Puerto Viejo – Costa Rica’s Best Surf Beach Destination in the Green Season
Costa Rica isn’t exactly short of fabulous beaches – the most celebrated are those on the Pacific Coast because they are easier to reach from the country’s two international airports and overall, more accessible and commercialized. This leaves the Caribbean side, especially around the cool town of Puerto Viejo, blissfully devoid of mass crowds most of the year.
The beaches around Puerto Viejo and Cahuita (its neighbor to the north) are loved by discerning tourists who wish to explore the quieter and more rustic side of Costa Rica, the one devoid of super-glam, all-inclusive resorts, the crowds and everything that goes along with both. Essentially, this part of Costa Rica is heaven for those who wish to explore and have fun, way off the beaten path.
During Green Season, between May and November, this is also the side of Costa Rica that sees the least amount of rain so it becomes a magnet for astute travelers who want all the goodies with all the fabulous sunshine too.
Puerto Viejo’s beaches are for thrill seekers primarily, the stunning waves and currents suiting surfers and lovers of water sports of all sorts. Mind you, you’ll find a handful of calmer coves where swimming is totally enjoyable, as well as plenty of charming lodges with pools, perfect if you’re traveling with kids.
Aside from seaside fun, Puerto Viejo also offers a bevy of other outdoor adventures and is actually one of Costa Rica’s hidden gems for adventure vacations. You can whitewater raft the Pacuare from here, visit remote wildlife sanctuaries, go horseback riding and try out zip lining, and explore a side of the country most visitors never even get to see.
And isn’t that reason enough to come check it out?
Overview of Puerto Viejo – vibe, how to get there, where to stay and what to do
Surprisingly buzzy for a town this size, Puerto Viejo certainly oozes plenty of Afro-Caribbean charm, something you won’t experience elsewhere in Costa Rica. The nightlife is on point and between the love music venues, bars and restaurants that stay open till late, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained once the sun dips beyond the horizon.
Puerto Viejo started off as a fishing village and hasn’t really lost its laid-back charm at all. A magnet for those seeking an alternative and more chilled environment, the town exudes a ‘welcome for all’ vibe that is revered by return visitors. The town even celebrates Carneval, a time when streets are drenched in color, music, laughter and exceptional food. The unique evolution of the town has also attracted many foreign expats over the years so, for being an oversized village, Puerto Viejo feels like quite the cosmopolitan hub.
HOW TO REACH PUERTO VIEJO
From the capital, San Jose, it takes about 4hrs to reach Puerto Viejo by car (136mi). With a private transfer and if your plane lands in the morning, you can turn the trip into a multi-stop adventure, discovering other gems in the Limon Province (like the brilliant Braulio Carrillo National Park) along the way.
A one-week adventure vacation on this stretch of the Caribbean coast offers an abundance of options for activities and excursions. Within the Limon Province, there are also options for overnight rafting trips, so you can camp out in wilderness or stay in other lodges as you explore. You’ll also find plenty of lodges just outside the town, for a quieter and more relaxing stay.
WHAT’S THE CLIMATE LIKE IN PUERTO VIEJO?
Some say ‘crazy humid’ but we say ‘perfectly tropical’. The humidity keeps the temps lower than on the Pacific side at the height of summer and although rain should be expected at any time (as is the case all over Costa Rica), the next few months are the driest of the year. Expect daily averages in the 80s Fahrenheit (high 20sC) with cooler evenings.
WHAT TO DO IN PUERTO VIEJO
The town itself is compact and walkable and lodges in the outer reaches usually offer bicycles to guests who want to get around a little faster. Here, you’ll find everything you need for a rewarding vacation – all the essentials plus plenty of souvenir shops, an array of eateries and plenty of local shops to peruse.
Within greater Puerto Viejo, which reaches to Cahuita in the north, you’ll discover half a dozen beaches, each one offering a vibe all its own.
Here are our favorite four:
Playa Cochles is by far the most popular beach (about two miles out of town) and has developed its own little village so you can stay here if you’d love to surf and enjoy water sports every day. The sandy beach is stunning and the crowd always jovial, thanks to the concentration of eateries and bars.
Playa Negra is much closer to town and, with its dark sandy shores (and not much else) and compact size is perfect if you just want to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a few hours of beach time in peace and quiet.
The prettiest beach is undoubtedly Playa Chiquita, with its turquoise shallows and verdant wilderness hiding sloths and monkeys. Easy to get to although relatively far from town (just a 10-minute taxi ride), Chiquita offers an abundance of tree shade, which is what visitors love most, and the water here is calmer so swimming is blissful.
Competing for first-place is Playa Uva, which boasts a bona fide town all its own. Verdant nature, stunning water and the prettiest sandy shores of all make this beach a real standout.
Need more action during your adventure vacation in Costa Rica?
You got it! Puerto Viejo is the hub of water sports so surfing, SCUBA, SUP boarding are always on the cards. Plus, there’s amazing horseback riding to be enjoyed, as well as canopy tours and a stunning collection of wildlife-spotting excursions to reserves that barely get a mention in travel brochures. This means you have higher chances of spotting elusive wildlife and experiencing unspoilt nature. All of this fun, including waterfalls and animal rescue centers, are within a one-hour driving radius of Puerto Viejo.
With its luscious rain forest, ton of fun things to see and do and some exceptional food to try, Puerto Viejo is a treasure that you’ll no-doubt want to keep to yourself.
So why not come discover it us?
See our collection of favorite Puerto Viejo Hotels and let us help you plan your unforgettable adventure vacation in Costa Rica!