Puerto Viejo is a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers. While Tortuguero in the north may get all and attention, come down to this part of Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast for excellent surfing, tremendous snorkeling and diving, great night life, cheap accommodation and a lot of good food options. It’s a popular spot for expats from America. Moreover, just a few hours from here is Cahuita National Park, a beautiful park for hiking and monkey spotting. There are a lot of reasons why I love this part of Costa Rica. It’s a good alternative to the more expensive and touristy Pacific side of the country.
- Hostel Prices: Hostels here have tents and camping starting at $7 USD per night. Dorm rooms are about $8-10 USD per night and private rooms are $2o USD per night. My favorite cheap place to stay here is Rocking J’s. It’s a bit outside the city but has the cheapest accommodation in town (hammocks, tents, dorms, and private rooms) and have great BBQs too.
- Budget Hotel Prices: Hotel prices start at $25 USD per night, which will get you breakfast and a private bathroom. More upscale accommodation is typically between $30-40 USD per night.
- Average Cost of Food: Local cuisine in a “soda” restaurant (local stand) will typically cost $3 USD. Main courses in most restaurants costing around $10 USD. On the road to the beach is a great pizza place for $4 USD and a little stall that sells the world’s best empanadas for $1 USD.
- Transportation Costs: Traveling by bus from San José will cost about $8 USD. In town, you can take shared taxis to some of the more distant beaches but renting a bike is much cheaper and similiar. They cost only a few dollars per day.
Money Saving Tips
- Eat Empanadas - On the road between town and Rocking J’s is a stall that sells fried chicken and empanadas for $1 USD. Not only are they delicious, they are ridiculously cheap. Eat at this place to save money. He opens after 4pm and is across from the Lizard King.
- Camp - Most of the resorts and hostels by the beach let you camp. If you don’t have your own tent, you can rent them. For only $8 USD per night, it’s the best way to keep your accommodation costs down.
- Drink Outside Town - Bars in town are about 25% more than the hostels and hotel bars that line the road towards the main beach. Start your night there and save some money.
- 2-for-1 and All You Can Eat - The Japanese restaurant in town has two for one happy hours every night and all-you-can-eat sushi on Tuesdays.
Top Things to Do
- Hit the beach - This area is known for it’s beautiful Caribbean beaches. Simply put, there’s nothing better to do in this town than lay on the beach and just hang out.
- Surfing - This is the most famous surfing area on the Caribbean coast and you’ll find lots of places ready to teach you how to surf. Though the waves aren’t as good as on the Pacific coast, it’s easier to learn and a lot cheaper here.
- Cahuita National Park- About an hour north to Puerto Viejo, is Cahuita National Park. This is one of Costa Rica’s smaller and less-visited parks. There are eight km of trails that go through the jungle and along beaches. It’s beautiful and you have an extremely high chance of seeing lots of monkeys. The town that borders the park is quieter than Puerto Viejo so if you need a break from crowds, relax here for a few days. Here is a video:
- Yoga – Many, many, many Westerners have moved to the area and many of these westerners are very “new age.” In that spirit they have opened up a lot of Yoga and healing shops here. If you are into yoga and miss your fix from back home, this is a great place to take a class.
- Visit the Iguanas - A few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo lies the Iguana Conservation Centre. For $15, you can take a tour of the facility and learn a lot more about the Green Iguana, which is an endangered specie.
- Rent a Bike - For about $5 USD, you can rent a bike for a day. It’s nice to cycle to Manzanillo and back (around 25 km in total). Along the way, explore the secluded beaches, and take time to have a picnic lunch.
- Tour the Jaguar Rescue Centre - This foundation works at rescuing and rehabilitating animals like jaguars and howler monkeys. The animals are not kept in captivity longer than necessary, so that means you may not always get to see a jaguar, but this centre does offer the chance to get more intimate interaction with some of Costa Rica’s wildlife. In any case, it’s a worthy cause to support.
- Sample some Natural Juices and Homemade Chocolate - Finca La Isla is an ecologically-friendly farm and botanical garden that offers tours to visitors. You can learn about the medicinal herbs and plant life of the area, sample some of the farm’s products (like fresh juices and chocolate), and see a variety of exotic plants and animals. Tropical frogs love the botanical gardens, and you have a great chance at spotting the red poison dart frog.
- Ride a Horse along the Beach - Have you always been tempted by the romance of an ocean-side horseback ride? Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures offers rides through the jungle and along the beach. The rides cater to all skill levels, and range in price from $60 USD (two hours) to $85 USD (half day)
- Go Fishing - Costa Rica offers some of the world’s best sport fishing. Whether you’re an avid fisher, or a newbie, there are plenty of fishing options. Trips vary in length and cost, and be sure to ask about snorkeling possibilities for a combined tour.
Other Destinations in Costa Rica
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