10 Best Things To Do In Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

There are many fun things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Officially called Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, this small town on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is a pleasant place to spend a few days relaxing, taking in the chilled vibes, exploring the beaches and the nature reserves, learning about local wildlife, and practicing all sorts of water sports.

I spent a week in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca during my backpacking trip across Central and South America, and explored it in depth, so I thought I’d share with you all the best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, complete with a few tips that will help you make the most of this fabulous destination.

Make sure to also read my post 38 Best Things To Do In Costa Rica.

Best Things To Do In Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Bike around

One of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo to enjoy it in all its glory is to hop on a bike and pedal your way around the town. Not only is it also the main way to get around (lots of locals use bikes, too), but it’s also a super relaxing way to soak up the life of this beachside Caribbean destination.

You can spend as much time as you want cycling around — a couple of hours, or even over a few days — exploring the lesser-known sights and best beaches in Puerto Viejo.

Using a bike to get around makes it easy to get from one beach to the next, which is a plus if you’re all about sun, sea, and sand. The bonus is that the roads to get around are bike-friendly and newly paved.

things to do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

One particularly good cycle route takes you from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo along the coast, weaving inland and through jungle scenery, too, allowing you to soak up some beautiful sea views along the way. This peaceful road runs for 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) and takes around upwards of an hour, especially if you stop off along the way.

Once you’re in Manzanillo, you can enjoy the life of this laid-back town. You can see the colorful houses, grab something to eat at one of its handful of eateries, and simply sit back on its long stretch of beach, before heading on your bike again on the winding route back to Puerto Viejo.

Bicycles can be rented from any number of places in Puerto Viejo, from hostels to specific bike rental shops. These cost around $10 USD per day. There are even electric bikes if you really want to take it easy!

You can also book this guided bike tour to Manzanillo from Puerto Viejo, which lasts 6 full hours.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Enjoy a day at the beach

You’re in the Caribbean, so it goes without saying that one of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is to spend time at the beach. Puerto Viejo is known for its wonderful beaches, and the surrounding area is punctuated with long stretches of sandy coastline lapped by turquoise seas — many of which are easily reached by bike.

One of the best beaches in Puerto Viejo is Punta Uva. Translating to “Grape Point” because of the sea grapes that grow offshore here, this well-known beach is also one of the most popular.

Protected by a reef, it is famed for its calm waters and powdery white sand, making for the ideal place to spend an afternoon relaxing. Located in the small village of Punta Uva, it’s around 5 miles (8.5 kilometers) south of Puerto Viejo.

things to do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Playa Cocles is another of the top beaches in Puerto Viejo. If you think of a beach in the Caribbean, this is the sort of thing you imagine: a mile-long stretch of sand backed by palm trees. But it isn’t necessarily about kicking back and relaxing.

Instead, Playa Cocles, located in the town of the same name just south of Puerto Viejo, is all about surfing. In fact, surfers from around the world flock to this idyllic destination to catch a wave.

Then there’s Playa Puerto Viejo. Located in the town of Puerto Viejo itself, this scenic spot is a good place for both surfing and snorkeling to catch a glimpse of some local marine life. It may be small, but this relaxing beach has a local feel, the water is clean and there’s a handful of places to eat.

things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Go to Cahuita National Park

Established in 1970, the enormous Cahuita National Park spans both land and sea, protecting huge swathes of jungle and shoreline. Known for its biodiversity, it’s one of the biggest attractions for visitors to Puerto Viejo.

The marine area of the national park covers over 55,000 acres and is home to an enormous reef. Here you’ll find 123 species of fish, over 30 coral species, and several different sea turtles that nest here.

Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

The 2,732-acre land portion of Cahuita National Park forms the habitat for a long list of animals, from mammals including raccoons, howler monkeys, and capuchin monkeys, to bird species such as billed toucans and kingfishers. And of course, this is one of the best places in Costa Rica to spot sloths too!

There are a number of different ways to enjoy this vast national park. Hiking trails weave through the lush forests, while out to sea there are a number of diving sites, including shipwrecks, where visitors can discover the rich marine life of the area.

