On the surface, reggae music, bonfires and Bob Marley paraphernalia dominate the bustling beach town of Puerto Viejo. Bars, clubs and discotheques can be found on nearly every corner, boasting the best guaro or happy hour cocktails. On the beach, locals sell their handmade Rasta knick knacks for hoards of tourists ready to have a good night out.
However, the party atmosphere isn’t all you can find in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Stray a little off the main road and you’ll wander into quiet local neighborhoods filled with colorful Caribbean houses. Head towards the beaches and the music changes from resonant reggaeton to a symphony of cicadas, birds and monkeys. Your neighbors are no longer rowdy backpackers but snoozing sloths and flitting toucans.
To truly experience the beauty of this popular town known as Old Harbor, you need to peel back the unruly layers and explore beyond what’s offered on the main street. Don’t visit with a strict agenda either, the best way to fall in love with the Caribbean coast is to sit back, relax and let the beach vibe take over.
This is our guide to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca so you know what to expect and how to make the most of your time there.
What do you want to read first about this town? Click to skip to the section.
- The Town
- Beaches and Neighborhoods
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
Puerto Viejo Costa Rica map
How to Get to Puerto Viejo
By bus: There is a bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo every day at 6, 10, 12 (to Manzanillo), 2 PM and 4 PM. The bus leaves from Terminal Atlantico Norte, Calle 12 Ave 7-9, takes 4.5 hours and costs around 5000 colones.
By driving: From San Jose, the quickest way is by Route 32 through Braulio Carrillo National Park. Follow that road through Siquirres and in Limon, turn onto Route 241 towards Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, continue all the way to Rio Banano and then turn right onto Route 36. Follow Route 36 all the way to Puerto Viejo. This is about a 4 hour drive.
This route is on a well paved road as they are major highways. Do expect to run into traffic as there are a lot of trailer trucks on this route and most of the time, it is only one lane.
Renting a car? Get up to 20% off your car rental here!
By plane: Limon airport is the closest local airport to Puerto Viejo. Sansa flies into Limon and then you have to take the bus or shuttle to Puerto Viejo. It is a 40 minute flight and costs around $70 one way and the shuttle from Limon to PV is about 1.5 hours.
By shuttle: There are shared shuttles from many destinations in Costa Rica. This costs around $54 per adult. You can also take private shuttles which are more expensive (~$250).
Want to book a shared shuttle? Get 10% off your shared shuttle here!
By boat: If you are coming from Tortuguero, you can take a boat to Limon (twice daily, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Around $35 and takes 4 hours). Then from Limon, you will need to catch the bus or book a shuttle.
Adventure transfers: If you are going to Puerto Viejo from La Fortuna or San Jose, you can go white water rafting as the interconnection tour. White water rafting companies such as Rios Tropicales pick up travelers in San Jose or La Fortuna, take them white water rafting at the Rio Pacuare and drop off in Puerto Viejo.
How to Get Around Puerto Viejo
The well paved flat road between Puerto Viejo and all of the beaches and neighborhoods makes it super easy to get around.
If you aren’t renting a car, it is very easy to get around without one. There is a bus that runs between Limon and Puerto Viejo and Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo every day so it is easy to get to the nearby beaches, it costs about 500 colones.
You can find the main bus stop called “La Parada” near the entrance of Puerto Viejo and this is where all the buses will stop from San Jose.
The main bus terminal is right in town by the beach with a huge sign that says “Bienvenidos Puerto Viejo.” The ticket station is across the street with a huge sign that says “Boleteria.”
The most popular way to get around Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is by bike. You can rent bikes for $6-12 a day or scooters for $35-40 a day.
If you are going out after dark, it is best to take a taxi. It’s not safe to walk or ride your bike late at night (or super early in the morning) outside of town. A taxi from Puerto Viejo to Playa Cocles is around 2000 colones and from Manzanillo it is about 5000 colones.
Puerto Viejo Town
Puerto Viejo town is actually not that small but the roads are quite narrow. The town center are the main roads along the beach with a ton of hotels, hostels, restaurants, banks, souvenir stores and pharmacies.
You can see what Puerto Viejo looks like in our driving video below!
Puerto Viejo Beaches and Neighborhoods
There are six main neighborhoods around Puerto Viejo. Each of the neighborhoods has their own little community and you can find hotels, hostels and restaurants in all of them.
Playa Negra: There isn’t too much at Playa Negra, the beach north of Puerto Viejo. It has blackish sand, a low key atmosphere and vast empty shores. It is about 2 kilometers from Puerto Viejo.
Playa Cocles: Playa Cocles is the most popular beach in the area since it’s easily accessible, has good surfing waves and not too far from Puerto Viejo. The beach is gorgeous and you can find several hotels in the small community. It is about 3.5 kilometers from town.
Playa Chiquita: Chiquita is another stunning beach with sparkling turquoise water and natural tide pools. If you stay at Chiquita, you will feel like you have the beach all to yourself. It is about 4.5 kilometers from town and very close to the popular Jaguar Rescue Center.
Punta Uva: Modern rustic cabinas, bright green water and several beautiful beaches make up the small town of Punta Uva. Best location to truly get away from it all as there isn’t much there, you will need to go to Chiquita to stock up on supplies.
Manzanillo: This is a small fishing village 13 kilometers from Puerto Viejo that sits next to the popular Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. It’s a cute little town but gets absolutely crazy on the weekends with the local excursions and parties.
Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Weather
Weather in Puerto Viejo is different than the rest of Costa Rica since it’s on the Caribbean coast. Instead of the typical tropical dry and rainy seasons, the Caribbean has a more temperate weather throughout the year. This means it can rain all year long and the summer months are actually September and October (those are the rainiest months for the rest of the country).
