal town is famous for its hippie vibe and beautiful beaches. But there’s much more to do here than just sipping cocktails in the sand. That’s why we’ve put together these handy tips and attractions in Puerto Viejo.
As we enter Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, we catch a glimpse of the town beach. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a beer and a plate of nachos while watching the sunset. Since the town is not very big, we can easily walk to our lovely hotel afterwards.
However, the beaches around Puerto Viejo are even more stunning. And it’s not just because there are fewer tourists. Beach hopping is definitely worth it. We do it with our rental car, but if you’re into being active, you can also rent a bike.
Our favorite beaches around Puerto Viejo:
- Playa Cocles: a long stretch of beach where you’ll find many locals on weekends. Perfect for surfing but not ideal for swimming.
- Playa Chiquita: a well-hidden (and therefore very peaceful) beach with crystal-clear water, perfect for swimming.
- Playa Blanca: a long (but narrow) beach in Cahuita National Park. Not the best for swimming, as monkeys and raccoons have their eyes on your belongings!
- Playa Punta Uva: a beautiful beach with good swimming conditions. There are plenty of dining options near the beach.
- Playa Gandoca: a unique black sand beach near the Panama border. Due to the unpaved access road, it’s only suitable for adventurous souls with a 4×4.
Visiting a Cocoa Plantation (and Tasting Chocolate)
Looking for an excuse to indulge in some sweets? Pay a visit to Caribeans Coffee and Chocolate for an “educational” tour of their own cocoa plantation. Get ready for a leisurely walk, breathtaking ocean views, and, of course, plenty of chocolate to taste.
Exploring the Nightlife of Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo exudes a relaxed, hippie-like atmosphere that reminded us a bit of Key West. The town truly comes alive in the evenings when the streets fill with locals and tourists alike. Take a leisurely stroll along the many restaurants, bars, and shops. Skip the hotel restaurant and immerse yourself in the lively, colorful buzz.
Spotting Wildlife in Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is just a half-hour drive from Puerto Viejo. It’s a relatively small park that juts out into the water, surrounded by beaches. Entrance is free, but donations are highly appreciated.
At the park’s entrance, we encounter a guide who offers to take us on a tour of Cahuita National Park. It proves to be a worthwhile investment as he helps us spot sloths, skunks, monkeys, and various bird species.
The park isn’t limited to land; the marine area is also protected. With over 35 species of coral and more than a hundred fish species, it’s a popular snorkeling and diving destination.
After the walk, we decide to stay on the beach and, following the guide’s advice, keep a close eye on our belongings. This warning proves necessary as we quickly witness a raccoon stealthily dragging the backpack of two unsuspecting tourists into the bushes.
Kayaking or Paddleboarding at Punta Uva
Regretting the amount of chocolate you indulged in during the cocoa plantation tour? Or did the nightlife of Puerto Viejo get a little too lively? It’s time to get active with a kayaking or paddleboarding tour at Playa Punta Uva.
Sure, an hour of kayaking or paddleboarding provides a good workout. But don’t forget that while floating in the surf, you’ll also get a nice tan. And once the sun gets too hot, you can venture into the tree-covered river. You’re guaranteed to spot turtles there.
Take Surf Lessons
Chances are, you’ll see surfers on the beaches around Puerto Viejo, especially at Playa Cocles, which is perfect for surfing due to its usually moderate waves. It’s a great spot to take surf lessons, which you can book last minute right on the beach, provided that weather conditions are favorable.
Spotting Sloths at the Jaguar Rescue Center
The Jaguar Rescue Center is a popular tourist attraction just outside Puerto Viejo. Don’t be misled by the name; you won’t find any of the feline predators here. Instead, the rescue center is home to reptiles, monkeys, and sloths.
According to the organization, they take in and care for animals in need, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. The center is particularly popular because spotting sloths in the wild can be challenging.
However, you can spot these magnificent creatures almost anywhere if you keep your eyes open. As we drive out of Puerto Viejo, we suddenly spot a sloth hanging from a tree. We pull over to observe it. Its graceful slow-motion movements are mesmerizing.
For us, seeing animals in their natural habitat is even more beautiful, so we didn’t feel the need to visit the Rescue Center.
How Many Nights to Stay in Puerto Viejo?
As you can imagine, Puerto Viejo offers a wealth of activities and attractions. The duration of your stay will ultimately depend on your preferences and the length of your overall visit to Costa Rica. Personally, we spent three nights in Puerto Viejo, and it was the perfect amount of time to fully experience all that the town has to offer.
We recommend setting aside at least half a day or a full day for Cahuita National Park. If you love beaches or simply want to relax, a day of beach hopping is also highly recommended.
The Ideal Base in Puerto Viejo
We stayed at the relatively new Umami Hotel, and it was excellent. The hotel is located slightly towards the back of Puerto Viejo but still within walking distance of the beach. The rooms are stylishly decorated, and the delicious breakfast is made to order.
Although the hotel is not large, it has a beautiful swimming pool to cool off in. As young children are not allowed, it’s a peaceful and quiet environment. We would book a room there again without hesitation.