This guided tour to Cahuita National Park also goes to Bri Bri waterfalls for a fun day out of Puerto Viejo.

For information about visiting Cahuita National Park, make sure to visit their official website.

things to do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Spend a day in Manzanillo

Manzanillo is easily reached from Puerto Viejo, either by bike as I mentioned earlier or via taxi. Sealed roads only connected Manzanillo to the rest of Costa Rica in 2003, which means that this quiet village has long preserved a rich Afro-Caribbean culture all of its own.

This heritage was further strengthened by the establishment of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo in 1985, which prohibits overdevelopment in the town, protecting both culture and nature in the area.

A day trip here means soaking up the easygoing pace of life that Manzanillo is famous for. But aside from simply sitting around on the beach and wandering around, there are a few different activities and places you can visit on a day trip here.

To book your Gondoca – Manzanillo hike, click here.

things to do in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

One option is the Nature Observatorio. This huge treehouse is set inland in the Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo and is a really cool place to see the flora and fauna from 25 meters (82 feet) up in the jungle canopy. There’s even the chance to spend the night up there if you want to really experience the rainforest ambiance.

Elsewhere in Manzanillo is the beach of Playa Grande, where you’ll find not only a beautiful slice of sand but also the town’s iconic graffiti-covered shipwreck, which is an impressive photo opportunity.

things to do Puerto Viejo

Nature lovers should make sure to stop off at Ara Manzanillo on the way to the town from Puerto Viejo. This non-profit organization is a breeding project that aims to protect green macaws and their dwindling population.

You can see several species of green macaws here living in the rainforest. It’s an amazing project; the staff here do really impressive work in bringing these majestic birds back from the brink of extinction.

Jaguar Rescue Center Costa Rica
Photo by Adriana Margarita Larios Arellano @shutterstock

Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center

The Ara Manzanillo is not the only wildlife conservation effort that’s working hard to protect native species in the area. There’s also the Jaguar Rescue Center – visiting is definitely one of the unmissable things to do in Puerto Viejo.

Located on the outskirts of Puerto Viejo, the non-profit organization is a rehabilitation center for monkeys, sloths, and other mammals, as well as reptiles and birds. They provide veterinary care, round-the-clock services, and release efforts for these rescued animals.

The Jaguar Rescue Center was brought to international attention after the Zac Effron documentary Down to Earth (he visited the center in episode 3).

Visitors can go on an hour-and-a-half tour of the animal sanctuary, and learn about the work that the staff here do, as well as the plight of the wildlife in the region, and why they are at risk.

The center has no government funding, relying solely on donations from visitors and the money received from tours, which goes directly back into the center.

The tours here (in English and Spanish) cost $24 USD + VAT and run most days between 9:30 am and 11:30 am. As per the website, reservations are not necessary but you may still want to check the website and book your visit in advance – you can do that here.

Alternatively, you can book this tour that goes to the Jaguar Rescue Center as well as Punta Uva Beach and which includes a jungle hike too.

Photo by oscar garces @shutterstock

Eat rondon!

Discovering the destination through its culinary offerings is easily one of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo. The most iconic dish here has got to be rondon. Rondon is a typical Caribbean-influenced stew, concocted with coconut milk and featuring seafood and vegetables. Essentially, this is a dish of necessity, with no set recipe, only the use of coconut milk and then whatever root vegetables and seafood is available that day.

It’s a local staple that has roots in the Afro-Caribbean population of the region, particularly with people who moved here from Jamaica to work on the railways in the early 20th century. In fact, the word “rondon” itself comes from Jamaican Patois, meaning “run down,” which is a reference to the runny consistency of the coconut sauce.

Though it’s classic home cooking, it can still be found at a few eateries in the area. One of the best places to try rondon in Puerto Viejo is Selvin. Located close to Punta Uva, it’s a real gem — people travel from afar just to eat their delicious rondon (costing between USD $7 to $10, depending on the size).

Another spot is Soda El Ranchito – that’s where I tried it, and it was really delicious. Closer to the center of Puerto Viejo, it serves up a family recipe of the Caribbean specialty that has been passed down for generations; you’ll be glad you found this place!

