Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica (also known as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca) is a quaint port town on the Caribbean coast. The Caribbean side has a completely different vibe. Although Costa Rica has many quaint ports throughout the country, Puerto Viejo still feels like an untouched, isolated gem waiting for someone to discover it.
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We should mention up front, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, although extremely unspoiled, is not for everyone. Puerto Viejo town has more of a reggae hippy vibe that accompanies the Pura Vida lifestyle that Costa Rica has to offer. This also means ganja is free-flowing. No judgment on our part though. Many people don’t expect it, but we assure you it’s a magnificent city. It’s beautiful to see this kind of bohemian diversity intact.
How Unspoiled is Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?
When we say unspoiled, we mean life is a tad slower than other parts of Costa Rica. Some Westerners complain that the roads may not be kept up. They are unspoiled and even unkempt at times. It’s the price you pay for living in a remote jungle.
Inside the town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, all the streets are dirt paved. The beaches are pristine and the air is fresh. It’s pretty amazing.
Apart from the quaint village feel with a great natural vibe, the residents are very friendly. So, if someone waves at you, feel free to say hello and please always respect everyone.
Puerto Viejo is a town in the province of Limon. Although it’s small, you’ll find a diverse population living here. The inhabitants consist of about 2,000 people, including the Bri-Bri indigenous population, Latino and African Caribbean.
Expats create a small portion of the population. Most expats are from Canada, Europe, South America, and the United States.
When to go to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has two seasons. Both seasons are hot and humid. However, one season is considered to be a dry season and the other is a wet season. The wet season is primarily the summer months. It rains every day, which means it turns the heat into a living sauna.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is located on that unique section of the rainforest where the rain is spread throughout the year. In other words, it will be hot, muggy and rainy any time of the year. The good thing is the rain tends to stick to the evenings on this side of the country.
As an example, during June, the average high is 28.3 ℃ (82.92 ℉) with the highest rainfall of the year. The lowest temperature is 23.3℃ (73.94 ℉). Expect July and August to be the same in terms of heat. Humidity reaches 80%. It’s toasty but as travellers, this is part of what makes Costa Rica so diverse. It’s so different even the air makes itself known.
Surprisingly, the driest month of the year is September. So if you’re trying to figure out the best month to travel to Puerto Viejo town, with the smallest amount of rain, September is your best bet. It will still be hot, but you’ll stay dry-ish.
The interesting thing is, September is a rainy month on the Pacific Coast.
Things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica for First-Timers
Eco-tourists love Costa Rica and Puerto Viejo is a great destination for any traveler with an eco-conscious mindset. Considering how untouched it is, the residents and small expat community want to keep things as natural as possible.
Enjoy the Puerto Viejo Beach(es)
The main Puerto Viejo beach is actually called Playa Negra and it is located just north of town. It has black sand due to the volcanic activity in the country. It’s very unique. If you haven’t seen a black sand beach before definitely come here and see what you’ve been missing. There’s also a sunken barge right off the beach. This barge has trees and plants growing out of it. It turns out the townspeople tried to create a breakwater and purposefully sank it.
The beaches around the town are beautiful. Make sure to take advantage of your time here to enjoy some fun in the sun. There is also a shipwreck on these beaches that happened a few years ago during a bad storm. It’s a site to see!
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If you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be?) you can go surfing in Playa Grande, Manzanillo or Playa Negra. If you’re interested in surf lessons, Playa Cocles is the most popular beach for lessons. Prices range from $15 USD per lesson or $60 USD for 5 sessions with an instructor.
You can take surfing classes, be it just to pick up a few basics and ride your first wave or to sharpen your skills. If you’re interested Totem Surf School is a well-known popular school in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica.
Visit Beautiful Cohuita Nature Park
If you’re in the mood to get back to nature check out Cahuita National Park. Cahuita is one of many reserves in the country. It was turned into a national park to protect the wildlife, vegetation, and even the coastal life, like coral reefs and sea animals that reside here. You can enter by paying a donation and hike until your heart’s content.
You’ll see white face monkeys, caimans, sloths, lizards, and snakes in their natural habitat. The beaches consist of beautiful white-sand beaches. Even though this national park is not very touristy, it does have a road and even handicap access.
White Water Rafting on Rio Pacuare
Book a white water rafting tour that will pick you up from Puerto Viejo and drive you to Rio Pacuare for the day. It’s an all-day activity, as the drive alone takes about 2-3 hours each day, but it’s a great way to experience a different side of a beach holiday!
Hang Out in the Town
There are so many other things to do in the town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. It’s nice to take some time to wander the streets on foot or by bike, check out the local artisan shops, pop into yoga studios and enjoy the laid back atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?
We love a good deal when it comes to travel. Which is why Airbnb might be a good option. Although, we should mention that even though Airbnb has decent prices, you should dig a little deeper. There are many expats that list their units on Airbnb and overcharge. If you’re trying to help the local community and give back, make sure you’re renting from a local and not an expat.
Costa Rica, in general, has beautiful and natural hotels all over the country and Puerto Viejo is no exception. They’re cute. Some hotels have chickens running around eating bugs to keep the ecosystem balanced properly.
One thing to keep in mind is you can find everything in Costa Rica. You’ll find mom and pop hotels, each with a unique style that you’ll only find in paradise. Or, you can find that luxury style hotel with chic décor.
On one end you have the UmAmi Hotel. It’s a gorgeous hotel with a great pool, tourist information but most importantly, it has air conditioning. This beautiful hotel combines minimalism with wood finishes to bring you a uniquely Caribbean feel. It’s also for adults only, which means if you have kids, this place may not be for you.
If you’re looking for something outdoorsy, something like Relax Natural Village is perfect for you. This is the type of hotel you will grow to love. It’s in the jungle, which means you might see wildlife hanging outside your window. It has hammocks. It uses the natural Costa Rican vegetation as part of the décor.
Places to Eat in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
If you’re looking for chain restaurants in Puerto Viejo, you might have a hard time finding them. However, that’s not a bad thing. There is so much more to the world than chain restaurants.
One of the most sustainable restaurants in Puerto Viejo is Koki Beach. Koki Beach was given awards for improving the quality of life of the residents in Puerto Viejo but also helping with the environment. Koki Beach purchases art from locals and displays them inside the restaurant. Koki Beach is very popular with younger expats. It’s the only restaurant that doesn’t play Reggae.
Puerto&Co is an all-vegan restaurant with digital workspaces. It has a communal vibe and an Internet Café. You will find this restaurant right in the centre of the city.
If you’re looking for vegetarian or vegan options there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. There is Puerto Pirata Beach Café and Tiki Bar, which is a vegan restaurant, or Madre Tierra, which translates as Mother Earth. Madre Tierra offers vegetarian options but it’s not vegetarian-only.
How Much Time Do You Need to Explore Puerto Viejo?
Puerto Viejo is a beautiful town. In Costa Rican terms, it’s also somewhat different. But if you give it 4 to 5 days, you can see everything in this cute quaint town. You’ll swim in all the beaches and eat at your favourite restaurants a few times. You might even get to know a few locals.
Maybe it’s not a good thing that Puerto Viejo is so small. However, there’s something to be said about swinging in a hammock. There’s also something magical about eating a mango right from the tree.
You’ll make friends and discover a pace of life that’s different from your norm. You might cry when your stay is over. If that’s the case for you, perhaps a week may not be enough. Puerto Viejo Costa Rica is so unique you may never want to leave.