Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is a laid back village located on the southernmost part of the country, next to the border of Panama. This place is going to give you all the Caribbean vibes you’ll need during your Costa Rica trip. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca was one of my favorite places I’ve visited during my time, with literally so much to do! You can easily spend a week or more here if you like to travel slow.
1. Renting a Bicycle in Puerto Viejo
There are many beautiful beaches to explore around Puerto Viejo and the best way to do so is by bicycle. You can easily rent one in the town’s center for the day. Exploring the area by bicycle is literally so much fun and it was one of my favorite activities in Puerto Viejo.
When you found a bicycle, start your beach hopping at Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo and make your way down until Manzanillo. Make sure to stop at Playa Cocles, which we found one of the most relaxing ones.
Bicycle rental: ±€5 per bicycle for 24 hours.
Keep an eye on the trees, we’ve found multiple sloths up in the trees in Puerto Viejo!
2. Playa Punta Uva
This incredible dreamy beach is located between Manzanillo and Puerto Viejo and is truly a magical place to spend the afternoon. However if you want a quiet relaxing day, make sure to skip Sundays. All the locals are heading to the beach for the day and even bringing barbecues (which was quite the vibe though). When we returned on Monday morning, we were basically the only ones.
3. Jaguar Rescue Center
Spotting wildlife in their natural habitat should always be your first choice. However, after doing a lot of research, we came upon the Jaguar Rescue Center.
This center is rescuing and fosters injured, ill or orphaned animals, for example, sloths and birds. They give them a temporary home or even a permanent one because not all animals will ever survive back in nature anymore. It’s because of the help of many worldwide volunteers, that the center can help so many animals in need.
How to Visit the Rescue Center
They provide tours where you’ll learn everything about the animals in the sanctuary, why they entered the center, and unfortunately also why some animals are permanent residents.
You can read more about the Jaguar Rescue Center here or about their volunteering program.
Tour price: $23 per adult for the public tour, children -10 years are free.
Tour times: Monday – Sunday at 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM
Wildlife fact! Did you know that pictures of humans with wildlife is forbidden by Costa Rican law? So no selfies friends!
4. Cahuita National Park
Meet my favorite national park in Costa Rica! Cahuita National Park is located just outside of Puerto Viejo a 20-minute car ride distance, in the small town of Cahuita.
There’s only one walking trail in the national park, which is 8 kilometers and will take you about 3/4 hours with regular stops. The biodiversity here is insane and you likely come across many wildlife. For example, monkeys, coati, sloths, and raccoons. Most of these are pretty easily spotted, except for the sloths, which are mostly high up in the trees. Sloths are very camouflaged, so if you really want to spot these, I recommend going on a guided tour.
You’ll find guides at the beginning of the national park, that are more than happy to go on a walk with you to spot these animals. If you don’t feel like walking half a day with them, you may even choose to go for an hour and afterward hike around by yourself.
We decided to go by ourselves and were lucky to spot all of the above-mentioned animals multiple times and even spotted an anteater!
Entree fee: There is no entry fee, but they do request a donation of $5 per person.
5. The Bri Bri Waterfalls
Only a 15-minute car drive from Puerto Viejo, you’ll find the Bri Bri Waterfalls. There are multiple of them in the area and they’re basically named the same on Google Maps. We’ve visited to ‘Bri Bri Waterfalls’, which is linked here.
When visiting this waterfall, there’s a small parking lot where you can leave your car. There will be a local man keeping an eye on the cars, for a small payment. From the parking, it’s a 5-minute walk to the waterfalls.
Another one is called ‘BriBri Waterfall’ and is located a bit further away from Puerto Viejo, right after you drove through BriBri village. This tiny village is home to one of Costa Rica’s largest indigenous tribes, the Bri Bri. If you want to learn about their interesting culture, you can book a tour to visit this tribe, which mostly includes visiting the waterfalls as well.
If you’re renting a bicycle in Puerto Viejo to go beach hopping, you’re probably going to end up in Manzanillo. This small Caribbean town is almost the furthest you can go in Limon Province until you reach the border of Panama. Basically, the only thing in between is the Manzanillo National Refuge and the rainforests. There are some great restaurants to enjoy lunch or get some fresh fruit at the beach.
Where to stay in Puerto Viejo
Spend at least 3 nights in Puerto Viejo to slow down and enjoy everything the area has to offer. If you don’t mind some noise, I recommend staying in town, on the main road. We stayed at two different accommodations during our time in Puerto Viejo and absolutely loved both of them.
We stayed for 2 nights in Casa Kimba, a small new accommodation owned by a lovely man. It’s a 2-minute walk from the main road and everything is brand new. Highly recommend staying with him, and say hi to the lovely dog for me!
The other accommodation I can recommend as well is, Finca Chica Lodge & Villas. This one is more expensive and not for the budget travelers among us, however, it’s worth the splurge. The lodges are beautifully located inside a little oasis and we even spotted a sloth in one of the trees. 💛
Hostel Dorm bed: starting from €15 per bed.
Basic Hotel: between €50 – €90 per night for a room.
Luxury lodge: starting from €100 per night.
Here you’ll find all the accommodation options in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
How to get to Puerto Viejo
By Rental Car
Most people will reach Puerto Viejo de Talamanca from the capital, San José. Normally it’s about a 4 or 5 hours drive to get there. Because of road constructions and traffic the drive took us 7 hours to drive a little more over 200 kilometers :). I’ve heard from recent visitors that the road is finished now and it’s a well-paved road, so it won’t take you 7 hours 😉 (2022).
When you’re using Google Maps make sure to type in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, as there are two Puerto Viejo’s in Costa Rica.
By Public Transport
Traveling on a budget? Luckily Puerto Viejo is reachable by bus for only €10 (7000 CRC). The company MEPE has daily buses leaving from Terminal Atlantico Norte at the center of San José, where you also need to buy a ticket, to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. The journey will take you about 4.5/5 hours.
Daily MEPE busses at:
6AM – 8AM – 10AM – 2PM – 4PM – 6PM.
Best time to visit Puerto Viejo
Compared to the rest of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo has different seasons. Located on the Caribbean coast, the best months to visit are from February to April or August to October. There will be little rainfall during these months and the temperatures are around 30 degrees Celcius year-round.
We visited in mid-November and had overall pretty good weather. There were some rain showers here and there, but they didn’t last long.