Puerto Viejo

With turquoise water, coconut palms, great surf and a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere, Puerto Viejo is a favorite among travelers. It is known in the worldwide surfing community for the biggest and most powerful wave in Costa Rica, known as "Salsa Brava". It is also home to beautiful beaches, such as Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva, which are two of Costa Rica's most spectacular beaches, and can be found between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo.


General Info

Located on the Caribbean Coast, about an hour south of Limon, Puerto Viejo is a blend of Afro-Caribbean descendants, expat Europeans and indigenous Costa Ricans, which makes for a unique mix of people and cultures. Rastafari culture has a firm foothold in the town, and many Rastas sell handmade jewelry and other wares along the town’s vibrant roadside.

Tropical forest surrounds the village and palm trees line the beach, adding to Puerto Viejo’s natural beauty. Travelers can glimpse spectacular wildlife in Cahuita National Park or the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, which border the town to its north and south, respectively. Black and white sand beaches extend for miles; magnificent Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva are wide and often deserted, offering stretches of beach ideal for walking and sunbathing. Snorkeling is excellent when the water is calm, and nearby Cahuita and Manzanillo are home to beautiful, living coral reefs that provide some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rica.

From San Jose, the 130-mile journey takes between four and five hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Domestic flights are available from San José to Limón.

Gandoca Manzanillo Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo’s climate is unpredictable; people say that when the rest of Costa Rica is rainy, the southern Caribbean is dry. Usually, the best times to visit Puerto Viejo are during February, March and April or August, September and October.

There is no gas station in Puerto Viejo. The closest place to fill up is a few miles north, near the turn-off to Bribri. Police station, medical facilities and Bank of Costa Rica are available.

The Caribbean influence in Puerto Viejo restaurants means spicy appetizers, coconut-infused dishes, vegetarian delicacies and all-out seafood extravaganzas. Don’t miss the “Rice and Beans” specialty cooked with coconut milk, or the “Pati” delicious spicy meat pies or the “Pan Bon” which is like a fruit cake.



Eco Adventure


Close to the Puerto Viejo area, the Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge surrounds several rare habitats like the lowland rainforest, the wetland and the mangrove swamp. This wildlife reserve is very important from an ecological point of view because it contains the only intact mangrove swamp in the Atlantic, and the primary lowland small rainforest which is the only one of its kind in the region. A unique habitat, this reserve includes a 10-kilometer beach strip, a 740-acre forest, a coral reef and 2 swamps.

The Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge is also the nesting area for several species of turtles, manatees, crocodiles, caimans, tarpons and dolphins. The turtle nesting season here lasts from March to May.

The spectacular coral reef offers many brightly-colored fish and marine life, including the blue parrot fish, angel fish, sea anemones, Venus sea fans, shrimps, oysters, sea cucumbers, lobsters and sponges. While it rains here throughout most of the year, the best time to visit this refuge is between March and April and from September to October.

Located 9 miles north of Puerto Viejo, Cahuita National Park is a beautiful coastal park known for its living coral reefs, abundant marine life and white-faced monkeys. Coral reefs, mangrove forests and white sand beaches provide habitats for the variety of wildlife that exist in Cahuita National Park.

Gondoca Manzanillo Refuge Monkey


Things to do


Surfing. Salsa Brava is Puerto Viejo’s famous surf break and is often referred to as the country’s best wave. Located off the beach behind Stanford’s on Playa Negra, it is not Puerto Viejo’s only claim to surfing fame: Playa Cocles, just south of town, offers tall waves, steady surf and distant breaks. Surfboards can be rented at almost every beachfront shop, and many individuals and surf schools offer surfing lessons

Chocolate Tours.  Those interested in getting a first-hand look at chocolate production will enjoy Puerto Viejo’s own chocolate tour, which allows visitors to literally get their hands dirty while making delicious, fresh chocolate bars.

Cultural Tours. The southern Caribbean is particularly rich in indigenous cultures. The Bribri, Kekoldi and Cabecar tribes make up Puerto Viejo’s largest remaining indigenous cultures, and several tours offer insight into their way of life.

Canopy tours, bicycling, bird and wildlife watching, horseback riding, hiking, snorkeling and scuba diving are also available activities.


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