Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is located on the Caribbean coast not far from the boarder of Panama. It’s a place where thick, green, rain forest and beautiful beaches exist together. Famous for its national parks and wildlife centers, Puerto Viejo almost had us putting our travels on hold to volunteer with the animals. The nature we saw and the beaches we explored made this one of our top stops in a country filled with so many beautiful landscapes. Here is everything you need to know about what to do in Puerto Viejo including how to get there and where to stay.
How to get to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
There is no airport in Puerto Viejo so by car or bus will be your only option.
From/to San Jose – Buses to Puerto Viejo leave from Terminal Atlantico Norte and drop you on Avenida 73 in Puerto Viejo, this is the same the opposite way. The bus costs $10usd and takes about 4 hours, buses leave from both cities every 2 hours starting at 7am and finishing in the late afternoon.
From Panama – This is simply one bus from the border Terminal that costs $3usd and takes 1.5 hours. If you are coming from Bocas del Toro or vise versa click here for a detailed guide on crossing the border.
Where we Stayed
We stayed at a beautiful place called La Casa de Rolando. The place was located right in town but away from the the loud party streets, it had a kitchen and the rooms where beautiful. It only cost about $30usd for a double room with private bathroom, porch with table and chairs and a private hammock!
What to do in Puerto Viejo
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre
The Jaguar Rescue Centre is a NGO organization that helps treat and nurture injured or orphaned wildlife back to good health in hopes of releasing them. Although the name suggests they have Jaguar’s at the time we went (august 2017) they didn’t and believe it or not that’s a good thing! The Centre still has many species of Sloths, Toucans, Owls, Snakes, Monkeys, Deer, Pigs and wild cats. All the animals can be visited on one of their tours that takes you around the Centre where you will learn about the animals and their stories.
Fee’s and times – The tours cost $20usd with all proceeds going to feeding, housing and medical bills for the animals. They have 2 public tours a day, 9:30am and 11:30am and one private tour at 2:00pm (this will cost more). The Jaguar Rescue Centre is located 4km for the town of Puerto Viejo and is easily accessible by bike or taxi.
Explore Cahuita National Park
One of the cheapest national parks in Costa Rica is located 30 minutes from Puerto Viejo, this park was my highlight. I am not sure if I was lucky or visitors regularly see so many animals but we saw so many! Monkeys, Snakes, Coatis, Lizards, Squirrels, Sloths, Crabs all within the 8km trail of the park. If that hasn’t got you excited check out my detailed experience here or our full guide to the park here including how to get there, what to bring and much more.
Fees and times – Park entrance is by donation and is open from 6am to 5pm.
Relax at on the beautiful beaches in Puerto Viejo
Playa Cocles and Playa de Punta Uva were my two favorite beaches in the area, both are located out of town however they are only a short bike ride away. Here I could really relax without be hassled by street vendors or large crowds of people and the beautiful palms made for some great photos!
Hire a Bike and Go!
The area is small and the furthest beach Play de Punta Uva is only 8km’s from town, so it made perfect sense to rent a bike for the day. We rode to so many amazing spots, drank fresh coconuts and found areas of beach we had ourselves. The roads are really flat which made the bike ride easy and good for all levels of fitness.
Fees – Bike rental for a full day is $5usd or $7usd for 24 hours
Cook – If you are on a budget like us cooking is essential in Puerto Viejo, even at the cheapest Sodas (local eateries) you’re looking at $7usd for a meal.
Shop around – We found huge price differences between the supermarkets and with fruit and veggies being so expensive visiting a few places really paid off for us.
Safety – We found Puerto Viejo to be very safe even at night, Costa Rican people seem like some of the friendliest in Latin America. Just be aware to keep an eye on your belongings at the beach as theft is still a possibility.
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