Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Popular Surfing and Backpacker Town
Puerto Viejo is a popular backpacker town with a relaxed feel
The Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Vibes
First off, there are two places named Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. There is a very small town in the middle of the woods called Puerto Viejo, which is not really a tourist destination and then there is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca located on the Caribbean coast near the Panama border.
The second is the Puerto Viejo you probably are interested in visiting and what this guide is about.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, Puerto Viejo is a backpacker paradise with its Caribbean vibe, beautiful beaches, and nightlife.
Now on to the rest of the Puerto Viejo (de Talamanca) Costa Rica guide!
Background Info About Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
Nearest International Airport
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose
Popular Things to Do
surfing, cacao tours, relax on beaches, enjoy the nightlife scne
Best Way to Get Around
Rental car, walking in the downtown area, biking
Best Time of Year to Visit
The best weather is from late July to October
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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).
We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.
We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.
Map Of Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo is located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica near the Panama border.
Flights to Costa Rica
Montezuma is great because it is easily accessible from the Liberia airport and the San Jose airport.
More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be worth it for you.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.
Driving to Puerto Viejo
The drive is not too bad for first time Costa Rica drivers. In the beginning, you will have to do a little driving through San Jose though which can be a bit daunting and stressful.
After making it through San Jose you will drive through Braulio Carillo national park which is really pretty. The roads are well maintained here but there are a lot of curves in spots. However, there has been a lot of road work here recently (they are widening the road so I doubt it will be over anytime soon) and there have been a lot of major backups.
From there you follow a straight road to Limon and then drive down the coast.
I absolutely love the drive along the coast. The roads are in good condition and it’s beautiful.
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You do not need a 4×4 for this route, but you might want something with a bit of power while driving through the national park.
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Private Shuttle to Puerto Viejo
Adobe now has a private shuttle service. It is a great way to get from point A to point B without having to deal with the stress of driving in a foreign country.
Check out our private shuttle guide to find out more info and to get a price quote for your trip.
Public Bus to Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
If coming from San Jose you can take the Mepe bus to Puerto Viejo Costa Rica. You can see a complete time schedule here.
The ride will take you about four and a half hours and will cost about $12 per person for one way.
The bus stops in Limon (about two and a half hours into the drive) so you can buy snacks and use the bathroom. There is no bathroom on the bus.
If you are only going to Puerto Viejo or are heading down to Panama after, we suggest taking a private shuttle or public bus.
If you would like to take lots of day trips or check out other areas in Costa Rica after visiting Puerto Viejo we suggest renting a car.
Transportation In Puerto Viejo
Downtown Puerto Viejo is a small area and easy to explore by foot. If you would like to explore other places nearby (which we definitely recommend) you can rent a bike, take a taxi, or rent a car for a day.
Adobe, our favorite rental car company has an office in Puerto Viejo if you opt to rent a car for some day trips.
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Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Weather
In Puerto Viejo, the rainy season runs from mid-December until end of July. I know, that sounds like a whole lot of rainy time, but let me explain.
Although it can be rainy, you just never really know. We have visited in January and had amazing weather. We have also visited in January and had total washout days.
One thing we have noticed though is that usually when it rains, it at least rains at night. Daytime rainstorms don’t happen that often. Also, the temperature stays fairly warm even when raining.
Another weird thing is that usually, July is the rainiest month to visit Costa Rica, but come August, it almost completely dries up.
You just never know in this country!
During the dry months the weather is amazing and warm!
Things to Do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
Do Some Beach Hopping
We suggest heading south from Puerto Viejo and stopping at all the beautiful beaches along the way.
Our favorites are; Cocles Beach, Punta Uva Beach, and Manzanillo Beach .
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center
The Jaguar Rescue Center is a rehabilitation center for abandoned and injured animals. tours which put you in close contact with amazing wildlife such as sloths, monkeys, wild cats, and more.
Check Out the Nightlife
Puerto Viejo is the perfect party town for some late-night bar hopping.
Take a Cacao Tour
Have you ever wondered where your favorite sweet treat comes from?
With a cacao tour you will have the chance to learn the entire chocolate production process from planting the bean to consumption.
And trust me, you will have plenty of chances to eat a lot of chocolate!
There are plenty of surf schools in Puerto Viejo or if you are more experienced you can just rent a board.
We have not personally surfed in Puerto Viejo so I can not recommend a place to you.
