Probably one of the most happening beaches I’ve been to in Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo holds so many different hostels, restaurants, and activities. Located south in the province of Limón, Puerto Viejo sits on the Caribbean sea and inhabits a different culture than San José.
The ocean is clear, shallow, and blue, the sand soft and natural. One moment your walking on the street pavement and the next your on the sand of the shore. There is a white sand section of the beach, but keep walking down and it gradually turns into completely black sand. This amazed me; I had never seen black sand before. How did it get like that? I wondered. I actually took a trip to Puerto Viejo with friends after a month of living in Costa Rica, but then visited a second time for a field trip for my Tropical Marine Biology class, where I learned a little more about the beaches, sea, and what inhabits it. Click here for my blog about black sands beaches and snorkeling in Cahuíta.
When me and my friends traveled to Puerto Viejo, we payed $8/night to sleep in a dorm style room at a place called Kinkaju. This place was lovely and perfect for what we were looking for: a place to sleep. We got there and the electricity had gone out. We were using candle sticks that had been wedged into the top of empty beer bottles. There was no AC but we didn’t care. Sweating in Costa Rica, or at least by a beach in Costa Rica, is inevitable so you have to learn to not only accept it, but embrace it. Pura vida.
The hostel wasn’t out of power for long; after 45 minutes the lights and fans came on and we all hooked onto wifi, which was reliable the rest of our stay. Kinkaju was no more than a 10-minute walk from the bus stop and beach.
Many separate cliques of fellow international students traveled down to Puerto Viejo and many stayed in different hotels and hostels than my friends and me. I heard great things about Kaya’s Place and Rocking J’s.
Restaurants, Bars, and Activities
Puerto Viejo is always bustling with different people, music, and food. For this, it’s one of the most exhilarating beaches I’ve ever visited, and that’s coming from a Jersey Girl! Different types of restaurants and bars flood the streets, and it’s easy to find almost any type of food: Costa Rican, thai, artisan, etc. Are you in the mood for sushi? Go to Chile Rojo! There is also a great variety of vegetarian restaurants, and while walking around the center of town I found an ice cream parlor with vegan ice cream!
Bars were really fun to experience in Puerto Viejo because all of them were positioned right on the beach. Benches and tables were placed on the sand beside the dance floor at Lazy Mon, a bar/restaurant that I recommend anyon
e in the area to check out, particularly at night time. During the day it’s your typical restaurant with local food, but at night, there is a fire show where a man and women do
performances while juggling fire around their bodies. At one point one of the performers brought out a unicycle, climbed aboard and started throwing and catching torches of fire. Next to this, the ocean is black and mysterious as ever, a swing is suspended from a thick tree that extends slightly over the water, and people are laying on the beach, staring up at the stars or out into the endless dark ocean.
As far as activities, there are endless options to choose from in Puerto Viejo. You can simply walk the town and window shop, or stop into some stores with handcrafted jewelery and clothes. There are plenty of places that offer tours or packages such as snorkeling, ATV rentals, bike rentals (which I unfortunately did not take advantage of, but highly recommend— most places offer an hourly price and a day rental price, and both are really cheap), ferry rides, bus rides to Panama (since Puerto Viejo is very close to the border), national park guides, hiking tours, and many more.
Me and my friends actually paid $55 to do snorkeling and get a guided walk (which I later ended up doing a second time for a class trip— Read more about that here!), and the $55 included pick up at 8 a.m., snorkeling, a stop on an island where they cut up fruit for us, a walk through Cahuíta National Park, and transportation back to our hostel. If I’m going to be completely honest, the snorkeling in Jamaica was much better. The water in this location of Costa Rica was very murky. Even the second time I went, I experienced the same. I do not in any way regret going, but I don’t think I would pay do it again.
Overall, despite the perpetual, stimulating atmosphere of Puerto Viejo, my experience was relaxing and refreshing. This beach is definitely one you must visit. Read about my second visit to Puerto Viejo: Chocolate, Lionfish, and Coral, Oh My!