When I hear the words ‘the Caribbean’ it makes my heart melt and my skin feel warm. I immediately begin to think of idyllic crystal clear beaches surrounded by palm trees. If you are already dreaming of feeling the sand between your toes then you’ve found the right blog, here is my ultimate travel tips to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
We spent 5 days here on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica as we figured by then we would have deserved to relax on some stunning beaches. We choose the popular area of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the south-eastern corner of Costa Rica. In the region of Limon fairly close to the border of Panama.
This area is very popular because you have the choice of six small beach villages. The area is also increasingly popular with younger crowds and also with locals as being a surfers’ paradise. All the villages have a unique blend of Latino, Afro-Caribbean and Bribri cultures making Puerto Viejo a very relaxing place to holiday. Renting bikes here is a great way to explore. The roads are not in great condition but they are mostly flat. You will be in with a good chance of seeing some howler monkeys whilst cycling. A lot of travellers start their journey here, but as I said we decided to end ours in the warm waters of the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Vibe!
You may have read certain rumours about the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica being full of reggae hippy locals. Tourists who smoke weed all day or that there is a lot of crime within the villages. It is true that there is a presence of drugs in Puerto Viejo but you do as you please. To some extent you could argue this adds to the chilled out Caribbean vibe. There is a level of crime in any tourist area that you visit anywhere in the country. But there is no way you can compare Puerto Viejo to Quepos, Jaco or even San Jose.
On the beaches you may be lucky enough to be the only ones there and overall I felt safe leaving my towel and bits whilst swimming, just keep your eyes open. Be as cautious as you would normally be, we felt safe as two girls travelling alone. The only time we felt a bit on edge was when we walked back to our hotel one night. The roads are not lit. I would not recommend doing this! Get a bike at least or even better a taxi – but only the official taxis with red triangles on them. All in all for some people the Puerto Viejo vibe may be their worst nightmare. To others this is paradise, especially when you discover you are the only ones on the beach. All you can see is pure white sands and lush green trees as far as the eye can focus.
Playa Negra – A popular surfing beach, but not much around as it is just outside Puerto Viejo, the black sand attracts people to the beach as well as the swell for surfers.
Location: Just before Puerto Viejo 1.5km.
Puerto Viejo – The main village in the area where all the restaurants, cafes, bars and tourism agencies are. This is the main hub and is the busiest place to be but this comes with the slight dirtiness of being in the ‘city centre’ as it were.
Playa Cocles – A small village with it’s beach as the main attraction as huge waves can be found here on a good day. However be warned of strong rip tides along all of these beaches, sometimes swimming is not advised and waves will only be risked by the keen and experienced surfer.
Location: Just after Puerto Viejo 3.5km.
Playa Chiquita – Another small village with a few more supermarkets and restaurants than Playa Cocles. This is a fairly isolated area making it a perfect destination for those wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle of Puerto Viejo and dive into the nature and beauty of Costa Rica.
Location: 6km from Puerto Viejo.
Playa Punta Uva – This beach is known for it’s calmness and it’s protected water and white sands. Being even further from Puerto Viejo this is a great place for families.
Location: 8.5km from Puerto Viejo.
Manazillo – This village is as far as you can go along the coastal road towards Panama. It is still very unknown and has been protected thanks to the establishment of the Gandola Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Once you get to Manzanillo you need to continue on foot into the refuge. A guide is recommended to make the most of your trip. We decided to just have a wander and eventually decided to stop as we could not see a clear route through the jungle, so we retreated to the beach to watch a storm approach.
Location: 13km from Puerto Viejo.
A very important question if you are planning to come here for the beaches and for the sun. The Caribbean coast unfortunately has a tendency to be quite wet, especially in the afternoons. However being down at sea level the temperature is always warm. Even if it does rain it’s that warm fresh rain. We were extremely lucky with the weather as we had three straight days of pure sunshine and clear blue skies. On our last day a storm approached with strong warm winds and rain. July tends to be the wettest month with September being the driest.
The easiest way to get from La Fortuna to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is by the shared shuttle bus. However, this is a long way to travel, a six-hour journey is what you are letting yourself in for. If you have more time I would recommend a stop over half way or so. Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui is a popular spot. There are not many built up towns on the way that accommodate tourists. The alternative is if you are already heading to Tortuguero before Puerto Viejo or instead of, then this is a shorter journey anyway.
We decided not to stop over one night as we noticed that the price of the shared bus to Sarapiqui was only USD10.00 or so less than the whole journey to Puerto Viejo. We would have had to pay effectively twice for the two journeys. As well as the hotel rate for the one night. So we headed straight to the Caribbean. You have a choice of shuttle buses from Caribe Shuttle – who can offer a 13:00 pick up for the cost of USD60.00pp or Interbus who do a 06:00 pick up for USD62.00pp. Charge up your phone, remember your book and be prepared for the long journey ahead. Of course there are direct buses from and to San Jose.
Within the villages there is a local bus that runs from Manzanillo to Puerto Viejo and vice versa. You can hop on almost anywhere along the main road. They are not frequent so you will need to plan a little bit.
Monday – Saturday
From Manzanillo to Puerto Viejo:
05:00, 07:00m 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and 18:00. These are the times that it leaves Manzanillo therefore whichever village you are in you will need to figure out roughly when the bus will arrive
From Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo:
06:45, 07:45, 09:45, 11:45, 13:45, 16:45, 18:45 and 19:45.
Head to http://www.puertoviejosatellite.com/local-transport-caribbean-coast.php#bus for further information.
Transport: Bus USD60-62.00 per person
Manzanillo – Gandola Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
Playa Punta Uva