Situated on the Caribbean coast, the small town of Puerto Viejo offers an incredible fusion of culture. You’ll hear locals speaking creole, and find reggae music flowing from bars. All of this alongside traditional Costa Rican sodas and fancy international restaurants popular with expats.
You can feel the sense of community in Puerto Viejo, even if you’re just visiting for a few days. Travellers gather on the beach to play volleyball and new connections are made in the bars and the Saturday market that runs every week.
By day, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a laid back beach town boasting chilled Caribbean vibes. By night, the little town comes alive, with its lively bars and beach parties.
If you’re visiting Puerto Viejo soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this laid back beach town in Costa Rica.
Whether you’re looking to pick up some surfing skills or just laze on the beach all day, Puerto Viejo can offer something for every type of traveller.
If you want to do something aside from beach hopping, Puerto Viejo is also full of wildlife and nature. Close by you’ll find flourishing national parks, wildlife centres and rushing rivers for you to explore.
How long should you spend in Puerto Viejo?
Puerto Viejo is often skipped as travellers often stick to the Pacific side of Costa Rica and don’t make the journey to the Caribbean.
While many of the destinations you’ll visit in Costa Rica will be jam-packed with lots of hikes and activities, Puerto Viejo is a great place to take a break from all of this. It’s the ideal location to embrace the relaxed vibe and chill on the most beautiful beaches on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica!
We’d recommend spending at least 3 days in Puerto Viejo. This way you’ll have enough time for Puerto Viejo’s activities and to sample as much of it’s incredible food scene as possible.
Puerto Viejo is a place where you can get stuck. You know when you just love a place so much, enjoy the way off life and just don’t want to move on. And that’s perfectly fine to do too!
Where to stay in Puerto Viejo
Whilst there are a lot of accommodation options in the centre of Puerto Viejo, there are plenty more that have flooded onto the outskirts of town.
The town is sandwiched between two big beaches – Playa Negra and Playa Cocles. A number of accommodations have decided to situate themselves in front of these beaches rather than in the main town.
Location #1: In the main town — close to everything
If you don’t like walking too much or you don’t have a car, we’d recommend staying in the centre of Puerto Viejo.
Here you’ll be close to everything you need – restaurants, bars, supermarkets and only a short walk from the beach.
Location #2: Around the beaches — Playa Negra and Playa Cocles
The ‘fancier’ hotels tend to be just outside of town, but if you choose to stay a bit further out, you probably won’t be longer than a 20-30 minute walk back into town.
There are also a number of tuk-tuk and taxis that can drive you into town/home.
You can find pretty much any type of accommodation in Puerto Viejo, from hostels, Airbnbs, and homestays to luxury hotels. Prices range from $20, all the way up to $300 per night.
Best places to eat in Puerto Viejo
The food scene in Puerto Viejo is different to the rest of Costa Rica. It’s position on the Caribbean side means you can indulge in a variety of rich and delicious Caribbean dishes. It’s the perfect place to try the famous Caribbean-spiced chicken.
Alongside hearty Caribbean cuisine, you’ll be able to find just about any type of food – Costa Rican, healthy, vegan, Japanese, Italian and much more! To help you out, here are our top 3 places to eat:
Cocomar Comida Caribeña — delicious and huge portions of Caribbean food
Cocomar Comida Caribeña always has people inside, no matter the time of day, and rightfully so. The food is delicious!
There’s a huge variety of dishes such as fried rice, salads, meat and fish, with our favourite dish – the classic chicken in caribbean sauce. The meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth, whilst the sauce is rich and tasty.
Cafe Rico — enjoy great food surrounded by nature and a sloth
The name says it all, Cafe Rico means delicious cafe in Spanish. It’s very true! The cafe makes you feel like you’re sitting in the middle of the jungle.
Whilst you’re enjoying the healthy food and some of the best coffee in Puerto Viejo, make sure to keep your eye out for the resident sloth.
Yep, there’s even a sloth that decides to visit the cafe from time to time. The staff are incredibly friendly, making it a lovely place to enjoy and relax.
Heladeria Ocho Nani — potentially the best ice cream you will have tried
Heladeria Ocho Nani is a must for an after-dinner dessert or just a sweet treat during the day. The constant que outside tells you all you need to know about how good this ice cream is. It might even be the best you’ve tried in Costa Rica!
There’s a number of delicious flavours to choose from and the friendly owner will be more than happy to offer you his recommendation. If you fancy something lighter, their sorbet is also a winner!
Getting around Puerto Viejo is as easy and laid back as it’s vibe.
There’s a number of ways for you to get around. Which one you use most will be decided by where in Puerto Viejo you decide to stay.
If you’re staying in the centre of Puerto Viejo, then everything you need will be within walking distance.
It’s a very relaxed place, where there’s never a rush to get anywhere. Take the time to walk to where you want to go, and breathe in the town’s atmosphere.
For those staying further out from the centre of town, along the main road, it’s still possible to walk into town. However, if it’s too hot or you don’t fancy walking, one of the options below may be more suitable.
The safest and most reliable option when looking for a taxi are the red, government licensed cars. They’re pretty easy to spot and will give you a honk if they’re free and looking for a passenger.
A lot of the taxi’s aren’t metered, so make sure to agree on a price before getting in. If you do see a meter, ask them to use it.
To make sure you don’t overpay, here are some guide prices to go by. A 20-minute taxi to Cahuita National Park should cost between $20-25 each way. On average, a 10-minute taxi ride should cost around $7-10.
Tuk-tuks are a recent addition to Puerto Viejo and can be a great way to get around the town if you don’t have any luggage.
It can also just be a fun experience in itself. To give you an idea of price, a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride should cost around $4-6.
This is probably the most popular way to get around Puerto Viejo. At some points you’ll see more bikes on the road than cars!
A popular thing to do is to hire a bicycle and cycle from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo beach. It’s a mainly flat 13 km ride that runs parallel to the beaches, so you can stop off for a dip if you get hot.
There are a number of bike rental places in Puerto Viejo, and most accommodations will have bikes for rent too. Expect to pay between $3-$12 a day.
The roads in the centre of Puerto Viejo really aren’t great! They’re pretty much just dirt roads with a lot of holes. Work is being done to improve them, but don’t count on this being completed anytime soon. Pura Vida!
As soon as you get onto the main road though, you’ll be greeted by a perfectly immaculate tarmacked road that’s a dream to drive along.
Whilst a car isn’t needed to get around Puerto Viejo, it can be useful for making day trips to places like Manzanillo, BriBri and Cahuita National Park.
If you’re renting a car, it may be better to do so in San Jose. It’s significantly cheaper. You can rent a car for around $40/day from San Jose, whereas from Puerto Viejo prices start from $60/day.
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Puerto Viejo. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Puerto Viejo. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Puerto Viejo.
Our favourite places to stay in Puerto Viejo
Black Bamboo B&B – Treating yourself
If you are looking for a beautifully designed hotel, with a swimming pool, Black Bamboo B&B is the place to book. The whole hotel oozes a tropical vibe due to its rustic bamboo design. The rooms are tranquil escapes, designed to be bright and comfortable.
The owners welcome you like you’re part of their family, and help you to organise anything you need during your stay in Puerto Viejo. It’s also situated in a great location, close to the town and Playa Negra.
Offering both glamping and villas, no matter which option you chose, you’ll be surrounded by comfort and luxury at Colina Secreta. It’s clear that every aspect of the accommodation has been carefully thought about. It’s absolutely stunning and so unique!
The owners are incredibly friendly, and will do anything to make your stay even better. They’ve put so much love and care into their hotel, which you will see in the homemade breakfast every morning.
Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.