Head on an unfamiliar pillow. Eyes flutter open to the first peaks of the morning sun. Ears fill with exotic sounds of howler monkeys roaring in distant trees and tropical birds singing their morning melodies. The world is calm and slow to wake. The mind is clear and relaxed. The days are unhurried and laid-back, incorporating Latin, Caribbean, Indigenous and Hippie vibes at the core of the culture. The lush rainforest meets the vast and unforgiving sea – providing both grounding and free-flowing energy. This is where the beautiful surfer town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca lives. This is where magic lives. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is located along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in Limón Province. This small reggae surfer hippie town neighbours the area inhabited by BriBri, a large indigenous population, as well as a few other beach towns that span across the main road.
Puerto Viejo is accessible by local bus for about $10 USD or by shuttle, which costs around $55 USD; both of which drive directly from San José to Puerto Viejo in about five hours. As the bus drives across the small bridge and into the town of Puerto Viejo you can immediately feel that this is a special place. From the reggae music that fills the streets, colourful shops, Pura Vida vibes, excited tourist, local surfers lounging on the beach, veggie carts selling local produce, cyclists dodging motor bikes, and stray dogs looking for scraps to eat, this place has room for everyone.
To get around the small town of Puerto Viejo many people choose to rent bikes for the cost of about $4 USD a day, though it is certainly easy to walk the town in a few minutes.
For the Beach Dweller – Local Beach Spots
As the main road of Puerto Viejo runs along the sea, there are many beaches to choose from if a beach day or a surf lesson is calling your name. Playa Grande, or Black Sand Beach, is known for its dark sand and picturesque sunset views. Salsa Brava is the main beach in town and features an abandoned ship and beach bars. Playa Cocles is farther from town and a popular beach to spend the day laying in the sun, grabbing a surf lesson, or playing some beach volleyball. Outside of Puerto Viejo lies Playa Chiquita, Playa Punta Uva, and Playa Manzanillo, which are easily accessible by bike and provide beautiful and relaxing beaches to swim, tan, and snorkel.
For the Spiritual Seekers and Healers – Yoga, Kirtan, Reiki, and More
Beyond the world-famous waves and relaxing beaches, Puerto Viejo has a wide variety to offer travelers. Yoga classes are available throughout town, many of which are free or donation based. Kirtan, a form of chanting, is organized occasionally, and it is not difficult to find different healers providing Reiki, Thai Massage, and other therapeutic services.
For the Adventurer – National Parks, Waterfalls and Jungle Hikes
For the adventurous type, Cahuita and Manzanillo both offer national parks which are accessible by local bus and offer an array of tropical animals, beautiful beaches, and easy walking trails. Bribri, located in the mountains behind Puerto Viejo, is rich with beautiful waterfalls, both touristic and secret ones that range from a short bus ride and walk to a few hours of hiking into the jungle.
For the Party Animal – Puerto Viejo Nightlife
If you are one to party, the nightlife in Puerto Viejo is always vibrant and thrilling. A mix of reggae, Top 40, Latin and rap emerge from the speakers in the various bars around town. Monday to Thursday the bars feature “ladies’ night” where ladies drink for free and men flock because, well, the ladies are there. Locals battle it out in beer pong against tourists and the dance floors fill with drunk girls . Fire shows featuring talented performers provide alluring and mesmerizing entertainment, and a walk along the beach is never far from reach.
For the Animal Lover – Sloths, Sloths and More Sloths
A close bike ride from Puerto Viejo lies the Jaguar Rescue Center. The center is the home to orphaned and injured animals until they can be released back into their habitat. There haven’t been any jaguars in many years, so not to worry – you won’t run into any newly released jungle cats on your way there. For those who specifically want to see Costa Rica’s favourite (and my favourite) animal, a short bus ride to Cahuita will take you to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica – and this time the residents of the center are true to its name! Of course, it is not necessary to visit a center to see the best of Puerto Viejo’s wildlife – you are in the jungle after all! A simple bike ride to the beach is usually accompanied by the appearance of several sloths hanging upside down as they lazily munch on leaves, howler monkeys as they gaze below looking for their next target practice, lizards, birds and many other creatures. This all sounds great, right? But what about this magic that was mentioned?
The magic of Puerto Viejo goes beyond the activities you can do and the places that you can see. This magic is found in the beautiful souls who inhabit this land, as well as those who are attracted to the area. It is a place where open-minded, spiritual, kind, intelligent people flock together to create an environment of acceptance and love. Whether your country of origin, ethnicity, education, sexuality, religion, purpose and experiences, you are accepted, appreciated and loved. The magic of Puerto Viejo lies in the warm Caribbean air and the nourishing rains that keep the jungle green and abundant. The magic lies in the salty cleansing sea, and the soft warm sand. The magic lies in the powerful vortex of Puerto Viejo that sucks travelers in for months at a time, fills them with love, and gives them a second home to come back to time and time again.