Puerto Viejo de Talemanca is located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and has a different atmosphere than the rest of the country.
It is a popular place for backpackers looking for a party, or an outing for travelers looking for unspoilt beaches to explore. It also makes a great stop before crossing the border to Panama's beautiful Bocas del Toro archipelago.
Whatever you are attracting to Puerto Viejo, we have provided you with these tips for travel guides to help you plan your own trip and photo 's to create your wanderlust.
How to get to Puerto Viejo
The easiest way to travel through Costa Rica is by renting a car. We rented one for two weeks and had a lot of fun. The best part is that it is quite cheap! We met a man who had a small SUV for 1 week and it only cost him $ 90 USD. We wrote about our experience with renting a car and with which companies.
Driving your own car from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is easy and takes about 3 hours.
If you do not want to rent a car, you can take the bus from San Jose. Buses depart from Terminal de Autobus Atlantico Norte (Terminal MEPE) to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and depart every two hours from 6 o'clock in the morning. The journey takes about 4.5 hours and costs about 5,500 colones ($ 9.50 USD) per person.
Many shuttles depart from Bocas del Toro to Puerto Viejo. These shuttle companies have someone who can help you across the border and guide you to a shuttle on the Costa Rican side. These trips take about 4 hours and cost about $ 33 USD per person.
Where to stay in Puerto Viejo
There are a handful of good hostels and lots of quality Airbnb rentals in Puerto Viejo.
Fortunately, we have a $ 40 discount on your discount if you use this link for your first Airbnb stay.
We stayed on an Airbnb run by a lovely mother of two called Casa Papaya.
Since this place is super close to the city, you can walk everywhere. Equipped with a kitchen, a spacious living room and a veranda, this cute little house is a great (and affordable!) Choice. The family that owns these Airbnb is super sweet and you can use their bikes to explore the area for free.
The only downside is that there is no air conditioning and with only one fan, it got pretty hot during the day (and even at night).
If you have more money to spend, have a rental car and you want to treat yourself, our friends on this beautiful Airbnb stayed closer to Manzanillo. For about $ 90 USD per night you get a whole house for yourself, including a jacuzzi, full kitchen and a staircase to the beach. And if you have a group, you can sleep up to 5 people.
There are also many wonderful hotel options in and around Puerto Viejo that make your mouth open and your wallet remains full. To find the best deals for hotels in Costa Rica, we usually use Booking.com.
Search for the best hotels in Puerto Viejo
Things to do in Puerto Viejo
1. Bike to Manzanillo
Manzanillo is a peninsula that overlooks the sea, just 13 km from the city. Go there for a day of exploring secluded beaches, wandering through the Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge and taking photos of the beautiful scenery.
How you get there is up to you, but cycling is fun, environmentally friendly and cheap. In addition, you get a little practice.
If you have to wait a long time, driving a rental car is a convenient and quick way to get around. Moreover, it is cheaper to rent a car in Costa Rica than you might think!
2. Visit a native village
Although Costa Rica is perhaps the most westernized country in Central America, there is still a beautiful and rich culture to experience. While you're in Puerto Viejo, take a break from the beaches for a day and learn about the Bribri, an indigenous group that calls this region home.
When you book a tour to visit a village in Bribri, you have the incredible opportunity to talk to a shaman. You will also learn how this community grows and processes chocolate, eats a traditional lunch and you can walk through the jungle to learn all the applications they have for the plants that occur in this area.
If learning local culture is important to you, this may be a highlight of your time in Puerto Viejo – it certainly was for us. Read more about our experience of visiting a Bribri village near Puerto Viejo.
3. Bribri waterfall
We ended our tour of the Bribri village in the Bri Bri waterfall. Although it was not so impressive compared to the other waterfalls we visited in Central America, it was still a refreshing way to spend some time in the afternoon. Plus, there were only a handful of locals there when we visited, so it is not an overly touristy place.
There is a small entrance fee to visit the falls if you are alone, otherwise it is covered with the Bri Bri tour. You could easily get to the location if you have a rental car. Here is the location of the waterfall on the map.
4. Jaguar Rescue Sanctuary
Contrary to the name implies, there are not really jaguars in this place. But you will not be too disappointed when you see all the other beautiful creatures that are calling this place home.
The Jaguar Rescue Sanctuary works to provide and rehabilitate animals that have been accidentally injured or have been intentionally abused. Their goal is to release the animals after they have been cured. But in some cases the injuries are so severe that the animals do not save it alone.
Take a tour of the facility and learn more about the story of each animal and how it eventually ended up in the sanctuary. The tour was actually very informative and interesting than we expected.
You can only visit the rescue center with a public or private tour. It takes about 90 minutes and starts twice a day, at 9.30 and 11.30. It costs $ 20 per person (free for children under 10 years), and although it is not cheap, your money goes directly to the animals you will meet during your visit.
5. Go beach hopping
You probably came to Puerto Viejo to get a little R & R in the sun. Am I right?! Fortunately for you there are enough beaches to explore. Jump around and try them all, or take it easy and relax with the person you like the most.