I suggest asking at your hotel. Sometimes the local hotels partner with local companies and they may be able to get you a discount.
Hike at Manzanillo
Manzanillo is a small coastal village located just before the Panama border. It is also home to a large area of protected land that you can hike in.
This area is beautiful and has some great coastal views.
It is possible to visit on your own (check out our visitor’s guide for more info) but you can also visit with a small tour. This is a great way to see a lot of wildlife.
Take a Day Trip to Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is one of our favorite national parks in the country. It is located just north of Puerto Viejo and can be easily accessed by the Puerto Vargas entrance.
Check out our full national park guide here.
Do Some Souvenir Shopping
Along the beach in Puerto Viejo, you can find some amazing local artists selling handmade products such as jewelry. Usually, they are out there in the evenings.
Take a Dance Class
Does anyone else absolutely love to always try to find unique cultural experiences while in different countries? Learn some traditional salsa and bachata dance moves with a fun class!
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Puerto Viejo Restaurants
Cafe Rico – The vibe here is my fave. This place is sooo cute and I love all the books they have around this place. If you need a good breakfast spot, this is it!
KOKI Beach Restaurant – This place is a bit on the pricey side, but I like the atmosphere here a lot. If you don’t want to eat here because of the prices at least go here for an early evening drink.
La Nena – This is not located in Puerto Viejo itself, but rather nearby in Cocles. It’s the perfect spot for an affordable meal of typical food which tastes great.
De Gustibus Bakery – This spot is perfect for an afternoon coffee and cake or a nice breakfast. Everything they make is amazing!
Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Hotels
Umami Hotel – An adult-only hotel located 600 meters from the beach. There is a nice pool and a great restaurant on-site. We like this place because it is not too large, the staff is excellent, and it just has all-around good vibes.
Relax Natural Village – Another adult-only hotel. This place is unique because it has a high-end rustic feel to it. All rooms are their own private bungalows.
La Tica y la Gata– Simple but modern rooms located just south of downtown Puerto Viejo. There is a pool on-site.
Sueno Grande B&B– Cute hotel with outdoor pool located in downtown Puerto Viejo. Breakfast is included.
Lodge Casa Moabi- This place is located a bit south of Puerto Viejo. It is great for if you want to be away from the action of the town, but still close to a beach.
Vista Verde– Simple hotel with private rooms, located just 150 meters from the ocean. There is a shared kitchen for guests to use.
Vacation Rentals in Puerto Viejo
We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.
Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.
Secluded Villa with Pool – A beautiful three-bedroom home with a pool and beach access.
We like this place because the owners went above and beyond to make this space look amazing. You don’t often get this level of attention to detail here in Costa Rica.
Casa Caracola – A budget friendly two-bedroom home that can sleep 4 guests. This home is located just south of town near Playa Negra.
Tinoski Lodge – A 5 bedroom home that sleeps 10 guests. It is a rustic home but is well maintained. It’s perfect for a large group who are looking for an affordable place to stay.
Casa Vida Loca – A modern beach bungalow located just steps from the beach. It sleeps two guests in one bedroom.
Caribbean Beach House – A four-bedroom house that can sleep up to 13 guests. There is a pool here, but the real gem is the easy beach access at the back of the property.
Luxury Balinese Style Villa – A relaxed beach house with three bedrooms. This house is only 100 meters from the beach.
Puerto Viejo Travel Tips
– We get asked a lot if people should visit Cahuita or Puerto Viejo. If you are interested in nightlife and surfing, head to Puerto Viejo. If you want a more relaxed vibe, head to Cahuita.
– If you are planning to head down to Panama after visiting Puerto Viejo, we have a full guide to the border crossing here.
Packing for Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo tends to be hot and sunny. Keep in mind that you are about at the most southern point in the country, so the UV index tends to be high. Wear all the sun protection.
Usually we dress very relaxed here. The only time we dress up a bit more is if we are going to a fancy dinner or go out at night to enjoy the nightlife.
There are a lot of souvenir shops in the downtown area so save some space in your suitcase if you’d like to do some shopping.
Check out our Puerto Viejo Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
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You Might Also Like Visiting
Bocas del Toro, Panama: a series of tropical islands and one of the coolest places you’ll ever experience
Limon: The bustling main city of the Caribbean coast. This is where cruise ships dock.
Cahuita: A small beach town that is home to a beautiful national park.
….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Caribbean Coast for more ideas of places to visit in this area.