The Caribbean coast is known for having a rasta-mentality, but it also has a strong native culture. From proud fisherman who helped build the Panama Canal - the locals were then forced to sell their lands to large banana growers and exporters. With little rights, they had to then work their own farms for little in payment.
The air is hot all year round, the water warm, and the best time for waves is January to April. All the beaches are popular with the locals on the weekends. Puerto Viejo can be a party town, so be careful late at night if you are on your own. The other beach communities are a lot quieter and peaceful.
From the airport, it's a drive through downtown and then another 2-3 hours to Limon through mountainous terrian for the first hour and then a straight shot to the coast. Sometimes this road is closed due to landslides, so if it is you need would have to drive through Turrialba which adds another hour to your trip. You will know when you are close to Limon as the road straightens out and you start seeing thousands of shipping containers for the nearby port of Main. To get to Cahuita or PuertoViejo, make a right at the signs directing you there and then drive for 70 km. south on the coast (if a bridge is not washed out). From there it's only 50 km. to Panama. Or travel north from Limon 5 km. to Playa Bonita and find a boat to take you farther to Tortuguero or out to Isla Uvita.
Click below for MAPS of the area provided by:
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From Puerto Viejo Satellite :
Due to the recent flooding caused by several tropical waves hitting the canton of Talamanca in Limon, home to Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, there is urgent need of assistance for many families who have literally lost everything. Tourist areas are mostly recovering quickly but a little up in the hills are the hidden tragedies. Gecko Trail Costa Rica is coordinating help. You can help make a difference by donating a food bag (with $10 you can get basic supplies for several days), hygiene products, clothes, shoes etc. If you are in the area you can drop donations off at the Pleasure Ride office in the Multicentro. If you are outside the area and would like to help, you can donate at the Puerto Viejo Satellite donation page and we will pass on your donation.
Jaguar Rescue Center is currently raising funds to insulate electrical transformers and save the many wild animals who are killed and injured by them every year. You can donate at their Go Fund Me page or get more information here.
ATEC and greencoast.com have started a Twitter feed at 'gcpuertoviejo', with a “green tip” posted every day to remind folks in Talamanca and all over the globe of the little things you can do to keep Talamanca green.
ATEC, the Talamancan Association of Ecotourism and Conservation, based in Puerto Viejo, was able to raise money to purchase school supplies for all 20 kids at the Kekoldi School. It has also purchased four sets of schoolbooks for students at the Patino School, and is still raising funds to get books for all 50 students. A set of books costs just 6,000 colones ($12) per student. Donations to ATEC can be made through PayPal, or email them for more information.
This pretty beach is where the Limon locals go on the weekend to enjoy the waves. The beachbreak out front can get big and closes out on almost every wave over chest high. There is a reef on the left that breaks very far off and is very shallow with fast, hollow sections. Needs a big swell to work. The beach is better at high tide, the reef at midtide.
Playa Bonita - Los Tumbos
Los Tumbos 'The Tombstones' is on the far south side of Playa Bonita. It gets its name from the large rocks that the wave smashes into on every set. It is a short, powerful, hollow right that is mostly surfed by bodyboarders with no fear. It breaks better at lower tides. Not recommend for surfing except by the pros, who have plenty of boards to break.
Isla Uvita "Island of Small Grapes" was the first place that Columbus landed on in 1506. He did not come to surf, but if he had he would have enjoyed seeing the lefts that peel off the island when there is a strong East swell. Waves can get over triple overhead and not close out, but there is no room for mistakes as the mainland is a 40 minute boat ride away. It breaks over shallow reef. The island is totally undeveloped.
The entire stretch of the coast from Limon to Cahuita CAN be surfed, but should it? Lots of rivermouths running from the banana plantations mean polluted water and plenty of crocs. The beachbreak is best at higher tides, and anything over head high tends to close out. Best bet is to keep driving south to Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.
Cahuita - Black Beach
Cahuita's Playa Negra is a small, dark sand beach about an hour drive south of Limon. There is parking along the beach, but be careful not to leave anything in the car. The waves break on sand, and generally are small and easy for beginners. When there is swell it can get hollow and break far outside. There is also a rock ledge that starts throwing out lefts when it is overhead or bigger. The best tide is around high tide. Watch out for sea urchins and sharp reef at the south end of the beach.
Cahuita - Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca is next to the entrance of the Cahuita National Park. The wave starts to break at chest high or bigger off a shallow reef and into a tiny bay, closing out after a short fun left. The best tide is midtide coming in. A lot of locals like this spot and it will get crowded with surfers and bodyboarders sharing the two main peaks. The beachbreak to the south tends to close out when it's big.
