During the Summer of 2014 I was backpacking in Costa Rica. One of my favourite places in this small but very beautiful country was Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a small village on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. I loved the relaxed vibe – Pura Vida. Unfortunately, I only brought a really bad camera with me during my travels. I’m sorry about the bad quality photos…
I visited Puerto Viejo in July which was in the middle of the rain season. The weather was beautiful in the morning and around lunch time, but in the afternoon it raind a lot. It was pretty much the same weather forecast everyday, but I didn’t really mind. Since it’s low season during this period of the year, it’s cheaper and easier to find accomodation. I came to Puerto Viejo from the capital San José by bus. It took approximately six hours and it wasn’t the Greyhound standard I’m used to. Firstly, it’s crowded and people will find place to squeeze in anywhere. And people bring a lot of stuff. I don’t think there was any luggage restrictions? I couldn’t book any tickets in advance, instead you had to buy tickets at the bus station before the departure. Be there in time to make sure you get a seat! Secondly, there are no toilets on the bus. One guy had to ease the pressure and asked the bus driver politely if he could make a quick stop on the highway. Luckily we had a nice bus driver! Otherwise they usually make one stop at a bus station when you’re halfway to the final destination. This is the magical peeing time and due to pure desperation people will almost fight over the few toilets. Despite the squeezing and the bad toilet situation, going by bus is a great way to see the country and the road between San José and Puerto Viejo is very beautiful.
I stayed at Pagalú Hostel which is situated in the middle of the village. It was clean and the staff was very nice. I stayed in a single room and shared the bathroom with people from two other rooms. Even though it was low season this hostel was far away from being empty. I really liked the kitchen and it was designed to make it easy to socialize with others, which was perfect for a lonely backpacker like me.
The Costa Rican food often contains of rice and beans. This can be served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the most tasty lunches I had was from a tiny fast food rastaurant where they served this typical Costa Rican dish with chicken. The absolute best breakfast place in Puerto Viejo is Bread and Chocolate, a cozy café with a great breakfast menu and the best brownies in whole Costa Rica. You can choose between many different brownies and I wish I had tried all of them…
There are many ways to experience Costa Rican wildlife in Puerto Viejo, but I strongly recommend doing rainforest hikes in the nationalparks closeby. It’s amazingly beautiful and you have the chance to see animals in the wild. If they have guided midnight rainforest tours, do it! I didn’t do it in Puerto Viejo, but hopefully it’s possible to do something similar. Many of the animals are active during the night which means there is a greater chance to see them. There are also many sanctuaries where they take care of wild injured animals or animals that have been victims to wildlife smuggling. I think these are good initiatives, but as a tourist it’s very important to be responsible and do a lot of research before visiting a sanctuary. Make sure the priority of the sanctuary is to release the animals into the wild. It’s also very popular to do volunteer work at the sanctuaries. Some people argue that tourists are stealing jobs from locals since they’re paying the sanctuaries to work there. Wrong or right, I don’t know. However, it’s important tourists realize the impact tourism has on a destination – both positive and negative aspects. If you want to do volunteer work, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Make sure you agree with the values of the organization you’re about to work for and that they have a reasonable long term goal from an ecological, economical, social and political perspective. This was the moral cake of the day 🙂
Since Puerto Viejo is very small you’ll eventually want to explore more outside of the village. I recommend renting a bike, which is very easy and reasonably cheap. There are a few bike rentals and the one I used is no longer on Google maps, but I remember it was straight across the supermarket. You’ll probably need to leave your ID while your renting the bike so make sure you have a copy of your driver’s license or your passport. I went by bike south of Puerto Viejo towards the boarder of Panama. I had the bike for a couple of hours and it was a great way to discover hidden beaches and pubs. There are many good places for surfing in the area, but apparently it’s not good for surfers who identify themselves as beginners. There are surfers on the beaches who will let you know where you’ll find the best place to surf.
Puerto Viejo is a small Caribbean gem and I fell in love with this little village. Now it’s time to switch the warm rainforest memories to brutal Sunday anxiety. It’s time to mentally prepare for a new week. Have a great Sunday evening everyone!