With a seemingly endless stretch of beach, world class surf meets reggae beats in the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo. One of the few surf towns on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo lies just a short bus ride away from the Panama border and offers an easy first or last stop in the country depending on your direction of travel.
Tie-dyed t-shirts, beanies, colorful dresses and headbands line the shops along the main strip with Bob Marely music drifting in and out of each establishment. Often referred to as a party destination, we found the town fairly laid back considering we were there over New Years. Hostels are abundant in town ranging from small family run establishments to the behemoth Rockin’ J’s Hostel that houses 80 hammocks, 40 tents, a few dozen private rooms and their own massive bar onsite. Needless to say if you’re looking for a party this is the place to be, but if you’re hoping for a good night sleep you might want to look elsewhere.
Most surfers come to town in search of the world renowned Salsa Brava wave. With its towering heights breaking over coral reef, this wave has earned the nickname of cheese grater for all those it has ground up over the reef. Luckily, more beginner waves can be found just a few kilometers down the road at both Playa Cocles and Playa Grande. Each of the beaches outside of the town can be easily reached by bicycle and make for a nice day trip as you head out along the jungle fringed road.
For those less surf inclined (myself included), Costa Rica is home to a plethora of outdoor adventure activities from zip trekking through the forest, ATV rides, horseback riding, snorkeling and more. Pretty much everything is on offer in every single you town you pass through across the country.
One signature attraction to Puerto Viejo is the Jaguar Rescue Centre. The center acts as a rescue operation for injured and abandoned animals in and around the area. It’s important to note there are NO actual jaguars at the facility. The owners rescued a jaguar years ago and unfortunately it passed away. It’s worth a trip to the center anyways as the proceeds of your visit go to help rehabilitate animals with the goal of being able to release them back into the wild.
When nighttime rolls around, check out any number of the local Soda’s or western food options in town. Meals range from fusion curries at the upscale, romantic Stashu con Fusion, to a set plate of rice, beans, chicken, plantains and salad at Soda Mirna. Afterwards take a stroll on the beach and then fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping the shore, or your hammock neighbor snoring loudly at Rockin’ J’s. Either way, Puerto Viejo is a must see destination on your travels through Costa Rica.