Playa Vargas is about a kilometer walk inside the Cahuita National Park. When the rest of the Caribbean is tiny, this spot tends to be a foot or two bigger. Its remoteness keeps the crowds away. Be careful of the reef at lower tides.
Puerto Viejo - Salsa Brava
Salsa Brava is a right hand reef break that is know for big barrels from January to March. The reality is it is hit and miss, the swells are not consistent and the waves one day will be double overhead and the next chest high and choppy. When it's on, there is a heavy local contingent out there on surfboards and bodyboards. Different tides work better depending on the swell size and angle. It breaks bigger than it looks from the beach, and there is a thin channel to paddle through. Find it or you'll get caught on some dry reef with sea urchins.
Puerto Viejo - El Barco
Around the bend from Salsa Brava there is an old barge that ran ashore some time ago. Right next to it a small peak will come in, perfect for groms and beginners. Farther to the north, the stretch of beach is also better for beginners when it is small and at higher tides. Anything bigger than waist high will make the wave close out.
Playa Cocles is a kilometer past Puerto Viejo and even more laid back. The beach is beautiful and the waves are most fun when it's chest to head high. Any bigger surf gets really hollow, but closes out. It breaks better at high tide. There is a strong current so it is not for beginners when it's big. It can get crowded on the best peaks, but there are plenty of others to choose from. On the north end is an island about 300 meters offshore. When the swell is huge, a nice left forms off the island and breaks almost all the way through to the beach.
Punta Uva is a reef break that takes a big East swell to make it work. It breaks best when it's headhigh to overhead. Bigger sets shut down. The reef is sharp and beware of sea urchins. Since it is remote and doesn't break often, there is rarely anyone surfing here.
Manzanillo is a beach better suited for snorkeling since most of the time it is flat and there is live reef less than 30 meters from the sand. When there are waves here they are diminished by the reef, making this a good spot for beginners. However, there are reef breaks to the north and south of this spot that light up when it's double overhead or bigger. Some are accessible only by boat.
Description: Cashew Hill Jungle Cottages are a short walk from downtown, on a hillside, overlooking Puerto Viejo. Well-appointed one, two and three bedroom rental cottages are available with secure parking. Each cottage features a kitchen, complete with refrigerator, stove, coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven and all the utensils necessary to create gourmet meals or just a snack. Orthopedic mattresses guarantee an easy and restful night's sleep. Towels, bedding, mosquito nets, screens, reading lamps, hot water showers and friendly, on-site hosts. Maid service is included and laundry service is available.
Check out the YouTube video here.
Playa Chiquita 506-2750-0555 email@example.com $50-100/night
Almonds and Corals Lodge
Manzanillo (506) 2272-2024 firstname.lastname@example.org $210 (w/2 meals daily)
Puerto Viejo 2750-0446 email@example.com $59-$135
Puerto Viejo 2750-2035 firstname.lastname@example.org $64+
La Costa de Papito
Puerto Viejo 2750-0704 email@example.com $48+
Puerto Viejo 2750-0665 firstname.lastname@example.org $4+ (camping) $20+ (cabina)
Cabinas Casa Verde
Puerto Viejo 2750-0015 email@example.com $28
Playa Cocles 2750-0035 firstname.lastname@example.org $90
Playa Negra Guest House
Cahuita 2755-0127 email@example.com $40
Cahuita 2755-0035 firstname.lastname@example.org $69
Casa de Veyda
Playa Negra (Puerto Viejo) +1 512 826 2683 email@example.com $100+
Description: Caribbean, Local Fresh Fish Cahuita
Description: Local style Caribbean Cahuita
Sobre Las Olas
Description: Caribbean Fish Italian Style Cahuita
Description: Open late often with live music playing Reggae, Latin, Salsa or Rock. Full restaurant menu early. Puerto Viejo
Bread and Chocolate
Description: Fresh Baked Goods, coffee Puerto Viejo
Description: Local Inexpensive Caribbean food Puerto Viejo
Tasty Waves Cantina
Description: Restaurant and bar with tacos, drinks and a party vibe. Regular entertainment nights such as karaoke, movies, and trivia. Playa Cocles
Miss Holly's Kitchen
Description: Seafood and Caribbean Puerto Viejo
Description: ATEC was started to help preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the Talamancan region, from Cahuita to Sixaola. They provide walks and tours of the area and are very knowledgable of the community.
Puerto Viejo 2750-0191
fax: 2750-0188 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaguar Rescue Center
Playa Chiquita 2750-0710
Cahuita National Park
Description: Glass bottom boat rides, full day hike w/lunch, Kikoldi and Bri-Bri Indian Reservation tour, Horseback ride to Cocles Waterfalls, Boat tour of Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, Punta Uva Kayak Tour, plus overnight trips to Bocas del Toro - Panama
Description: Puerto Viejo and Caribbean Tours Link