10 Best Things to Do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Wondering what to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica? Puerto Viejo is one of the best places to get the famous Pura Vida feeling and discover the most beautiful beaches, lush jungles, and fascinating wildlife of Costa Rica.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is perfect place to start your Costa Rica itinerary.
Chill out at Punta Uva, visit the Jaguar Rescue Center, take a chocolate tour, enjoy Puerto Viejo nightlife or explore the Cahuita National Park.
Puerto Viejo is a paradise for beach lovers and surfers, but also a great place to watch the cute sloths and try traditional Caribbean food.
This ultimate guide to visiting Puerto Viejo includes how to get there, where to stay, and the best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
- 10 Best Things to Do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
- Where is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
- Best Time to Visit Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
- How to Get to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
- How to Get Around Puerto Viejo
- Is Puerto Viejo safe?
- Best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
- 1. Explore town of Puerto Viejo
- 2. Enjoy the sunset at Punta Uva
- 3. Eat traditional Caribbean Food at the Salsa Brava beach bar
- 4. Visit Cahuita National Park
- 5. Discover the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
- 6. Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center
- 7. Join a chocolate tour in Puerto Viejo
- 8. Take a walk on a black beach at Playa Negra
- 9. Shopping in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
- 10. Go surfing in Puerto Viejo
- Where to Eat in Puerto Viejo
- Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
- How many Days do you Need in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?
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Where is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a coastal town along the Caribbean Sea that most people prefer to call just Puerto Viejo.
Puerto Viejo is located in the southeast of Costa Rica, in the province of Limón, and not far from the Panama border.
Best Time to Visit Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has two seasons: a dry season from December to April and a wet season from May to November.
Puerto Viejo’s temperatures are warm all year round, but Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has different weather, usually more rainy and humid.
The best time to visit Puerto Viejo is from February to April and September to October.
However, tropical rain can still occur during these months.
So bring quick-drying clothes, hiking shoes or sandals, a light raincoat, mosquito repellent spray, swimsuits, and sunscreen.
How to Get to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Puerto Viejo is about 5 hours from San José, 20 minutes from Cahuita and 1 hour from Puerto Limón.
There is no airport in Puerto Viejo.
The nearest airport to Puerto Viejo is in Limon. The Limon International Airport (LIO) is about a 1-hour drive away.
However, most people traveling to Costa Rica arrive in San José at Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO).
From San José, you can reach Puerto Viejo by car, bus, private and shared shuttle, or domestic flight.
We flew from Mexico to San José. Then picked up our car at the airport and drove to Puerto Viejo.
Use Skyscanner to get cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Puerto Viejo by car
The easiest way to get to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, is by rental car.
Once you arrive at San José airport, you can easily rent a car or pick up your pre-booked car.
From San José, depending on traffic (which can be chaotic), you can reach Puerto Viejo in 4.5-5 hours.
We don’t recommend driving at night if you are visiting Costa Rica for the first time!
Because in Costa Rica, it gets dark quite early, cars sometimes drive fast, and there may be animals and potholes on the road. So always drive carefully!
The road from San José to Puerto Viejo is well maintained and easy to drive.
You don’t need a 4×4, but a car with some clearance from the ground is worth booking for your Costa Rica road trip.
We suggest renting a car from a local company than a third-party website.
Puerto Viejo by public transport
The cheapest way to reach Puerto Viejo is by bus.
If you don’t want to rent a car or cannot drive, you can take a bus from San José to Puerto Viejo.
The Autotransportes MEPE public buses departs every two hours (from 6 AM) from San José to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
The bus journey takes about 5-6 hours.
Buses depart from the Terminal Atlantico Norte to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, bus tickets costing around 10 USD.
Once you arrive at the bus station in Puerto Viejo, you can easily catch a tuk-tuk to your accommodation.
Alternatively, you can take a shared minivan from San José to Puerto Viejo.
However, this is the most expensive way to reach Puerto Viejo, costing between 50-60 USD/person.
How to Get Around Puerto Viejo
Getting around Puerto Viejo is easy. Puerto Viejo is a small town, and you can often get around the main road faster by bike than by car.
The best modes of transport within Puerto Viejo are by tuk-tuk, bike, and walking.
You can usually rent a bike from anywhere in the town, but we recommend going to the Puerto Viejo Bike Rentals.
Rent a bike for 10 USD for 24 hours.
If you walk in the evening, you should be very careful as there are usually no lights on the bicycles!
You can also travel by tuk-tuk, which costs around 3-6 USD/trip.
A rental car is the best way to visit nearby attractions in Puerto Viejo.
Is Puerto Viejo safe?
Puerto Viejo is generally safe, but small thefts can occur at some beaches.
Take care of your valuables, always lock your car and keep belongings in the car boot or your hotel room when parking.
Avoid walking at night and taking taxis, especially alone.
The people in Puerto Viejo are very kind, and we loved their laid-back attitude.
