Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo is a chilled-out version of Costa Rica rural and surf life. Time flows to a smoother beat this far south, with many surfers and bohemian types calling this place home for several months a year. The beaches are sandy and the waves surfable, presenting challenges for even the best of surfers.
The village is nestled on the east and southernmost tip of Costa Rica, just north of Punta Uva and Manzanillo in the Limon Province. With the Caribbean Sea as the backdrop, Puerto Viejo is just one of the many towns littered with white sand beaches along this side of the Caribe coast. The drive can take five hours with buses pulling in six to seven hours after leaving San Jose. A small airport north in Tortuguero gets visitors closer and cuts driving times to less than two hours.
One of the most original activities in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is the Finca La Isla Botanical Garden and Bandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge down south. The Botanical Garden houses several mariposas (butterflies) and exotic fruits. The Wildlife Refuge, on the other hand, includes crocodiles, tapirs, toucans, hawk-eagles, lobsters, urchins, crabs, hydroids, sea cucumbers and green turtles. Horseback riding in the Cahuita National Park, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking and sightseeing become possible.
Most of the biodiversity in and around Puerto Viejo is clustered in one of the many parks and refuges. The Finca La Isla Botanical Garden, the Bandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and the Cahuita National Park are mostly known for various species. The Botanical Garden (10 acres and private) is known chiefly for butterflies, lizards and frogs. The Refuge and National Park compromise larger species of animals and marine life, namely the coral reefs, staghord, brain, sea fans, gorgonians, and hundreds of species of fish.
The Puerto Viejo “Salsa Brave” Beach seems to have been created only for surfers. The waters are too rough for swimming, with undertows and rip tides making it very dangerous. The beach, however, is great for an afternoon lounge, so surfer watching, sipping cold drinks and enjoying the perpetual sunshine with long walks is ideal for holidayers. Punta Uva is generally safer for swimming, especially families with kids.
The surfing is great for expert or professional surfers, especially on Salsa Brave, a wave at Puerto Viejo beach. The waves should only be tackled by experienced surfers who know how to save themselves, as there are no lifeguards manning Puerto Viejo. The waves can get crowded in the dry season, especially with a big holiday right around the corner. Playa Coces is great for intermediate surfers.
The weather this far south is very tropical and wet during the rainy season. However, the rainfall is about on par with the rest of this side of Costa Rica, even as far north as Tortuguero. The temperature variance is only minimal, with an average of 29 Celsius in September and 30.5 Celsius in May. The most rain falls in May with 450 mm with September and October bringing in 150 mm average.
Puerto Viejo Hotels
There are all sorts of little hotels, villas, cabañas and bungalows to rent this far south. The spirit of reggae and Caribe lifestyle mimics the hotel architecture. There are plenty of cheaper places to spend the night with a few choices for those interested in a bit of luxury. Up and down the coast, it’s easy to find every type of accommodation in Puerto Viejo.