Puerto Viejo: An Afro-Caribbean Town in Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo is a vibrant and lively community on the Southern end of Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast. Far away from the main tourist attractions of the Pacific, Puerto Viejo is a great opportunity to experience the authentic Afro-Caribbean culture in a laid-back atmosphere that showcases some of the best Pura Vida vibes you can find (and food! so much tasty local food!).
You can have plenty of fun in Puerto Viejo, from cultural tours and social events to outdoor activities in the warm waters and forests of the Caribbean, there is something for everyone.
In Puerto Viejo, all you need is to wake up with the lull of the ocean and head out for the adventure to start!
Tropical Wildlife & Crystal-Clear Waters
Many travelers come to Costa Rica to discover all the natural wonders it offers, and if they can mix it with some adventure, even better.
Nature lovers will feel at home here. Puerto Viejo is one of the less frequented but also one of the most rewarding destinations in the country for wildlife spotting. Located between the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Park and Cahuita National Park, Puerto Viejo is an excellent place for travelers who want to be surrounded by tropical flora and fauna at every turn.
The Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is located 10-15 min North of Puerto Viejo, and is one of the most famous reserves in Costa Rica, protecting rivers, forests, and beaches. Similarly, the Cahuita National Park, to the South, protects coral reefs in addition to tropical trees and part of the coastline. Take a tour of one of these parks and hike trails that take you through the jungle, fresh streams, and pristine beaches.
In fact, some of the most iconic beaches of the country–truly hidden gems–are in the Puerto Viejo area too, and they’re ideal to get into the waves for some fun and exercise. Whether you go on a mangrove kayaking tour or a snorkeling trip, this rustic town has you covered.
Lazily paddling through the mangroves, followed by a relaxed hike through a national park, you can find some of the iconic animals of the area, from endemic migratory birds and sleepy sloths (two-toed and three-toed!) to slithering reptiles and colorful frogs.
The Caribbean also provides a shallower and warmer sea than the Pacific, a pool of crystal-clear waters where life is abundant. Go on a snorkeling tour to discover some of the 120 species of fish that live here, and you can go fishing, too! Puerto Viejo is also one of the few places in the country where you can find coral reefs, with 35 species of corals to admire. Nature enthusiasts really have plenty to choose from.
Culture and History by the Caribbean Sea
Puerto Viejo is the Spanish translation of “Old Harbour,” the town’s original name. This is just part of the rich history of the Afro-Caribbean culture that formed and thrives in this place.
The town’s personality can be seen in the stores and tasty restaurants of the bustling main town, as well as in the many opportunities to experience its nightlife, parties, and music gigs. If you want to truly immerse yourself in an authentic Pura Vida ambiance, where you can find iconic calypso music and the Caribbean twist to the traditional rice and beans dish, this is the place for you.
If you want to get an even deeper knowledge of the town’s history and people, take a cultural tour of the Bri Bri indigenous village that sits in a nearby town. The Bri Bri are a local indigenous population that has lived here for many generations. While learning about their traditions, language, and tools, you can also see first-hand the way cacao is grown and harvested. Cacao is a sacred fruit for the Bri Bri, and they welcome you to share in their lifestyle and experiences around it.
Surfing in Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo is the most famous surf town on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, welcoming to all who want to enjoy the sea. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll fit right in here. Take a surf lesson from an expert instructor to learn the best techniques and ride your first waves, or rent a board and cross Costa Rica off your bucket list of surfing destinations.
The beaches here have interesting rock formations and lush vegetation, with easily accessible stores or laid-back bars where you can have some downtime. Some of the beaches show a little history, too. You can find some shipwrecks along the shore, hand-painted with colorful graffiti that makes them a great photo op on your journey.
Whether you want to explore the town itself, immerse yourself in nature, or simply relax away from the more popular tourist destinations, Puerto Viejo is the place for you. Contact us to help you plan your next vacation!
FAQs about Things to Do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Is Puerto Viejo worth visiting?
Yes, especially if you want to avoid the typical tourist trail of the Pacific coast and are in search of a laid-back ambiance. It also offers unique cultural experiences and some of the best options in Costa Rica for snorkeling since it has clear waters and coral reefs.
What is Puerto Viejo known for?
Puerto Viejo is known for its thriving Afro-Caribbean culture, good food, party opportunities, and abundance of local businesses. A variety of wildlife is also a main attraction, and it can also be pretty quiet if you're staying outside the main town.
How many days do you need in Puerto Viejo?
Minimum three, ideally four. If you're seven days in Costa Rica, you want to visit at least two destinations, and due to Puerto Viejo's location, getting there can go from three to four hours. It’s worth taking your time here to check out the town and the national parks, as well as to enjoy some other tours.
Why should I visit Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?
Puerto Viejo is a side of Costa Rica that few see, yet it has so much to offer. It has excellent visibility in the water and a welcoming and relaxed ambiance. It’s also a good choice for travelers who visit during August, September, and October. In these months, it rains in the Pacific, but the Caribbean is dryer and has better weather that time of year. Another perk is that hotel prices are still very low since the area is not highly developed, and there are lots of boutique hotels for travelers, as well as a couple of high-end options for those who prefer more luxury during their trips. Nature and beaches are wonderful. There are more reasons to come than not to come, if we’re honest.
Are there sloths and monkeys in Puerto Viejo?
Yes! Puerto Viejo is one of the few places where you can see both two- and three-toed sloths. Monkeys are not as abundant as in other parts of the country, but you can find various species of monkeys, especially capuchin and howler monkeys.