Getting to Puerto Viejo's Beaches
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is one of the more popular destinations on the country's Caribbean side, but getting there isn't as straightforward as some other regions of Costa Rica. Our ultimate guide to Puerto Viejo offers more details, but you generally have a few options on how to get to the area and explore the beaches. You can either fly into Límon and then drive about one hour south or, if you start from San José, you can drive about four hours via private transfer or rental car.
Traveling from one beach to the next might require a vehicle, though some are walking or biking distance to the area's main towns, so a lot depends on where you stay. You'll find plenty of lodgings in the region, including boutique hotels.
If you opt for a road trip starting in San José, Puerto Viejo pairs nicely with a stop in Tortuguero on the Caribbean's north side. Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following trips that combine Puerto Viejo with other areas in the country:
- Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast: Tortuguero & Puerto Viejo - 7 Days
- Caribbean Coast Adventure Tour - 10 Days
- Cultural Tour of Costa Rica: Arenal & Tortuguero - 13 Days
The Best Beaches of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Once you're on the coast, you'll find plenty of accommodations in Puerto Viejo, stretching along the shore around and between Puerto Viejo Town and Punta Uva. Likewise, this is where you'll find the beaches. You have your pick among several playas, including some perfect for surfing and others ideal for swimming or snorkeling in calmer waters.
Keep in mind that this coast area can experience strong winds, waves, and currents, so it's always best to check daily conditions before going swimming or surfing.
Playa Negra translates to "black beach," which fits the dark sand that appears along the shore, especially close to the surf. Just one mile north of Puerto Viejo Town, the beach stretches over six miles (10 km) to Cahuita National Park. Though it's within walking or cycling distance to shops and restaurants, it's still far enough to seclude you from the crowds and noise. The further north you go, the quieter it gets, and in some areas, you may even have the beach to yourself! If you stick closer to Puerto Viejo Town, the conditions are ideal for surfing.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
If you'd like to stay close to Puerto Viejo Town and within walking/biking distance to a couple of beaches, including Playa Negra, consider Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort or Azania Bungalows. Both accommodations feature private bungalows or lodges not too far from the coast.
Just two miles south of Puerto Viejo Town is Playa Cocles, a stretch of beach popular with locals, visitors, and surfers alike. It's a well-developed area, and you can swim under the watch of lifeguards. If you're looking to mingle, this is the place to be! There's a solid collection of restaurants and hotels in the area, so you won't run out of options when trying to decide where to eat in Puerto Viejo. If you're a surfer, you might want to head to the northern end of Playa Cocles, where the surf is a bit more exciting.
Playa Cocles is near several of kimkim's recommended accommodations, including Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort, Azania Bungalows, Relax Natural Village, and Villas Del Caribe. Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort is an excellent all-around option for any traveler, plus it features cozy lodges. Consider Relax Natural Lodge for a bit of luxury, Villas Del Caribe to stay close to the Jaguar Rescue Center, and Azania Bungalows for a quiet stay in private cabins.
About a mile and a half south of Playa Cocles is where you'll find Playa Chiquita. Although it's only 3.5 miles (5.5 km) from Puerto Viejo, it can feel a world away—to get there, keep an eye out for the unmarked jungle path that leads you to the sea. The water here tends to be calm, as it's protected by a reef and broken up into several bays, so it's ideal for swimming. Typically, the beach is nearly empty, so pack a snack and a good book, and embrace the silence and solitude!
Playa Chiquita is just across the main road from two of kimkim's recommended accommodations in the area. Both Namuwoki Lodge and Shawanda Lodge have beautiful private bungalows surrounded by the jungle yet are a quick walk from the beach.
Honeymooners will fall in love with Punta Uva, located about six miles (nine km) from Puerto Viejo's town center. The white sands meet clear blue and reef-protected waters, mingling with an ocean breeze that will have you feeling like you've got your own private slice of paradise. When the tide is low and the waters calm, there's plenty to see under the surface, so bring your snorkel gear if you're visiting from April to May or September to October.
True to its name, Playa Grande is the most extensive strip of beach in the Puerto Viejo region. And, as it's about seven miles (11 km) south of Puerto Viejo in the sleepy village of Manzanillo, it tends to be pretty empty. If you make it this far down the coast, consider booking a hike through the Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge to spot sloths, monkeys, iguanas, and other inhabitants.
Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is just 15 minutes north of Puerto Viejo and is a perfect place to explore land and sea. If you're in the area, you can easily pop into the park, enjoy a combined experience of hiking and snorkeling in Cahuita, and take advantage of its beautiful beaches. Hikes take you through the forest for a chance to see toucans, monkeys, and turtles, and while snorkeling, you can spot some of the 500 fish living on the coral reef.