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Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Sun, Surf, & Wildlife

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Welcome to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, or fully known as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. This is a small beach town in the South West corner of the country. This backpackers paradise is full of Pura Vida and happy vibes.

Just a few hours from San Jose, and lying right near the border of Panama, it makes for the perfect stop while traveling through Central America. Here are our favorite things to do, how to get around, and ways of enjoying Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

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Where is Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?

Puerto Viejo is located all the way on the South Western tip of Costa Rica, making it the perfect place to see before or after heading to Bocas del Toro in Panama. Bus service goes between the two pretty regularly and is only a couple of hours away.

Where is Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo is in the south eastern corner of Costa Rica.

Getting to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

The closest big airport in Costa Rica to Puerto Viejo is San Jose, the capital. It takes about 4 hours in a car to get there from the airport. There is also a small airport in Limon, which is just 45 minutes from Puerto Viejo.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can put from "your city" to "Costa Rica". This way you can see which is the cheapest airport in the area to fly. Also, you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for visiting!

Search for a flight to Costa Rica:

Once you get to Costa Rica, you can choose to either rent a car from the airport, or to take a local bus.

We personally think renting a car is the best option, as it allows you to see more and save time. We suggest renting in advance so that you can save both time and money. Here is a site that we often use:

If you're on a bit of a tighter budget, then it may be better to take a bus to Puerto Viejo.

Want to set up your bus to Puerto Viejo? Here are a few different options:

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Entry Requirements for Costa Rica

Before booking your trip to Costa Rica you'll want to know of any requirements you may need, due to visas or due to Covid.

Visa Requirements to Enter Costa Rica

There are a few groups to put into consideration when it comes to visa requirements. The first group can have a 90 day stay visa free with a valid passport until one day after the stay. The second needs a passport valid for an extra six months, and the third group requires a visa in order to enter. If you'd like to see which category your nationality falls into, you can check the official Costa Rica embassy website.

Covid Requirements

All requirements to enter due to Covid have now been lifted.

Local Adjustments in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Whenever you travel there are things that you may forget about, that may be different from where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Language Spoken in Costa Rica

The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish. While many people do speak English as well, it definitely helps to learn a bit of the language before traveling there.

Currency Used in Costa Rica

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon. Currently (October 2023) each 1 USD is equal to 529.8 Costa Rican Colones.

Electrical Outlets in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica uses the same plug types as the rest of North America, which are types A & B. The standard voltage in Costa Rica is 110 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.

Can I Drink Tap Water  in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?

The water is perfectly safe to drink. Being that supermarkets are pretty expensive here, we definitely suggest bringing a refillable water bottle, and not buying a ton of small plastic water bottles.

Tipping Culture in Costa Rica

The standard tipping percentage is around 10%. Some restaurants include service in the bill, in which case you can leave a bit extra for really good service.

Things to Do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Wondering why Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is so great? Well there are a tons of great ways to enjoy this beach town! Here are some of our favorite things to do in Puerto Viejo.

1. Go Beach Hopping

Being located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, this area has quite a few beautiful beaches. Here are some that are worth taking a look at.

Playa Puerto Viejo

Being that you are already in Puerto Viejo, might as well check out the beach right there right? This is one of the busier beaches, with plenty of places for food and drinks. Our personal favorite was the area with the shipwreck!

Puerto Viejo Beach

Playa Negra

Located right near downtown Puerto Viejo, lies a beach that is the most unique of all in the area. This beach has black volcanic sand, and was one of our favorites to make a stop at.

Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Playa Chiquita

Although not very crowded, this was a great beach to visit, due to its nice and relaxing vibes. This beach is located right across from the Jaguar Rescue Center, making it the perfect stop to have a drink and enjoy the sunshine after your tour.

Playa Chiquita, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Playa Punta Uva

Located just a little south of Puerto Viejo, this beach is clean and offers plenty of activities such as surfing, kayaking, and horseback riding. To get here you can bike from Puerto Viejo, or hop on the local bus towards Manzanillo.

Playa Cocles

Right between Puerto Viejo and Playa Chiquita, lies one of the most popular beaches, Playa Cocles. This is a favorite amongst the locals for surfing. 

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2. Learn How to Surf

Being located in the Caribbean, and having so many different beaches, its no wonder that this is a surfers paradise. There are plenty of companies all around Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica that offer surf lessons at a reasonable rate, so there's no better place to learn than here!

