Puerto Viejo, located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, serves as a great base to go explore all the beautiful spots that this part of the country has to offer. Everything to see around Puerto Viejo definitely makes it worth a trip to the Caribbean coast. The hostel we stayed in made our trip even more worth the long bus ride (6 hours) from San Jose and we’ll reveal this fantastic cheap hostel below. As a whole, this country is becoming more and more expensive for tourists, but traveling on a budget is absolutely doable on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica; especially considering all of the following free things to do:
Punta Uva Arrecife
Punta Uva Arrecife is probably the most beautiful beach on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. It’s a gorgeous long beach covered in countless palm trees and other tropical trees as well as wildlife! If you’re there on a calm day, without much wind, you’ll be able to have a great snorkeling day. The best thing is that beach access as well as snorkeling is free, you just have to bring your own snorkeling gear or rent it.
Important: Make sure to go to Punta Uva ARRECIFE and not Punta Uva, as they are two different beaches and the Punta Uva beach is not nearly as nice.
You can get there very easily by taking the local bus from Puerto Viejo for around 600 Colones. If you want to get on a bus in Costa Rica, you just have to wave it down and it will pick you up. You can pay the bus driver directly with cash. Ask your hostel or hotel about the timetable, because the bus schedules change all the time.
Cahuita National Park
This is probably the best place we’ve visited on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and when staying in Puerto Viejo. Cahuita National Park is packed with incredible wildlife! While walking through this thick rainforest right by the beach, you will see breathtaking beaches, tired sloths, hungry raccoons, all kinds of monkeys, well-hidden alligators, pretty butterflies and much more! Entry to the national park does not cost anything. However, you can donate as little or as much as you like. Don’t feel pressured to donate more than you can afford.
It’s just as easy to get here as to Punta Uva Arrecife. Just hop on one of the local buses and spend a day or a morning in this magical place.
Punta Uva Arrecife and Cahuita National Park bring us to the next amazing free thing to do on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica: Snorkeling. Both places are beautiful snorkeling spots to snorkel right off the shore, but be aware that snorkeling is only possible during calm and good weather conditions. Do not try snorkeling in high waves and rough weather. In Cahuita National Park, you will also find signs and information on where it is safe and appropriate to snorkel.
Punta Cocles is THE surfer beach. There are usually many people here enjoying the wind or surfing the waves. Moreover, quite contrary to most surfer beaches, Punta Cocles is pretty scenic with beautiful tiny islands just off the shore, which make for some pretty pictures. Relax, swim and enjoy a nice beach day, here.
We’ll tell you how to get here in the next section.
Punta Cocles Walk
In order to get to Punta Cocles, you should definitely take the Punta Cocles Walk which starts right by the Salsa Brava Bar. There are signs, so you can’t miss it. This walk is an experience in itself, as it takes you through the rainforest along the coastline of Puerto Viejo. Here, you can enjoy the nature just outside of town. Even if you don’t want to go to Punta Cocles or spend the day there, you should take this short walk of 1.5 km or 3 km return.
Manzanillo National Park
We haven’t been here, but many many people have told us that it’s definitely worth a visit. Manzanillo National Park is similar to Cahuita, but the walk is supposed to be more difficult. If you have the time, go to both. If you don’t have much time just decide whether you like an easy rainforest walk (Cahuita) or a more difficult one (Manzanillo). We’ve also heard that in order to hike further into the Manzanillo National Park, you will need a guide, as the trails become very hard at some point. However, the beginning should be easy and you should be fine on your own.
Additional travel tips for Puerto Viejo de Talamanca:
Stay in one of the many cheap and beautiful hostels in Puerto Viejo to explore the surrounding area. We highly recommend Vista Verde if you love being surrounded by nature and want easy access to all of the free things to do. This hostel is located on the edge of town in the middle of a green oasis yet within walking distance of all restaurants and supermarkets. The local bus stop is also only a few meters away, which makes Vista Verde a great base to go explore all the nearby must-sees around Puerto Viejo.
Take the local bus or hitchhike. Hitchhiking is very common and safe in Costa Rica, especially on the Caribbean coast. However, we mostly took the local bus because it is very cheap and convenient, since it takes you to all the places you should visit.
We found that almost all restaurants, even the sodas (local places), are pretty expensive if you are traveling on a budget. On average, a meal in one of the sodas will cost you a minimum of $7 and the portions are quite small in our opinion. Street food can be even more expensive. Therefore, we decided to cook most of our meals at our hostel, which saved us a lot of money.
If you go in rainy season (June to November), prices will be even cheaper! Don’t be scared of the weather as it doesn’t rain all day. It typically starts raining in the afternoon (3 pm), so you can go explore before that and relax afterwards.
Other things to do on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica:
If you are willing to spend money on activities, check out mytanfeet’s article on 13 fun things to do in Puerto Viejo.
So there you have it. We hope this article has encouraged the budget traveler in you to swing down to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and go explore all of the cool (and free) things this place has to offer.
Have you ever been here or would you like to go? We love to hear what others think of a destination and would be happy if you were to leave us a comment. 🙂
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