Costa Rica's

PUERTO VIEJO DE TALAMANCA

Global Mark : 14.18

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 4 5 3 2 1 4 5 2 13.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
20 90%(18) 85%(17) 85%(17) 8 to 20 15.35


Description : A small Afro-westerners village by some nice surfing waves and deserted beaches.

Comment : It is fairly more touristy than Cahuita as the beaches and waves around are much nicer. If you do not surf, you may however prefer to relax in Cahuita and come here as a day trip

What to do ? Get a free colored map of the village & area / Meet surfers or become one ! / Ride the most famous wave in Central America : Salsa Brava (between Dec-March & June-July) / Walk the forest or the beaches / Watch out for a sloth by the side of the road / Visit the nearby Bribri Indigenous reserves / Snorkel / Play the waves with caution / Relax on white or black sand / Play dominos with the locals / Listen to reggae / Ride a quad in the countryside toward a waterfall

What you may not like ? The high cost of accomodation and low standard of the cheapest (with a few exceptions) / Seeing more westerners than Afro-locals / Not surfing / Not surfing well enough for the "perfect wave" / Not spotting any perfect wave because it went somewhere else / The rather noisy (reggae) atmosphere / The mosquitoes and sand flies (some carrying a nasty sloth disease) / The confusing bus schedules

How long ? A couple of day if you enjoy the atmosphere. 

Where to stay ? 

- In the center of the village, from west (forest) to east (Cahuita) :

  • Cabinas Grant (700292), on the main road / 5000(1) or 7000(2) / Clean but basic & rather empty rooms so overpriced !
  • Cabinas Diti (7500311), on the sea curving road / w. shower 2500(1), 3500(2) or 4500(3) / Add C500 in HS / Go there for the correct rooms and correct prices / What you may not like : it is rather basic and the area could be noisy
  • Hotel Y Cabinas Maritza (7500199), near the above / 3500(1) or 4000(2), w. shower 8000 / The ridiculous prices and cold welcome did not make me feel like checking the rooms...
  • Cabinas Los Almendros, after the above / Nobody was there but could be worth a look

- On the streets running South from the main street, from east to west :

  • Hotel Puerto Viejo, street opp the bus stop / Sgl 1500, w. fan 1900, Dbl w. fan 3800, w. shower 5500 / Go there for the cheapest Sgl rates and the relaxed young atmosphere / What you may not like : the rooms are basic and depressing to the extreme, especially downstairs. Could not check the ones w. shower. 
  • Cafe El Rico, turn left after the above / Basic rooms without shower $15 / The Holland owner started to insult me after I suggested that his rooms were maybe a bit overpriced. Lovely guy !
  • ® Cabinas Casa Verde (7500015), after the above  / Swiss-Costarican management / without shower $14-16(1), 18-22(2) or 28(3), w. shower 30(2-3) or 35(4) / Go there for the superb setting, the spacious rooms and terraces, the bamboo & plants decor, the hammocks on the terrace and the spotless atmosphere / What you may not like : the prices, obviously !
  • ® Cabinas Jacaranda (7500075), second street, South of Correo / without shower $10(1) or 16(2), w. shower but no toilet 12(1) or 20(2), w. shower & toilet 22(1 or 2), w. HW 25(2) or 35(3) / HS rates so negotiate during LS !  / Kitchen / Go there for the lovely setting in a tropical garden and the clean little rooms /  What you may not like : the confusing price policy as there are many different kind of rooms concentrated in a small area
  • Hotel Pura Vida (7500002), South of the above / w. lavatory $12(1) or 16(2), w. HW shower 22 / / Kitchen / Go there for the large comfortable rooms / What you may not like : no garden setting 
  • ® Hotel Los Suenos (7500369), hotellossuenos@hotmail.com), last street (west), just S of main road, near Cabinas Grant / French-Swiss-Tico family / without shower $12(1) or 15(2) / Go there for the intimate atmosphere, the correct little rooms with good mattress and the sea view from the terrace / What you may not like : tiny garden and intimate atmosphere / Bike renting