3. Head over to Manzanillo

Manzanillo is a town with so much to offer. Manuel Antonio National Park is full of lush jungle, beautiful beaches, and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. The entrance when we went was free, but they accepted donations to maintain the area. They also offer plenty of excursions such as ATVs, jet skis, and guided tours.

Playa Manzanillo is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches to check out. Although not very large, there is a great lookout, large iconic rock, and jungle right next to it.

Manzanillo is very easy to reach by bus, with direct service from Puerto Viejo, running regularly throughout the day.

Playa Manzanillo, Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica- Manzanillo
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, Central America

Manzanillo is full of lush jungle and stunning beaches.

Want to book your transportation in advance? Just click the link below:

4. Take a Tour at the Jaguar Rescue Center

This isn't exactly what you're thinking. There actually aren't any jaguars here, but there are plenty of other animals to make up for it. The Jaguar Rescue Center was one of our favorite places in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica because unlike a zoo, the animals are here because they were unable to survive in their own natural habitat.

Jaguar Rescue Center, Puerto Viejo

The Jaguar Rescue Center has a variety of different animals that they rescue.

Once they are healed they are put out into the wild, and not left until the employees are confident that they will be happy and healthy there. The family that owns the rescue center are very caring, and there are all types of wildlife such as sloths, monkeys, snakes, and many more.

The Jaguar Rescue Center has two daily tours, one at 9:30 am, and one at 11:30 am. The price of the ticket is $20, and the tours run 90 minutes. Make sure you get there early so that you will be able to secure your spot.

Jaguar Rescue Center, Puerto Viejo

The Jaguar Rescue Center houses baby sloths and helps raise them.

Want to book an organized group tour beforehand? Here are a few different options:

5. Enjoy the Nature of Cahuita National Park

Located just an hour north of Puerto Viejo, lies the diverse eco-park of Cahuita. Here you can find beaches, extensive coral reefs, and plenty of marine and wild life. It is easy to spend a whole day here discovering all of the beautiful nature that it has to offer. The park has just a $5 entry fee, and is open from 8 am-4 pm.

6. Learn about Chocolate at the Museo de Cacao

Just 10 minutes past Cahuita, this is a true gem. The Museo de Cacao is actually not very popular with tourists, making it a more authentic experience. Learn how cacao is grown and how chocolate is made, and then take home some of their all natural home made souvenirs!

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Want to book an excursion here? Here are a few options to choose from:

7. Visit a Local Village

One of our favorite parts of traveling is seeing how the locals live. Located right outside the town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, is the village of BriBri, an indigenous community that is extremely fascinating. Get a tour to understand a little bit about the culture, and check out the nearby BriBri waterfall.

8. Enjoy the Nightlife

Although small, Puerto Viejo is known for its cool backpacker vibes, and is definitely a great place to meet some other travelers. Some of the local favorites are Mango Sunset, Johnny's Place, and Salsa Brava.

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Food & Drinks in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

The cuisine of Costa Rica isn't usually one that wows people. If people are traveling through Central America, they will often come across many similar dishes, including lots of rice & beans, plantains, and meat.

Due to it's location, we found the food in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to be a bit more flavorful and diverse. Here are a few of our local recommendations.

Tasty Waves

Tasty waves is located right on the beach and serves some seriously good tacos. They handroll their tortillas daily, and are popular for their different themed nights. Don't miss out on their Taco Tuesdays with their two for one deals.

Soda Lidia

Looking for some tasty local cuisine? Soda Lidia has some great Caribbean specialties. Not only is the food full of flavor, but all the dishes are very budget friendly.

Bread and Chocolate

This is hands down the best place to have breakfast. This small cafe serves all freshly baked goods, making it a must try place when visiting Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.



This restaurant located right by the beach has the freshest seafood. The menu actually depends on which food they catch that day, and they even have a counter so that you can purchase fresh seafood to take back and cook yourself!

Stashu's con Fusion

This fusion restaurant of Caribbean and Asian flavors is sure to wow you with their creative and delicious dishes. They also boast some great options for vegetarians and vegans, making it great for all pallets.

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How Do You Get Around Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?

Now that know where exactly Puerto Viejo is, lets check out the different ways to explore the area.

Rent a Car

This charming city is also the perfect getaway from the busy city of San Jose, and is just a three hour drive. In order to get here, you can hop on the bus, or get a rental car in San Jose or Limon. This will make it easier to get around while in Puerto Viejo, and make beach hopping an even better option.

Rent a car in Costa Rica:

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Public Transportation in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

When it comes to the town itself, Puerto Viejo is very small and walkable. If you would like to visit the surrounding areas and parks, there are public buses that go throughout the day.