It’s extremely humid in this area and since it is generally more cloudy, it keeps temperatures cooler than the Pacific side. It is usually around high 80’s and low 90’s, cooling off at night. When you’re visiting Puerto Viejo, don’t be surprised if it’s raining there and sunny in other parts of Costa Rica!
Puerto Viejo Hotels
You can find all sorts of hotels in Puerto Viejo except for the big international chains. Much of Puerto Viejo’s charm is that it isn’t super commercial or developed and the community wants to keep it that way. You can certainly find luxury hotels with air conditioning and high end amenities but they are all built harmoniously with nature.
Hotel Banana Azul: Beach front resort on Playa Negra. Offers a variety of rooms and suites. Has an on-site restaurant, beach club, gardens, ponds and massage hut. Click the link above to read our review.
Villas del Caribe: Beach front hotel on Playa Chiquita with its own entrance to the beach. Rooms are spacious with private decks and hammocks, has a large pool and on-site restaurant.
Relax Natural Village: 6 villas each with a private deck and hammock, close to Playa Cocles. Nice boutique hotel with very personal service and gourmet breakfast.
Cariblue: Another hotel in Playa Cocles, it’s more like a resort with two swimming pools, a swim up bar and jaccuzis. They also have spa, restaurant and surf school on the property.
Tree House Lodge: 5 luxury eco-houses very close to Playa Punta Uva. Each house has something unique about it and is spread out throughout the 10 acre property. Definitely a splurge for couples but a great option for groups.
Airbnb and Vacation Rentals
Airbnb and vacation rentals are very popular in Puerto Viejo. We stayed at one called Reservas Kalawa run by an Italian family. It was a very nice apartment next to the De Gusticos Bakery and walking distance to Puerto Viejo downtown. It has private secure parking and they gave 15% off the bakery to guests. Read more about using Airbnb in Costa Rica in this post and get $40 off your first booking.
Puerto Viejo Hostels
Puerto Viejo has a large amount of hostels since it is a popular backpacker destination. These are three popular hostels in Puerto Viejo: Hostel Pagalu, Selina Hostel and Lionfish Hostel.
Puerto Viejo Nightlife
You’ll get your fill of reggae music, bonfires, salsa music, dancing and shots in Puerto Viejo as it’s one of the biggest party towns in Costa Rica. There’s a party every weekend and many times on the weekdays at places like Salsa Brava, Roots Reggae and Tasty Waves. You can also find bars and discotheques like Johnny’s Place and Tex Mex.
Due to the melting pot culture of Puerto Viejo, you can find all sorts of food from Italian to sushi to Caribbean fusion.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants in town, don’t forget to try the classic Caribbean rice and beans. Opposed to traditional gallo pinto, this is made coconut milk! Some other local goodies to try are rondon (soup) and pati.
Soda Lidias: Our favorite place for local Caribbean-Costa Rican food. They have delicious hot sauce and their rice and beans are our favorite.
Bread and Chocolate: Great bakery place with healthy food options
Ghetto Girl: Another good place to go for rice and beans. The restaurant has some fun decorations.
Tasty Waves: Has your typical burgers, tacos, beers and cocktails. Tuesday nights have 2 for 1 tacos and they have wild parties.
De Gusticos Bakery: Another nice bakery that has lots of healthy options.
Koki Beach Lounge: The food is a little overpriced but they have a nice atmosphere and yummy cocktails.
Deelite: Amazing gelato!
Stashu’s con Fusion: The food is delicious but it’s the drinks and dessert we loved the most. Great place for drinks.
Things to do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
Although Puerto Viejo is not big, there are a lot of fun things to do and the best part is that you don’t need to be driving hours to get to them all. Within a 30 kilometer radius, you have a national park, a wildlife refuge, several beautiful beaches and two animal rescue centers.
Jaguar Rescue Center: This popular rescue center is a must for any animal lover. Learn about how they rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce animals such as sloths, monkeys, toucans, anteaters and owls back into the wild. Another wildlife rescue center is the Ara Project where they work to restore the Great Green Macaws.
Cahuita National Park: Walk the trails of Cahuita National Park to see wildlife such as white face monkeys, sloths and snakes or take a snorkeling trip to the biggest coral reef in Costa Rica. Cahuita is an incredible park to experience both beach and jungle and it’s free!
White water rafting Rio Pacuare: When it comes to adventure activities in Puerto Viejo, it falls short compared to other destinations in Costa Rica. But you can go white water rafting on the Rio Pacuare, one of the top 5 five rivers in the world for white water rafting!
Souvenir shopping: When dusk comes around, locals vendors put out their artisan jewelry, clothes and other goodies on the main street and only at night. You can also go to the feria (farmer’s market) on the weekends from 6 AM to 12 PM.
Go for a bike ride: One of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo is to rent a bike and ride all the way from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo (it’s about 30 kilometers) or go up to Cahuita. It’s a great way to experience the town and local life plus it’s a lot of fun!
You can read about other fun things to do in Puerto Viejo here.
If you like this article, follow us on Facebook for more Costa Rica travel tips and inspiration!
There you have it, our guide to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. We love this funky Caribbean town and many who visit do to. It was the first place Yeison took me to back in 2010 when we were long distance and it’s always had a special place in my heart. I hope you love it as much as we do when you visit!
If you’re not sure if you should visit Puerto Viejo, check out our post “Differences between the Caribbean and Pacific coast of Costa Rica.”
There are affiliate links in this post