Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a small coastal town in Caribbean Costa Rica in the province of Limón. It is popular with surfers and backpackers. This is an area where foreigners are buying and building. There are two gorgeous national parks nearby – Cahuita and Manzanillo, and it rains more than on the Pacific side, which is why it is so lush and green with the rainforest coming down to the sea.
- For other places with the same name, see Puerto Viejo (disambiguation).
Clear water, coconut palms, great surf and a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere make Puerto Viejo a favorite among travelers. Located on the Caribbean Coast, about an hour south of Limon, Puerto Viejo is the center of activity between the smaller villages of Cahuita and Manzanillo. The relaxed, seaside town is framed by jungle, turquoise seas, banana plantations and scenic rivers.
Puerto Viejo used to be a small fishing village, but has grown rapidly in recent years. Avid surfers, drawn to the famous Salsa Brava waves, have made Puerto Viejo a hotspot on the surfing circuit. The center of town now has many souvenir and surf shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and tour companies. True to its beach location and Caribbean ambiance, bikes and pedestrians dominate road traffic along the coastal roads.
With its blend of Afro-Caribbean descendants, expat Europeans and indigenous Costa Ricans, Puerto Viejo charms visitors with a unique mix of people and cultures. Rastafari culture has a firm foothold in the town, and many Rastas sell handmade jewelry and other wares along the town’s vibrant roadside.
Before the Spanish arrival, the Bribri, Kekoldi and Cabecar indigenous peoples were the primary inhabitants of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean. Later, Afro-Caribbean immigrants arrived, many from Jamaica, and settled in the coastal towns of Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva, Manzanillo and Monkey Point. Because of their influence, many Puerto Viejo natives today speak English as their first language.
Until the late 1970s, Puerto Viejo was relatively isolated from the rest of Costa Rica. In 1979, a new road connected the small village to San José and the Central Valley. In 1986, electricity arrived, supplying light and other important conveniences to the town. Private phone lines became available in 1996, and high-speed internet was offered in 2006. Today, Puerto Viejo is as modern as any beach town, though it still retains its original charm.
The local bus leaves 4-5 times a day direct from San Carlos Station in San José. Last bus leaves at 16:00 and all buses are direct with one pit stop outside of Limon. The ride is approx 4 hours. Make sure you get on the bus to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, not de Sarapiquí which is a different part of the country.
If you want to save a few colones, you can take local bus from Caribe station to Limón and transfer to Puerto Viejo bus. This is what many locals do.
There are also tourist buses that will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off where you want. The most popular one is Easy Ride Shuttle Services they run daily from San José hotels to Puerto Viejo at 06:00, 10:30 and 15:30, returning daily at 06:00, 10:30 and 15:30. The rate is US$45 one way per person. Add $10 from or to SJO Airport. There is also Grayline.
Driving here is also popular, but roads can be bad as at certain times of the year, the pot holes can get obnoxious. However, you really don’t need a car when you are here. Most people rent bicycles and scooters. The roads may not be all paved, but they are flat as they all follow beach line.
The bus system is very limited. Busing between the beaches takes some planning, with a reliable bus running between Limòn and Manzanillo every two hours. Busses run on schedule and are approximately US$0.50/town, two towns over is ₡620. Taxis are frequent but most are not marked, so be wary. Taxies cost approximately UaS$4/town so going two towns over is $8. Most lodges have bicycles for rent and there are many other bike rental locations. They are usually $5/day but haggling or extended rental times can get you a lower price. Bikes are everywhere and work well for getting around, especially if you make sure to get one with a front basket for groceries, breach gear, or a kid. Gears aren’t necessary. Taxis hang out in the center of town and will take you anywhere you want to go up and down the coast. When taking a taxi, make sure to negotiate your price ahead of time. Most of the taxi drivers know the area extremely well and can find their way with just the name of your hotel.