The bus stops aren't really well marked, so you can just ask a local what the best place to stand and wave down the buses are. Below is the schedule from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo & to San Jose.

bus schedule Puerto Viejo

Bus schedule around Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.


If you don't feel like waiting around for a bus, there are plenty of TukTuks that will drive around the area. You may pay a little bit more than the public bus, but you can still get a great deal. Make sure that you agree on a price before you get in, and never accept the first price offered. This is a fun and easy way to get around.

Tuk Tuk Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Tuk tuks are a cheap and easy way to get around Puerto Viejo.

Are There Ubers in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?

There are no Ubers in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. You can get taxis by calling, so we suggest you to either ask a local, or get a local SIM card.

Bike Rentals in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

If you don't have a car and want another great way to see the surrounding areas, bikes are a great way to do this! They don't cost much, and you can get some exercise in while having the freedom to stop as much as you'd like.

bikes Puerto Viejo

Bikes are cheap to rent, and one of the most efficientt ways to get around Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.


We happened to use this more than we thought. The friendly vibes of the beach town make it easy to hitch a ride here. Happiness and positivity just radiate through this backpacker paradise, and we felt really confident when getting rides with strangers.

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Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Pin
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Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

If you rented a car, we suggest staying in the surrounding towns of Cocles or Punta Uva. If you are getting around by bus, we suggest staying closer to the city center, so that you can walk around the town, and have easy access to the public bus to get to other areas that you would like to explore.

For the cheapest option, we stayed in Rocking J's. This was a very quirky place, with all different areas to stay in. You could rent a hammock or a tent, and there is access to a kitchen and common area.

This option definitely isn't for everybody, but is a good budget option. Our favorite part? The owner is extremely accommodating and helpful, and made our stay extra special. If you are looking for a more comfortable option, we definitely suggest checking out some of the great boutique hotels that are offered in the area!

bikes Puerto Viejo
Rocking J's, Puerto Viejo
Rocking J's, Puerto Viejo

Rocking J's is the best budget friendly option in Puerto Viejo.

Looking for another place to stay in Puerto Viejo? Here are the different options:

Is Puerto Viejo, Limón Safe?

We felt pretty safe the entire time we were in Puerto Viejo. This small town has pure "pure vida" vibes, and everyone is just so happy and friendly. We had no problem walking around at night, and it is also a great place for solo travelers looking to meet friends.

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Now you know almost everything about visiting Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

Weather in Puerto Viejo

While the rest of Costa Rica has its rainy season from May-December and its dry season from January to April, Puerto Viejo follows a more Caribbean climate. Here it doesn't have exact months of dry or sunny, but it is pretty much hot all of the time.

Packing For a Trip to Puerto Viejo 

Due to the Caribbean weather, we definitely recommend being prepared for rain or shine.  We suggest bringing plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, and relaxed beach attire for this laid back town.

A poncho or umbrella is good to have just in case, as well as shoes and clothes that are comfortable and that you don't mind getting dirty for those jungle visits.

Packing List for Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe
  • Bug Spray
  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use this water bottle from Cafago because it holds the temperature)
  • Umbrella 
  • Flip Flops (we personally always get Havaiana flip flops, as they are comfy and long lasting)
  • Sneakers
  • Zippered Bag or Backpack - take a look at these backpacks for travelers!
  • Power Bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)
  • Bathing Suits
  • Drone (We use the Mavic Mini Pro 3 because it's super light and doesn't sacrifice quality)
  • Action Camera (we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof)
  • Waterproof Phone Pouch (we use the Cafago Waterproof Phone Pouch)
  • Travel Adapter (we use Tessan travel adapters as they are affordable and reliable)

Have you ever though what would your travel essentials be? when you're traveling, there's certain situations you want to be prepared for. Here you will find a list of what we found out to be absolute necessary items.What to pack? That's the biggest question when preparing for a trip. No

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Puerto Viejo, Costa Rico is the perfect spot to stop when traveling through Central America, or visiting Bocas del Toro, Panama, or San Jose, Costa Rica. Spend a few days here to enjoy all of the beautiful beaches, jungle, wildlife, and nightlife that this great backpackers paradise has to offer!

Traveling to other places in Central America? Check out some of our other Central America travel guides!

Ready to start planning your next trip? We're here to help! Now with Scratch Your Mapa Travel Planning you can stress less and leave the hard work to us. We promise to save you money and have you explore more. Want to learn how it works? We have a variety of travel planning packages for you to check out.

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