Within my traveling experience, Costa Rica undoubtedly has taken a part of my heart. Its incredible beaches, people, vibe, gastronomy, in short, EVERYTHING is beautiful here. That is why I would like to share with you this guide. So when you visit this beautiful country you already know. The best things to do in Puerto Viejo! My trip began by visiting the town located in the canton of Talamanca..
The Best Place to Stay in Puerto Viejo
Immediately upon getting off the bus that brought me to this beautiful town I could perceive the good vibes emanating from its people. I felt like even without knowing anyone, I knew everyone (something that I sincerely felt very rarely in my trip). Walking through the village gives you a smile from ear to ear that you cannot avoid and, without knowing where I was going, I came across my ‘home away from home’ and the best place to stay in Puerto Viejo: Vista Verde Guesthouse. Simply beautiful. A very quiet place where you can appreciate nature, as it has a large green space where you can appreciate the fauna and flora of the town and -check this out- even a sloth lives among the trees! (Gosh, I’m lucky!). Another thing I enjoyed a lot is its yoga studio, Chandra Karuna Yoga. The manager is a lovely woman called Daniela who has just become a mom. Amazing. Order, cleanliness and harmony flows among guests. I only have words of thanks to Francesco and Daniela and all of their guests for the excellent experience they made me live.
Best thing to do: Surf at Cocles Beach
Once installed in Vista Verde, I began to explore the town a bit more and the first beach I came across was Cocles Beach. This beautiful beach is located approximately 1.5 km from downtown. If you do not have a bicycle to transport you (believe me that it is the most appropriate means of transport in this place, they are ecological and it is a good way to stay healthy), you can just walk up a trail that begins in the very famous
Salsa Brava Bar (named after the Salsa Brava Wave, super famous in the surf circuit and definitely one of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo) and go through a real jungle with those giant trees that are seen in the movies where you can hear the monkeys’ hollows -which you know are on top of you even if you can’t see them- butterflies of all kinds of size and colors, squirrels, spiders, sloths… you can imagine, bio-diversity at its best. Amazing!
When I finally I arrived at Cocles Beach -beach awarded as Bandera Azul Ecologica-, the waters seemed so calm that it look liked it was a lake. You could even swim to an island located at 400 meters from the coast. Yes, you read well, swimming. Bring your snorkeling gear, since the closer you get to the island, the more corals you can appreciate. If you want to surf, you are in the right place. On the beach you can find a wide variety of surf instructors with lots of boards that you can rent to catch good waves! In my case, as I said before, the sea was so calm that I could only use the board to go paddling up to the island.
Nightlife & Gastronomy at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
At night you can say that the town is just as beautiful as it is during the day. Illuminated by the variety of restaurants, bars and the always present moon accompanied by the sound of the sea. You can enjoy whatever you want: an ice cold beer, a roasted beef, the traditional “casado con pollo” or just walking. Most of the bars are located on the beach and I want to highlight one that I loved. Salsa Brava Beach Bar. The locals have told me that the bar is named after one of the most dangerous waves to surf. Since the beach coral reef and the swell is really big. But, returning to the subject I was commenting on, Salsa Brava is a reggae bar with excellent food and drinks and every night they light a fire that forms a highly pleasant atmosphere. Other very entertaining thing to see there is how the local people from Jamaica attend the reggae nights and surprise themselves by wearing their so characteristic dance.
Exploring Playa Chiquita & Punta Uva
I spent a week in Puerto Viejo and fortunately I was able to visit all of its beaches. The next day my arrival, I went to Playa Chiquita and, as the name says, it is really small. The reason? It contains so much flora that it seems not to have a square meter of sand to sit on, Anyways, you just have to walk for a while until you find the perfect place to relax and start enjoying your day. In Puerto Viejo, having snorkel gear is almost as important as having a vehicle, since all the beaches invite you to dive their coral reef waters and see the thousands of spices they inhabit. The colors of the water separated by shades between crystal blue and coral black, leaves you simply perplexed.
That same day in the afternoon I decided to go to Punta Uva, specifically to Playa Arrecife. Another wonder: the warm and crystalline water, very similar to Playa Chiquita but with a bonus. You can rent a kayak and go up the river to your pleasure or hire the service they offer you and take advantage of the fauna and flora that the locals know – obviously – where the greatest variety of wild animals can be found.
Visiting the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
Manzanillo’s beaches may not contain the same amount of corals and their crystallinity cannot be appreciated as in the others. But it has an explanation. It is the place where the sea enters to the other beaches of Puerto Viejo. Therefore, the currents are a little stronger, what cause that cloudy color. In any case it is beautiful and on the beaches you can find the palm trees at the heights of your hands. You can grab the “pipas” and drink their water -which is really good for your body-. During the first steps inside the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge (the park is free but you can make a small donation at your entrance), you can immediately appreciate a truly beautiful island and a viewpoint where you can take pictures of the sunrise and the sunset.
Continuing always along the road delimited by signs and keeping the sea on your left shoulder -since is literally the middle of the jungle-, you can walk to the end of the park where you will find a very particular virgin place called Punta Mona. When I say totally virgin, it’s totally virgin. Just you and nature. Behind you only jungle and animal noises. It will take you about 3 hours to get to Punta Mona walking slowly and watching the flora and fauna of Gandoca-Manzanillo. Throughout the journey you can descend to the beach so you can rest if you need it. Trust me, it is a great way to venture and disconnect from society if that is what you want to experience in Costa Rica. I recommend you bring food and drink to the hike, because there is no type of store to quench your thirst or hunger! -unless you’re a skilled hunter… Hahaha-. Once you get to Punta Mona there’s a retreat where you can stay if you wish and learn about plants, natural chocolate, yoga, permaculture, music and many other interesting things.
Cahuita National Park: What you need to know
Cahuita National Park is an incredible place to enjoy the wildlife in Puerto Viejo. It’s beautiful beaches, animals and sealife are only a few reasons to visit the park. As I said in the last paragraphs, having snorkel gear is a must in this country. This place is one of the best spots in the caribbean coast of Costa Rica for snorkeling.
Wild animals are other reason to visit Cahuita National Park. Do you like monkeys?. Ok, you’re going to see monkeys. Do you like birds of all size and colours?. We’ve got it. Maybe some crocodiles? Sure, why not. Everything is possible in this place. I’ve seen snakes, sloths, and even sea turtles. This spot is definitely in my top 5 ever.