As you walk into Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, you’ll be greeted by the sound of reggae music and the gentle breeze off the Caribbean sea. There’s a reason most travelers in Costa Rica make their way down to this quaint little town. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of San Jose and relax on the beach for a few days.
Puerto Viejo is easily accessible by bus or by taxi, depending on where you’re coming from, and there’s plenty of accommodation to stay in. Bring your beach mindset and a handful of Costa Rican colones and you’re good to go.
If you’re making your way through Costa Rica with a backpack, visiting Puerto Viejo is an absolute must. Just make sure you go to the right Puerto Viejo (there are two of them). If you take the bus from San Jose, you should know that there’s also a Puerto Viejo in the north of Costa Rica called Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Make sure to specify that you’re going to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca or you might end up very lost.
Once you get there, you’ll find yourself in a quaint little Caribbean town with amazing food, awesome beaches, and even better vibes.
If you’re traveling through Central America, you’ll probably end up in Costa Rica sooner or later, and Puerto Viejo is undoubtedly one of the most underrated destinations in the entire country. Herea are eight great things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca:
1. Playa Negra
There are plenty of beautiful beaches in Puerto Viejo and all of them are worth visiting. But if you’re looking for a unique beach experience, head over to Playa Negra. This beach is rarely frequented during the day due to how hot the black sand gets under the Costa Rican sun. Later in the afternoon, however, you’re sure to find a whole bunch of locals hanging out and jamming out to music.
Playa Negra is a fantastic place to watch the sunset and take an evening dip in the ocean. You can pick up some food from the center of Puerto Viejo and walk over to Playa Negra for the perfect picnic. This is one of the best locations in the world to see volcanic black sand, and there are even some incredible parties on Playa Negra in the evenings.
2. Jaguar Rescue Center
If you want to get a sense of the local wildlife on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, head over to the Jaguar Rescue Center. The refuge houses all kinds of animals from sloths to monkeys to tropical birds and reptiles. And, of course, if you want to get close to a jaguar without being in serious danger, the Jaguar Rescue Center is the best place to go.
A tour through the center will cost you $22 and you need to arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour starts. However, there’s no better place in Costa Rica to get up close with the wildlife.
3. Chocolate Tour
If you have any kind of sweet tooth or simply want to understand how chocolate production works, you need to check out the Puerto Viejo chocolate tour. On this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to go through local chocolate farms and see the production process from start to finish. You can smell the cacao plants, enjoy nature, and even sample some of the finished products.
If you want to join in the deliciousness, you can inquire about the chocolate tour at Selina hostel or at Caribeans. The entire tour only takes a couple of hours, so you’ll have time to enjoy some local chocolate and then head to the beach for sunset.
4. Tortuguero National Park
Not far from Puerto Viejo is one of the best places in all of Costa Rica to watch sea turtles. Take a taxi ride to Tortuguero National Park, tour around, hang out on the beach and wait for the sea turtles to show up.
Sea turtles, however, aren’t the only attraction. Tortuguero National Park is rich in biodiversity and natural beauty. You could spend an entire day journeying through the park and observing the wildlife.
If you’re really lucky and you go at the right time of the year, you might even get the chance to see the newly hatched sea turtle babies crawling towards the ocean. This kind of event is exceptionally rare, but it’s definitely worth asking the locals when it might happen.
5. Johnny’s Place
If you want to experience the nightlife of Puerto Viejo, you should check out Johnny’s Place. This is the bar that most people flock to for some late-night fun. You can get cheap drinks, enjoy some local Caribbean music, and dance on the beach.
If you’re a real midnight warrior, there are often parties on the street outside of Johnny’s Place as well. But, to start your night, you should grab a beer at Johnny’s Place, sit on the beach, and watch the waves roll by.
If you’re staying in Puerto Viejo, you’re extremely close to one of the most gorgeous places in all of Costa Rica. Catch a taxi driver and head over to Manzanillo for a fantastic tour through a national wildlife refuge full of monkeys, sloths, and beautiful beaches.
If you’re more athletically inclined, you can do the full hike and get your sweat on while taking in the amazing scenery. If you’d rather just lounge around on the beach, there are plenty of quiet spots to sit and relax.
The best part about Manzillo: you don’t have to pay a dime! You can walk through the wildlife refuge free of charge and then retire to the beaches outside of the park and watch the local fishermen do their business. Make sure you have the number of a taxi driver when you go out there, though, because taxis don’t run regularly through Manzanillo at night.
7. Salsa Brava
If you’re heading to Puerto Viejo, you’ll inevitably find yourself in Salsa Brava, the town’s main beach and center of commerce. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area, and you can have a bite to eat, something to drink, and then lounge on the beach for the rest of the day. Or, if you want, Salsa Brava is also a fantastic surfing location.
One of the coolest attractions in Salsa Brava is the iconic sunken boat that sits right off the shore. You’ll likely see a bunch of kids swimming around it and playing in it. Just be careful if you decide to do some exploring yourself because the boat has some sharp edges that could leave a nasty cut if you’re not paying attention.
8. Hang Out
There are plenty of things to do in Puerto Viejo, but this town is all about sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying those island vibes. You should definitely try to do some activities while you’re there, but also make sure to take some time to just hang out on the beach and watch the waves roll by.
On some days, the ocean can be extremely strong, so be careful if you plan to go swimming. If you catch the ocean on one of its calmer days, you could spend an entire day just sitting in the water and chatting with whoever else you’re traveling with.