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 rasta vibe, beautiful beaches, and nightlife. Puerto Viejo had a bad reputation of being unsafe in the past, but the town is working on cleaning up its image and I think you’ll feel really safe there as long as you use normal precautions.
Now on to the rest of the Puerto Viejo (de Talamanca) Costa Rica guide!
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!
Getting to Puerto Viejo
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 buses are surprisingly comfortable. They will stop in Limon (about and a half hours into the drive) so you can buy snacks and use the bathroom. There is no bathroom on the bus.
Another option is to rent a car and drive to Puerto Viejo on your own. 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. 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 absolutely beautiful.
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.
What do we suggest? If you are only going to Puerto Viejo or are heading down to Panama after, we suggest taking the 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.
We have partnered with our favorite rental car company Adobe to bring our readers a 10% discount. You can find out more about this deal here.
Getting Around 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 an Uber (don’t take a taxi they are almost always double the price of an Uber), 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
Go to Punta Uva: Playa Punta Uva is an easy drive from Puerto Viejo and it is seriously beautiful. The water is super clear and the sand is a perfectly fine white. Just note that there are occasional incidents of petty theft so always keep any valuables near you.
Take a yoga class: Cashew Hill has walk-in yoga classes for 6,000 colones (about $12). You can check out their schedule here.
Go snorkeling: We suggest packing your own snorkel mask so you don’t always have to rent one. Playa Punta Uva is the perfect place to snorkel.
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center: The Jaguar Rescue Center has awesome tours which put you in close contact with amazing wildlife. The tours cost $20 per person for adults. You can find out more on their website.
Check out the nightlife: Puerto Viejo is the perfect party town for some late night bar hopping.
Take a coco tour: Caribeans Chocolate tour is a bit on the pricey side ($28 per person) but it is a super detailed chocolate tour that takes you through the whole process from tree to bar. Plus you get to try chocolate at the end!
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.
Do some 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.
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. For about $35 a night you can get a double room in the jungle with a cool rustic feel.
Apartment El Chilamate: Super nice apartments with a kitchen. For about $45 a night you can get an apartment with a terrace for two people.
Sea Tower Hotel: For about $40 a night you can stay in a double room close to the beach. There is also a shared kitchen on site for guests to use.
Apartment Las Casitas: For about $40 a night you can stay in a nice apartment close to the beach. Every apartment has its own kitchen.
Hostel Kinkaju: For about $35 a night you can get a double room with a shared bathroom. There are two kitchens on site for guests to use as well.
We definitely suggest checking out Airbnb as well. Sometimes you can get some really great accommodation deals at beautiful places on Airbnb. We like Airbnb because often you can get a place with a private kitchen. This definitely helps us to save some money so we are not constantly eating at restaurants. Also, often staying at an Airbnb will give you a more local experience.
Save $30 off your first Airbnb stay here
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.
Tiere Cafeteria: This place is the perfect breakfast or lunch spot. They have a nice modern twist on a lot of typical Costa Rican meals plus some great sandwiches.
De Gustibus Bakery: This spot is perfect for an afternoon coffee and cake or a nice breakfast. Everything they make is amazing!
– 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.