Best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
1. Explore town of Puerto Viejo
One of the best things to do is discover the Caribbean-style town of Puerto Viejo.
We enjoyed our time in Puerto Viejo, walking the colorful streets, experiencing the laid-back reggae vibe, and seeing beautiful street art.
In Puerto Viejo, you can join a yoga class for just 5-10 USD.
Did you know that Puerto Viejo is one of the best places to watch sloths in Costa Rica?
So keep your eyes open while exploring Puerto Viejo and watch for monkeys and sloths in the trees.
However, if you see a sloth on the road, please don’t touch it, as any human interaction can give you a heart attack!
Ask a local for help or use a branch to move the sloth back to a safe area from the road.
Good to know
If the sloth is injured or sick, call the Jaguar Rescue Center for help.
The coastal town of Puerto Viejo is calm and quiet during the day but starts to liven up from the Happy Hours of the afternoon.
Puerto Viejo is the perfect place to enjoy the nightlife.
In the small town of Puerto Viejo, there are plenty of great bars to choose from where you can dance, enjoy live music and even take salsa classes.
Visit Hot Rocks or go to Johnny’s Place.
2. Enjoy the sunset at Punta Uva
Costa Rica has many beautiful beaches, and some of the best beaches are located near Puerto Viejo.
In our opinion, the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica is Playa Punta Uva.
Punta Uva’s tropical white sandy beach, with its many palm trees and turquoise waters, is the perfect place for beach lovers.
Punta Uva is just 15 minutes drive from Puerto Viejo.
If you’re looking for adventure, you can rent a kayak at Punta Uva.
Paddle down the river to Punta Uva, a fantastic way to watch wildlife closely and get a great experience.
Did you know that all beaches in Puerto Viejo are free to visit? Another great reason to add Costa Rica to your bucket list.
Spend some relaxing hours at Punta Uva, swim, and enjoy the most beautiful sunset in Puerto Viejo.
3. Eat traditional Caribbean Food at the Salsa Brava beach bar
The best place to enjoy Costa Rican cuisine is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca along the Caribbean coast.
Wondering where to eat in Puerto Viejo?
Salsa Brava’s beach bar is the perfect place, which offers a different experience day and night.
In the Salsa Brava, you can eat delicious Caribbean dishes, have cold drinks, and enjoy the reggae atmosphere and the stunning beach views.
4. Visit Cahuita National Park
The popular thing to do in Puerto Viejo is to visit the nearby Cahuita National Park, one of the best National Parks in Costa Rica.
The Cahuita National Park is a protected area with stunning tropical rainforests, white sand beaches, incredible coral reefs, and many wildlife.
Walk along the 8.5 km flat, sandy trail and keep your eyes open.
You can see many animals, such as monkeys, sloths, raccoons, snakes, green basilisks, and coatis.
Cahuita National Park is just 20 minutes from Puerto Viejo and is easily accessible by car or bus.
You can spend a whole day in the park or take a short visit.
The Cahuita National Park is open from daily 8 AM to 4 PM.
Good to know
The single-use plastic bottles are prohibited in Costa Rican national parks, so bring your refillable bottle!
The Cahuita National park has two entry points.
- From the Puerto Vargas sector, the entrance fee is around 5 USD.
- The Playa Blanca entrance in Cahuita is free of charge. Only donation is required.
You can walk through the park on your own or rent a local guide to show you the animals and give you information about them.
Since you will be walking in the jungle, we recommend that you wear closed shoes and bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent spray.
5. Discover the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
Not far from the Panama border and just a 15-minute drive from Puerto Viejo is the magnificent Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, which is worth a visit.
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM.
The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is home to many endangered species, such as jaguars, crocodiles, green turtles, ocelots, and birds.
There is no entrance fee, but visitors must pay a donation.
Explore the jungle trails, see wild animals, snorkel the Playa Manzanillo and enjoy the beautiful, hidden beaches.
When exploring Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, don’t miss the ‘Mirador’ viewpoint of the beautiful Manzanillo beach.
Then go to Ara Manzanillo, which is only a 15-minute walk away.
Visit the Ara Manzanillo
Ara Manzanillo is a small non-profit organization in Costa Rica. The Ara Manzanillo volunteers’ goal is to restore and conserve the Great Green Macaw population.
Daily tours usually start at 3 PM and finish at 4 PM, costing 20 USD for adults.
Book a tour through the Ara Manzanillo website, support the organization with donations and see these beautiful birds.
6. Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center
The Jaguar Rescue Center is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured, and orphaned animals.
Most of the animals brought here have been electrocuted, attacked by dogs, or hit by cars.
Their goal is to rehabilitate and release them back into the wild.
The name of this rescue center can be a little misleading, as there are no jaguars here.
The Jaguar Rescue Center is a 10-minute drive from Puerto Viejo.
The group tour costs 24 USD for adults and is available in several languages.
