I haven’t seen a lot of places in Costa Rica. Although I know that many people are stoked about the country, I couldn’t give you an honest opinion yet. However, there is one place I think I can tell you quite a lot about. It was my final stop in Costa Rica, in the South, near the Panamanian border. Here are some great tips for Puerto Viejo!
Puerto Viejo is not a big town. The centre is composed of around 4 streets crossing another 4 streets, and that’s pretty much it. The main road along the coast goes on a little bit more, and here you’ll find a few more hostels/centres of any kind (therapy, animal, healing) / residential and vacation homes.
There is a lot of tourism in Puerto Viejo. You’ll find anyone from solo travellers to groups of friends having holiday for a week, couples, families and – although you can’t really call this group ‘tourists’– many expats that decided to make Costa Rica their home country. Many of them start yoga schools, organic farms or bars. But what is it that makes the place so attractive? Although it attracts a big crowd – in my opinion it did not feel busy!
Puerto Viejo has a lot to offer. It is close to nature areas, there are nice bars and restaurants, the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see are a bike ride away, it is great for sports (surfing, hiking, cycling) and the lifestyle is very much focussed on: organic & sustainable – you’ll find a lot of vegan and raw food, yoga, and a weekly organic farmers market.
So what is there to do around – besides Surfing. One of things many people do, at least to visit Puerto Viejo’s best beaches, is to rent a bike. The area around Puerto Viejo is pretty flat and the roads are good. I recommend cycling to the area Punta Uva. The beach is magical there and if you walk along the beach you’ll most definitely find this fun swing;):
Puerto Viejo is also close to Cahuita National Park (open daily 6am – 5pm). You can take a bus directly from Puerto Viejo the Cahuita National Park and, in contrast to many other parks in Costa Rica, this one is still very affordable to enter. The entry at Caquita town is “free” of entry – aka upon donation. The other entrance is at Puerto Vargas, which is $10 per person. I do recommend going to the park. The hike at the park is easy and flat but you’ll walk along a beautiful coastline, while looking for sloths, yellow snakes, monkeys and more of what Costa Rican nature has to offer. Take a swim at the end of your hike and slowly make your way back to the entrance where there is a big chance you can buy a nice refreshing coconut. Fun facts if you do plan on going there: There is a – very randomly placed – organic food store at the bus station (where you can buy the best Medjool dates. Yaaas my plantbased friends) and also check out a French bakery: Guy’s French Bakery – … it’s in the name that’s why I knew. Their bread… yum.
Other things to do around Puerto Viejo include visiting coffee and cocoa farms, the animal rescue centre (although opinions differ on if the animals are better off there or worse), engage yourself with the local art scene in some nice galleries and take a yoga class. For the rest of your time I highly recommend to just chill. Have a stroll around the coastline to nearby beaches and spot a sloth here and there, take a look at the nice shops in town, read/trade some books at Café Rico, enjoy the nightlife – every night another bar has ‘their night – and especially visit the many great great great cafés that are around (I made a separate post for vegan food in Puerto Viejo, just click here to find it). Lastly, on Saturday do not miss the Organic Food market and try some local produce and raw chocolate.
So – how do you get from to Puerto Viejo? The best option is by bus. I took a bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo and it takes about 4 to 5 hours. You will pas Cahuita National Park along the way, and some people decide to get out there. So if you want to go from San Jose to Cahuita National Park you will take the same bus as the people that travel to Puerto Viejo from San Jose. Also if you travel from Panama to Puerto Viejo a bus or transport service is an easy option. For example if you travel trom Bocas del Toro to Puerto Viejo, there are companies that offer complete trips – to or from Bocas del Toro to Puerto Viejo. Easy!
To sum everything up:
The best places to stay in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
– Hostel Pagalu – spacious rooms, clean rooms and a nice open kitchen. However – they do not do reservations so it is a first come first serve for the beds they’re offering that day.
– Sel & Sucre – Originally this was a café, and recently the hostel was added. Beautiful, great location and very sweet owners.
– Cashew Hill Lodge – Feeling fancy? 😉
The best restaurants in Puerto Viejo (vegan/healthy)
– Como en mi casa Raw food heaven
– Bread & Chocolate Great for pastries &
– Alice Ice Cream Bar – yup vegan icecream
– Café Rico – book swap, library & café
– Dreadnut Coffee
– So, this one is interesting. Along the road that follows the coastline, there is a local lady selling the best baked goods. And yes: she has great great great vegan cakes & cookies. Not hyped, no website, no Tripadvisor – let’s find this hidden gem.
Health Food Stores in Puerto Viejo:
– Bio Mercado
– Farmer’s Markets on Saturday
– Namu Tienda Gourmet & Organica
What to do in Puerto Viejo :
– Cycle to Punta Uva
– Cahuita National Park
– Cacao & Coffee tours
– Take surf lessons
– Enjoy the food & vibes!