- Over the hills, a bit S of the village :, after the field (follow the signs) :

  • ® Kiskidee Lodge (7500075), 10mn walk up / Dorm (4 or 5) $6 p.p., use of hammock C1500 / Kitchen / Drinkable water / Go there for the isolation inside the forest, the charming wooden house, the relaxing & friendly backpacking atmosphere w. books & games and the correct dorm with Mosquito Net (MN) / What you may not like : no fan and no light on the tricky path !
  • ® Cashew Hill (7500256), take the small lighted path on the left just after the wooden bridge / Dorm (4) $7, Sgl 10, Dbl 15, Trpl 18 / HS 7, 10, 18 & 21 / Kitchen / Go there for the exceptional setting over the hill, the view toward the ocean (perfect wave), the correct rooms w. fan & MN, the biggest space and the relaxing atmosphere / What you may not like : only common HW shower !

- In the east section of town, by the forest :

  • ® Camping Cutbak, inside the forest and near the beach / C750 if tent, C1000 if you need one / The nicest camping spotted but a bit busy. Cheap soda as well.
  • Coconut Grove, just opp the above / Nobody was around except a lovely white dog which bitted me ! 
  • Cabinas Talamanca (7500425), east of the above / C2000, w. shower 3000 / Go there for the cheapest rates for Dbl and the very relaxed (too much ?) atmosphere / What you may not like : the rooms are basic and charmless
  • ® Calau (7500042), after the above / French management / bungalows $15, w shower 20 / HS 20 & 25 / Go there for the nice setting, correct rooms and access to the butterfly garden where you can have your breakfast /  What you may not like : the rooms are a bit empty
  • Cabinas Monte Sol (7500098), next to the above / German management / rw. shower HW shower $15, HS 20 / Correct rooms but not as nice as the above as rather basic
  • Vista Verde, in the same area, was closed but could be worth checking
  • Cabinas David (7500542), west from the above, on the main road / Large & nice rooms but expensive at C5000 (1) or 8000(2). Even more during HS (C9000)
  • Cabinas Yucca (7500285), a bit further west / German management / Same standing as the above at the same prices : $15(1) or 20(2) / HS 20 & 25


Where to eat ? Plenty of restaurants & soda in town. The dish to go for is of course the rice & beans cooked with coco milk. One of the cheapest place spotted for it was Miss Sam's, South of the eastern street, near the field : C800 with chicken, 700 w. pasta . Quite a few bakeries as well for good snacks. For drink, get a coconut near the bus station for C100.

Internet ? The cheapest place is at the post office (correo) : C300 for 30mn or C500 per hour. The most comfortable (AC !) is however by the creperia Meeting point : C500 for 15mn, C900 for 30mn or C1500 per hour. Cabinas Monte Sol also offer the service for C25 per mn (min 10mn)

Bank ? They are building it right now and should be completed soon (Updated June 03) Change for cash & TC possible but expect a rather poor rate for the later. 

Bike ? It cost C1500 for one day and C1000 for half a day. 


A walk on the beaches ?
Puerto Viejo's beach is nice enough but the beaches that stretch up to Manzanillo and beyond are much nicer. You could spend a good half day walking them.

The bus for Manzanillo from Limon passed Cahuita at 7am and Puerto Viejo at around 7:30. The additional 12km require 30mn and C175. The bus will stop in front of Maxi's which provide the cheapest accommodations of the village : grungy & basic rooms w. shower for C3000. Pangea (7590604) is much nicer but cost $27(1) or 35(2) w. HW shower & breakfast. Cabinas Something Different (7590634) is a better quality-price ratio w. rooms w. HW shower, fridge & cable TV for 15(1) or 30(2). Free use of kitchen as well. It is possible to dive at Aquamor Adventures (aquamor@sol.racsa.co.cr) but it isn't cheap at $300 for the open water certification or $55 for two tanks boat dive. Manzanillo is part of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre which covers 50 square km of land (sloths, howler & white-faced capuchin monkeys, caimans, etc) and nearly the same area of protected coral reef (turtles, lobster, eagle rays, nurse sharks, etc). Kayaking the river ($6 per hour) is also an option.