The Jaguar Rescue Center is open from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM, and the tour takes 1.5 hours.
We recommend booking a tour through the Jaguar Rescue Center website or contacting them for current opening hours.
It is good to know that you are not allowed to touch, hold or take photos/selfies with the animals at the Jaguar Rescue Center.
However, it’s well worth a visit, a fantastic opportunity to see the animals (sometimes even baby sloths) and support the work of the rescue center.
7. Join a chocolate tour in Puerto Viejo
Honestly, the best thing to do in Puerto Viejo is to take a Caribbean chocolate tour. Although Costa Rica is famous for its delicious coffee, you shouldn’t forget the chocolate.
Join a cocoa tour, and learn how they grow cacao beans, let the beans dry, and finally process them to make chocolate.
You can taste the chocolate you have made yourself, which is a fantastic experience in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Cacao Trails Tayku is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM and is a short drive between Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.
Our tour leader Lorena was very kind, so we highly recommend visiting the Cacao Trail Tayku in Puerto Viejo.
During our tour, we learned about the history of cocoa, saw caimans and banana plantations, and then could taste the chocolate with different flavors.
The Museo de Cacao tours depart every hour, with a 1-hour tour cost of 15 USD and a 2-hour tour for 25 USD/person.
8. Take a walk on a black beach at Playa Negra
Have you ever been to a black beach before? One of the most beautiful places in Puerto Viejo is the beautiful black beach of Playa Negra.
You can take some creative photos of the black sand and nearby shipwreck. Spend a few relaxing hours on the beach and enjoy swimming and sunbathing.
After that you can easily combine a visit to Playa Negra with Playa Puerto Viejo and Playa Chiquita.
9. Shopping in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
In the small town of Puerto Viejo, you will find many boutiques and street vendors where you can buy handmade gifts, jewelry, clothes, and Costa Rican souvenirs.
Buy fresh and delicious fruit from one of Puerto Viejo’s fruit vendors.
Take some fruit or a cold coconut with you and spend the day at one of the best beaches in Puerto Viejo.
10. Go surfing in Puerto Viejo
Playa Cocles is a beautiful beach just 10 minutes from Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.
If you love surfing or want to take some surfing lessons, Puerto Viejo is one of the best places.
Playa Cocles is one of the best Costa Rica surfing spots, so it’s a must-visit on the Puerto Viejo itinerary.
Puerto Viejo’s surf season runs from December to March, sometimes with huge swells.
It is very crowded at weekends as it is a popular destination for locals, so we recommend arriving in the morning or late afternoon.
Where to Eat in Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo was our favorite place in Costa Rica, where we could try the different Caribbean dishes, which were amazingly delicious.
In Puerto Viejo, you can find many local (soda) restaurants, vegan options, national foods, or trendy restaurants with all budgets.
These are our recommendations in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Best restaurants in Puerto Viejo
- Koki Beach Restaurant Bar Lounge (Popular restaurant with a beautiful beach view)
- Soda Shekina (Costa Rican foods)
- Como en mi Casa – Art Cafe (Delicious drinks and vegan sandwiches)
- Jammin Vegan Community (Vegan and Jamaican dishes)
- Grow (Vegetarian, beachfront restaurant)
- Bread and Chocolate (Perfect place for breakfast)
- GypSea Café at Playa Chiquita (Delicious breakfast and lunch)
- Puerto & Co – Coworking Space and Vegan Cafe (Best spot for digital nomads)
- Salsa Brava Beach Bar (Best Caribbean foods)
Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
For those looking for a quiet and calm atmosphere or traveling on a budget, we recommend staying in nearby Cahuita.
We stayed at Cabinas Cahuita, just a few minutes from Cahuita National Park.
The hotel has a shared kitchen, private pool, parking lot, and friendly staff.
But for those who prefer nightlife and are exploring Puerto Viejo without a car, the ideal place to stay is in the center of Puerto Viejo.
Although Puerto Viejo is a small town, the accommodation options are available for all budgets.
You can choose from cheap hostels to mid-range hotels and luxury resorts.
Best hotels in Puerto Viejo
- Luxury: Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel
- Mid-Range: Hotel Banana Azul
- Budget: Kalunai Hostel
How many Days do you Need in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?
As the journey time from San José is long, we recommend spending the first day of your Puerto Viejo itinerary relaxing.
After that, you should spend at least 2-days exploring Puerto Viejo and its surroundings.
We stayed in Puerto Viejo for 3-days but wished we could have stayed longer.
When you have more time in Puerto Viejo you should add these activities to your list.
- Take a day trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama.
- Visit the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, 30 minutes from Puerto Viejo.
- Take a tour of the indigenous village of BriBri and see the Bri Bri waterfalls.
- Go white-water rafting on the Pacuare River.
- Take a trip from Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero.
We hope our list of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, will inspire you to visit the coastal town.
If you have any questions or thoughts, let us know in the comments below.