Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to Spend a Day in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica - 8-5-2012

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

After spending three days in Bocas Del Toro, Panama at the end of July 2012, I took a side trip to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo is a great little sea side town on Costa Rica's Caribbean side, about an hour north of the Panamanian border. Puerto Viejo definitely has a stronger Afro-Caribbean feel than anywhere I have visited on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast. We saw plenty of sun despite visiting during the rainy season.

There are plenty of hostels and budget hotels in town, but three are worth mentioning. Rocking J's is about a 15 minute walk south out of town and is Lonely Planet's pick for Puerto Viejo. This huge, beach side hostel sports its own bar and a sizable built-in backpacker community with which to hang out. Rocking J's also enjoys a party spot reputation, making it a great place to party and meet folks.

Just north and across the street from Rocking J's is it's polar opposite, La Ruca. La Ruca is smaller, much quieter, and much more hippie. When my traveling companions and I walked in, several bearded hippie guys were strumming guitars and smoking while their female companions listened quietly. The friendly staff showed us a private room and the dorms. I liked the granola vibe, the private bathroom attached to the private room, and the numerous trees and flowers on the property, but my traveling companions were looking for something more...conventional.

Lazy Mon is right in town, right on the beach, offers a dorm and several private rooms with balconies overlooking the beach. There's a bar restaurant right downstairs that features foosball tables and talented singer-songwriter music nearly every night. Its location in the heart of Puerto Viejo, chill vibe, and beach side access made it a great choice for my traveling companions and I. Dorm beds are $15 per night and private rooms are $25 per night.

Baby Sloth at Jaguar Rescue Center, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Once you've checked in to your place, you'll definitely want to check out Puerto Viejo's list of things to do. At the top of that list for my traveling companions and I was the Jaguar Rescue Center, a 25 minute bike ride south of town. We rented bikes for $5 for the whole day at a spot across the street from Lazy Mon. The Jaguar Rescue Center doesn't have any jaguars, and only very rarely does. The center is named after the first animal they tried to save, a jaguar. The center does have monkeys, plenty of baby sloths and a whole lot of snakes. Do note that the center is neither a zoo, nor a preserve. The center nurses injured animals back to health and then releases them into the wild as soon as they are ready. Certain animals can't be released back into the wild because they were kept as pets. These animals are instead released into the nearby forest, also part of the preserve, and are regularly offered food if their hunting skills are weak (perhaps because their parents were killed and were unable to teach the animal wilderness skills). Highlights of the tour included seeing baby three toed and two toed sloths and having monkeys climb all over us for 15 minutes in the monkey reserve.

Tours happen every two hours and last about two hours in total. The preserve conducts tours in English and Spanish. Entrance is $15. Contact them at 506-2750-0710 or Check out their website at

Punta Uva, Costa Rica
About 15 minutes south of the Jaguar Rescue Center by bike is Punta Uva with Playa Manzanillo about 10 minutes further south of that. Punta Uva is a beautiful white sand beach that emerges from thick jungle. It's in the community of Cocles, which has several restaurants and hostels, so don't expect to be alone. Also, don't try to swim outside of the red flags posted on the beach because the rip tides get bad there.

Playa Manzanillo, Costa Rica
For a truly deserted beach, bike south to Playa Manzanillo. There are few signs, but you'll see beach access through trails that lead through the thick jungle and mangrove swamp. The brief trek from road to beach is worth it, though. Playa Manzanillo is a picture perfect, deserted, white sand beach with clear warm water and moderate currents. My companions and I spent about an hour there sunning and taking pictures of the beach's striking beauty. Palm trees stretched over turquoise waters, and thick green jungle hid all sings of the road and human civilization. Aside from my traveling companions, not a single person disturbed the peace. If you've got the time, go to Playa Manzanillo. you've visited an animal rescue center and biked to two beaches...the second of which is nearly beautiful beyond words. How do you cap off your day? Tasty Waves is a small bar just north of Rocking J's and is the perfect place to go nuts with the locals (Tuesday night is when the entire town hits up Tasty Waves) or melt into the Caribbean ease with a beer and a game of pool on the other nights of the week. Alternatively, you could hit up Stanford's bar beneath Lazy Mon for foosball and live music. The live music ends around 9:00PM, though, so you could easily start your night at Lazy Mon and end at Tasty Waves. A cab ride from town to Tasty Waves should cost no more than $5 round trip. Make sure to arrange a time for your driver to pick you up because it's a long, dark walk back into town from Tasty Waves.

Safety Notes:
Our hostel's manager, Justin, advised that parts of the town are not safe for tourists after dark. Take a cab if traveling after dark, especially of going to the bars in the far south end of town like Tasty Waves.

1 comment:

  1. How to Spend a Day in Puerto Viejo? It is easy, just you have to walking and walking . Discover how beautiful are the beaches in PV, how friendly people are, and discovering all the natural wonders.