I wasn't sure what to expect of Puerto Viejo. I hadn't heard people speak of it as much as other places in Costa Rica like Manuel Antonio & Monteverde. I did a little bit of research and read about stories of crime, which made me a bit concerned. It didn't seem like the best idea for me to travel alone to a place like this but I kept an open mind.
Once I got to San Jose, I asked everyone I spoke with about Puerto Viejo. They literally raved about the Afro-Caribbean culture, food & people. They claimed it was one of the few places in Costa Rican that hadn't gotten overrun by tourists and expats. After a few conversations, I decided that I had to go and see this place for myself.
I'm so glad I decided to go because Puerto Viejo is such a beautiful place with the most beautiful people. Sure, it's a bit rough around the edges but there lies the charm. As you walk down the unpaved roads, you'll witness colorful homes, unmarked streets, jungle lined beaches, caribbean eateries, yoga studios, natural and smoothie shops. The locals bike or walk along the roads to the sounds of reggae music. Everyone I met was so warm & friendly, making my time in Puerto Viejo so memorable. I had the most life-changing conversations with some awe-inspiring people. From natives who live & breathe the 'Pura Vida' lifestyle to expats who visited once and never left. Life is so different in Puerto Viejo - so laid back & simple. This place left a mark on me and I cannot wait to return.
I arrived from La Fortuna via 'Adventure Transfer' because there was no scheduled bus from the area. Exploradores Outdoors picked me up in La Fortuna and we did a Pacuare river rafting trip to Puerto Viejo! It was amazing!
From San Jose - Take the public bus for $6-$8. You can also arrange a shared shuttle or private transfer for $50-$70. If you have a rental, you can drive & the ride is around 4-5 hours.
WHERE TO STAY
You won't find any big name resort & hotels in Puerto Viejo. You'll see more cabins, lodges, hostels & smaller accommodations.
Hostels - Rocking J's is really well known for its fun & friendly atmosphere. I stayed at Kalunai hostel for a few nights, which was much smaller & carried a family vibe. We went to dinners together & even cooked together some nights. Also look at Casa Caribe & Hostel Kinkaju. Check out hostelworld.com for reviews.
Hotels - Check out Hotel Banana Azul, Hotel Shawandha Lodge, & Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel.
House Rentals/Airbnb & VRBO - There's a good amount of house/cabin rentals on sites like AIrbnb. I stayed in an open-air treetop home via Airbnb & it was probably one of the best experiences I've ever had.
THINGS TO DO
Take a Yoga Class - So many yoga studios & teachers in the area! Be sure to take a class and grab a natural fruit smoothie after!
Visit the Farmer's Market - Try delicious, local fruits every Saturday morning!
Visit a Cocoa Farm - Learn how chocolate is produced. Some of the best in the world!
Visit Indigenous Tribes - Immerse yourself in native culture by spending a day in an indigenous community. Be respectful of these communities.
Try Local Caribbean Dishes - You won't find any fast food in Puerto Viejo. \
Visit Bocas del Toro, Panama - Take a boat to this charming beach town in Panama for $25/one way.
Rent a bike at $5/day - Ride to nearby towns along the main road.
Visit the Jungle Lined Beaches - Punta Uva & Playa Chiquita are known to be the best in town. Playa Negra is a black sand beach!
Cahuita National Park - Spot monkeys, sloths, birds, & other animals along this beach where entrance is free(donation recommended)!
Jaguar Rescue Center $20/pp - See rescued wildlife & learn about the rehabilitation program. Perfect for animal lovers! You can even volunteer!
Go Surfing - Puerto Viejo is known for surfing! I took a class from a guy on the national Costa Rican Surf team & it was so much fun! Due to strong currents, be sure to ask locals which areas are safe to surf!
Dont walk alone at night, especially as a female
Do not leave anything on the beach as you go swimming
Taxis are cheap, but not metered - you'll need to negotiate a price
You can walk most places, and bike others
There are 2 ATMs in town - it is best to use cash
Don't carry around alot of valuables during the day
Ask locals about beach/water currents
Don't drink the water
Use plenty of mosquito repellant
Have fun :)
This was the most informative site I found while researching Puerto Viejo -http://www.puertoviejosatellite.com/