In short, rondon could very easily become one of your favorite meals during your travels in Costa Rica.

Bri Bri Waterfalls Costa Rica
Photo by Cris Young @shutterstock

Go to Bri Bri Waterfalls

Hidden in the rainforest that backs the beautiful coastal town of Puerto Viejo are a number of stunning natural sights, not least the Bri Bri Waterfalls. These gushing natural cascades can be found deep in the jungle, and are reached only on foot via nature trails. Seeing them is best done with a guide, but if you’ve got your own transport it’s possible to do it yourself.

There are various tour options available to anybody who wants to see these incredible waterfalls. One option takes you from Puerto Viejo into the rainforest as you follow a guided nature trail. You’ll be able to spend time swimming in the natural pools formed by the cascades, surrounded by the lush Costa Rican rainforest — all to the soundtrack of birds, monkeys, and the waterfall itself.

Make sure to check out this guided tour of Cahuita National Park as it also goes to Bri Bri waterfalls. It lasts half a day, it includes hotel pick up, a local guide and snacks too.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Go on a chocolate tour

The cacao tree has been an important plant in Costa Rica for countless generations. The produce of the tree in the form of pods has long helped to sustain indigenous communities, both in the form of food and medicine.

Traditionally, the beans are roasted over a fire, which are then sieved to de-shell them, after which the beans are ground into a paste, creating pure cacao. Then to make chocolate, add milk and sugar in various ratios.

If you’re a chocolate lover, or even if you’re not, there are a number of different tours that offer a glimpse into the process of chocolate making, as well as the cultural heritage of the cacao plant itself.

In Puerto Viejo, the indigenous Bribri people have been producing chocolate in the jungle for centuries. A chocolate tour helps you learn more about these indigenous people and helps to support locally produced chocolate. Of course, there’s tasting involved, as well as the chance to buy some genuine chocolate for yourself.

There are several chocolate tours in the Puerto Viejo area. You may want to consider one of these:

Bribri Magic Chocolate and Waterfall Experience – the most popular chocolate experience with the Bribri Indigenous Community, it includes a stop at the Bribri waterfalls.

Chocolate Experience by Bribri Indigenous Culture – another well reviewed tour in the area, that includes an in-depth visit of the Bribri communities as well as a trip to the Bribri waterfalls.

Paucare River Rafting Costa Rica
Photo by Fabienne Kunz @shutterstock


Not all of the activity in this part of the country happens on the coastline. In fact, one of the best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, is rafting!

Head inland to the jungles and you’ll find a wealth of adventures to be had. The Pacuare River is one of the best places to go rafting in the area, with tours leaving Puerto Viejo and taking small groups to tackle the roaring river’s rapids.

Tours see you embarking on a rafting trip along the river, including 50 rapids of varying classes on an 18-mile (29-kilometer) stretch of the river. Aside from the powerful rapids themselves, the route itself is particularly attractive, cutting through a gorge that is completely surrounded by towering green-clad cliffs, waterfalls, and lush rainforests.

There’s even the chance to spot native wildlife as you go along, including sloths and toucans. Tours typically include a hotel pick-up and drop-off for extra convenience and also include breakfast and lunch to fuel yourself for this adrenaline-packed experience.

This guided whitewater rafting experience on the Pacuare River includes transportation from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, breakfast and lunch and is highly reviewed.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca


Boards at the ready: Puerto Viejo is one of the best places for surfing in Costa Rica. In fact, some people even go as far as to say that this is a legendary surf spot. Surfers from all over the world regularly make their way to Puerto Viejo, staying for weeks at a time to ride the incredible surf here.

The best-known break in Puerto Viejo is called Salsa Brava. This reef break is one of the biggest in all of Costa Rica, making it a veritable haven. But even if you’re not a veteran surfer, you can still take part thanks to the number of surf schools here.

Complete beginners can learn the ropes from experienced instructors, meaning that this could be your chance to go surfing for the first time. And what better place than one of the world’s premier surf spots?

Further Readings

These other posts will be useful when planning a trip to Costa Rica:

Pin It For Later!
Discover the best things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica - via @clautavani

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.