You may have to rent a car to get to one of these beaches, but fortunately your rental cars in Costa Rica are very cheap!
Here are some of the best beaches in Puerto Viejo:
Playa Punta Uva: a short, bumpy ride from road 256, you arrive at a picturesque beach with a small shop that rents out kayaks. Relax on the beach or paddle around the point from right to right.
Playa Grande: At the end of road 256 you drive straight to Manzanillo. And you guessed it, this beach is GRANDE. There are plenty of places to park along the beach, the best spots are further closer to Punta Manzanillo.
Playa Chiquita: Quiet and secluded, enjoy the waves and the pure nature that Playa Chiquita offers. This beach is really a series of small bays, so you might find only one for yourself. There are no restaurants, so make sure you bring your own snacks for a day.
Playa Negra: West of Puerto Viejo is a black sandy beach. It is nice to see and walk along the dark sand, but not many people relax here because it is close to the old harbor area, as you can see from the Old Barge that is stuck in the water.
Playa Puerto Viejo: Right in front of the famous Johnny & # 39; s Place is a soft sandy beach for lounging all day long. If you want to eat a snack, walk 20 meters to the nearest restaurant.
6. Sustainable shopping
We love supporting local artisans, so when we drove past Casa Mandala, we turned our car around and stopped to look around. Inside there are numerous different crafts, environmentally friendly household items and works of art. If you love craft products, you will love this place!
There were so many beautiful things that I fell in love with (Ben says I fall in love too easily!) But because we were carrying a backpack, we had to limit ourselves. (aka Ben told me I could only choose one thing, and it had to be small!)
We eventually bought a dried calabash with beautiful engravings, which the woman at the counter told us is a craft made from the local tribe, the Bribri. Well, we were so inspired by this wonderful craft that we visited a Bribri village a few days later and bought another sculpture!
7. Enjoy the nightlife
Backpackers seem to be attracting to Puerto Viejo because of the legendary nightlife. If you are looking for a fun time, you will find it here.
Go for dancing to Johnny's Place. Located right on the beach, the music shoots and masses of locals and backpackers spill into the sand. If you want a more local atmosphere, but are still crazy, go to Mango Sunset. The party is on the streets and it can be difficult to get a beer, but you can easily meet new friends.
Looking for something more chill, but still open late? Grab a beer at Hot Rocks and listen to the one who plays on stage.
Or go out of town to one of the only artisan breweries in the area, BriBri Springs.
8. Eat healthy food in the city's cafes
After consuming about as much rice and beans as our bodies can handle, we were pleasantly surprised by the food options in Puerto Viejo. We finally found good salads, fresh fruit smoothies and tasty baked items.
There are a handful of healthy and delicious cafes and restaurants to choose from:
Bread and chocolate: Delicious brunch place in the city with healthy and vegetarian options. The juices are delicious and are very lucky to resist the baking products.
Como and Mi Casa Art Cafe: This small restaurant is located near the beach and upstairs and offers a wide variety of sandwiches, wraps and breakfast options.
DreadNut Coffee: With only a stone's throw to the beach, this place opens early and has an excellent breakfast and bagel options.
9. Eat Caribbean cuisine
Whilst the Costa Rican cuisine is not one that we were completely excited about, some of the best meals we had in Puerto Viejo. The Caribbean flavors in this area mean that the dishes were more exciting (in our opinion!) Than the rest of the country.
Some dishes to try out in Puerto Viejo:
Salsa caribeña: This curry or stew is a very common dish up and down the Caribbean coast. Each place makes it different according to their own style. Made with fish, shrimp or lobster with the mixture of coconut milk, tomatoes, vegetables, pepper, spices, sugar, oil and butter.
Patis: The version of Costa Rica of an empanada, these meat (or veggie) stuffed pastries are a big snack on the go.
Rice and beans: I know, I know, you're already sick of hearing how many R & B & # 39; s there are in Costa Rica. But it has its own style on the coast and you should give it a try. Called gallo pintoit contains red beans, coconut milk, thyme and various herbs to stimulate your taste buds.
Rondon: This meal is so special that he deserves his own portion.
10. Eat Rondon
This Caribbean fish stew is made with coconut milk, plantians, peppers and herbs, local vegetables and the catch of the day. But it does not appear on most menus.
That's right; if you want to try this dish, listen to …
We have been told that this dish is a local favorite, but it is more "home cooking" than something that is on the menu of a restaurant. And we had a great time to find it. But we have done that, and we are going to share.
Go to Rustic Corner during the day and ask the owner if you can order around that evening. He will set a time, and when you show up, your stew will be ready!
The restaurant is simple and easy to pass if you do not know what you are looking for. But the rondon was fresh and tasty! If you do not fancy roundon, the owner also smokes his own fish, so everything on the menu will be delicious.
We want to hear from you!
Have you been to Puerto Viejo? Are you planning to go? Do you have other places to see recommendations or to travel for others who visit here? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.