Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Popular Surfing and Backpacker Town

Puerto Viejo is a popular backpacker town with a relaxed feel

puerto viejo

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

costa rica vibes about

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.

Want the whole crazy story?

puerto Viejo costa rica
puerto Viejo costa rica
puerto Viejo costa rica
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Popular Surfing and Backpacker Town

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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Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Popular Surfing and Backpacker Town

Adobe Rent-a-Car

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
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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.

We suggest renting your car with Adobe Rent-a-Car. They are a local company which we know we can always rely on to provide exceptional service. 

If you are interested in renting a car, check out our Adobe guide for a 10% discount plus other great perks.


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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.

Our Suggestion

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.

Pro Tip: We have partnered with Adobe to give our readers a 10% discount on your rental car. Find out more here

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.

Arrange Your Trip to the Jaguar Rescue Center

Check Out the Nightlife

Puerto Viejo is the perfect party town for some late-night bar hopping.

A few of our favorite places to party are; Salsa Brava, the Lazy Mon, Johnny’s Place, and Koki Beach.

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!

Arrange Your Chocolate Tour

Go Surfing

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.

Book Your Hike with a Guide

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.

Book a Tour to Cahuita National Park

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!

Book Your Dance 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
puerto Viejo costa rica
puerto Viejo costa rica

Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Hotels

High-End 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. 

Mid-Range Hotels

La Tica y la GataSimple 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. 

Budget Hotels

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 VerdeSimple hotel with private rooms, located just 150 meters from the ocean. There is a shared kitchen for guests to use. 

puerto Viejo costa rica
puerto Viejo costa rica

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.

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  1. Hi Sarah (and Thomas)! I will be traveling for about a week in CR in about two weeks. What would be your biggest recommendation of where to be for a Saturday? My friend and I will be staying in PV all week, but can’t decide if we head back to SJ for an extra day that Saturday, or remain in PV instead and head back Sunday before our flight home. We were also trying to decide if a adventure connection (water rafting) from PV to SJ would be worth the money – it seems like a lot of fun and takes one less bus ride away!

    1. Hi Chelsea! I really like those rafting connection trips. I definitely suggest doing that. Also, San Jose is ok to see, but Puerto Viejo is far more fun to be on a Saturday. Let me know if you have more questions!