The beach by this tiny village isn't too nice however as rather dirty. After around 30mn walk on the beach, I reached the very original Almonds & Corals Lodge (2722024, almonds@sol.racsa.co.cr) It is very expensive at $40-50(1) or 60-70 for 2 (plus tax) but the setting right inside the jungle is clearly worth a look. The bungalows are open to the jungle, protected only by a mosquito net. Getting some cold free water could be another reason to visit... Another 30mn walk and you should reach other expensive hotels : Club Suerre ($75 Dbl) and Las Palmas, near the edge. 

Punta Uva, just on the other side, is arguably the nicest stretch of sand around, with crystal clear water and beautiful palms trees. There is also a few places to stay : Arrecife Lodge (7500100) is right on the beach and offers nice rooms for C10-12000 (1) or 12-15000 (2 to 4) w. HW shower. Cabinas Del Mar (7500144) could be cheaper but nobody was around when I visited.

From there, you could try to get up the edge for a panoramic view. I did not and followed the road until a small tienda where I turned right to reach the beach again. Playa Chiquita wasn't the nicest section of beach. It got much better at Punta Cocles, thanks to the huge waves, a good spot for surfers. Cabias Garibaldi (7500101) is the best deal in the area with correct rooms w. shower for 2800(2), 3800(3) and 4800(4). Also a room w. kitchen & fridge for 7000. La Isla Inn (7500109, academy@sol.racsa.co.cr) is certainly much nicer but also much more expensive at $20-25(1) or 30-40(2). A bit cheaper downstairs but no terrace and no view ! 

From there, you have the choice of either walk the main road or take a lovely small path inside the forest. There, you will find Apartments Acapi whose setting and tree-shower are worth a look. Another km or so and you will reach Puerto Viejo, exiting the forest at the level of "La Salsa Brava", the most famous surf-wave in Central America (visible only from Dec-March & June-July). 

Altogether, allow around 5 hours walk and sightseeing breaks. More if you decide to swim. If you do, be very cautious : regular signs advise against strong rip current. People are dying along this coast every year !


The best beach ?
The best of the best was reported to be Punta Mona, a few km east of Manzanillo. Maybe because there is no road and you need to walk... Unfortunately, I hear about it too late... 


Backpacker's Tips : Anthony Asael (March 04)
« Hotel Puerto-Viejo: 5us, loud, very small rooms , no windows, no really simpatico, but cheapest.
Puerto Limon: worth a stop-by even for couple of days. Lovely park, lovely people, lovely music. I heard it was dangerous, but didn’t feel that way. I danced a lot of salsa over there.» 

 << Discover a charming coast


Leaving ?
As usual, always double check with local people and show up half an hour before the "regular" schedule. To Manzanillo (C175, 30mn) pass at around 7:30, 16 & 19. / To Cahuita (C225, 30mn) at around 6, 9, 13:45, 16, & 17. They continue to Limon (C405, 1.5 hours) / Direct buses to San Jose depart Manzanillo at 7am daily and  at 1pm on Frid & Sund. They pass Puerto Viejo at 7:30 & 13:30 / Direct buses from Sixaola to San Jose pass Puerto Viejo at 7, 9, 11 & 16. It takes 4.5 hours(C 2545) to San Jose (Updated June 03 by Eric et Adeline from
Hotel Los Suenos)

The trip to Sixaola (Panama Border) : SS / L & R / C425 / 1.5 hours
The bus arrived from Limon via Cahuita (6am) at 6:40. It made a loop in Puerto Viejo and left 5mn later. Half an hour later, we stopped : "15mn break for breakfast !" said the driver. A last opportunity to spend my remaining colones as there were a few supermarkets nearby. Half an hour later, we took the bumpy road alongside banana plantations toward the border. There really wasn't much to see and I kept wondering why, with so many bananas around, I could not find any to buy in the shops...

See also the trip from Cahuita