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Puerto Viejo Costa Rica: Caribbean Beaches and Surfing

Charming and fun, Puerto Viejo Costa Rica is located on the countries Caribbean coastline just a thirty minute bus ride from the town of Sixoala on the border of Panama in the south.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (that's the full name) is arguably the most popular spot on the Caribbean. And for good reason. It has a lovely mix of latin and Caribbean cultures, a great selection of restaurants, beautiful beaches and awesome waves for surfing.

When I visited I remember loving how quaint and inviting it was. The main street was narrow and intimate, lined with little open air boutiques and a variety of eateries with cuisine ranging from Thai to Italian. I even had some great jerk chicken at a Jamaican place!

However, Puerto Viejo is not all mellow vibes and sun-soaked leisure. There is also an active night life with numerous bars and discos for you to shake your groove thing. With so many backpackers and surfers looking to have a good time, you'll be able to party most nights of the week.

Cruiser bikes are the best way to get around town and are super cheap to rent, but walking is equally inviting. There are numerous spots to explore along the coast and riding a cruiser under the palm trees with the tropical breeze at your back is hard to beat.

To the northwest you'll find a long stretch of black beach called, appropriately, Playa Negra. Here the water is relatively calm and there is plenty of room to claim your own patch of beach.

To the southeast of Puerto Viejo Costa Rica you'll encounter Playa Colcles (1.5km), a beach known for large waves that is popular for budget travelers and surfers. Travel farther and you'll find Punta Uva (7km), Manzanillo (13km) and the gorgeous Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

Puerto Viejo Hotels and Lodging

During the peak season demand for hotel rooms is high so it pays to make reservations in advance. Beware of hawkers waiting at the bus stop trying to get your business as many will tell you lies to get you to book at their hotel, or at least convince you wherever you are going is a dump.

There are numerous hotels in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica, from budget cabinas to luxury bungalows that can be found along the road to Manzanillo. You're sure to find something in your price range.

Puerto Viejo Surfing

Surfing in Puerto Viejo is epic, especially at a break called Salsa Brava. Translation: Angry Sauce. This large swell breaks over a shallow reef that will make you pay dearly for any mistakes. But a good ride here is the stuff of legends and since the break is right in front of the town you're sure to have an audience.

The Salsa Brava break may even be responsible for Puerto Viejo's current development and popularity. A couple of decades ago the journey to this tiny Caribbean town was via unreliable public buses over punishing unpaved roads which took hours or even days if the bus got stuck in the mud.

Word of the killer break spread throughout the surfing community and the insurgence of traveling surfers created the now thriving tourist industry and fueled the development of paved roads and electricity. Now getting to Puerto Viejo Costa Rica is simple and takes just a fraction of the time.

For those less experienced surfers there is a more forgiving, though at times powerful, beach break at Playa Cocles to the south. Sometimes there is even swell at a spot called Escuelas next to a old floating dock at the southern end of Playa Negra.

The best time for surfing in Puerto Viejo is December to March, with another quick season in June and July.

Getting to Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

For those renting a car, the drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is approximately 130 miles and takes between 4 and 5 hours depending on traffic and road conditions.

Private shuttles are another comfortable option and cost between $35-45 and normally require reservations made the day before your trip.

Public buses are scheduled to make the trip in 4.5 hours and are a cheap and reliable option, costing about $8. Buses from San Jose to Puerto Viejo leave from the Terminal del Caribe at Avenida 13 & Calle Central at the following hours: 6:00am, 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, 4:00pm. Return trips to San Jose leave Puerto Viejo's main bus stop at 7:00am, 8:00, 9:30, 11:30, & 4:30pm.

There are no flights directly to Puerto Viejo, but you can take a 30min flight to the larger port town of Limon to the north and then arrange a taxi, rental car or take a bus for the short 35 mile trip south.

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