Puerto Viejo

After a week on the Pacific coast, and a day in San Jose, we made the trek to Puerto Viejo in the Southeast corner of Costa Rica, our first time visiting the Carribean coast. I say trek because the drive from San Jose can take anywhere from four to seven hours depending on traffic and road construction. We made good time until we encountered a fallen tree across the road that had caused an accident and completed stopped traffic. Luckily Waze gave us new directions and we only lost half an hour and we arrived in Puerto Viejo in about four and a half hours.

Yes Puerto Viejo is another surfing town, known for the largest wave in Costa Rica called the Salsa Brava. But where Santa Teresa was dominated by young ex-pats who are coming and going, Puerto Viejo feels more like an Afro-Caribbean town with a culturally diverse year round population that just happens to also include some ex-pats and die hard surfers. It has a pronounced Jamaican vibe as many Jamaican’s came here to work over the years and obviously many have chosen to stay.

Having just visited the Pacific coast of Costa Rica (the Nicoya Peninsula), it’s easy to spot the differences between the two coasts. Where the weather on the Pacific coast is consistently dry and sunny, at least in dry season, the Carribean coast is considerably more humid and damp. There are pros and cons to each climate zone. The Carribean coast is greener and dotted in rain forest and teaming with wildlife which is impossible to miss even if you’re visiting for only a week.

The highlight of our week was simply enjoying the wonderful creature comforts of the amazing villa we rented, which we found via VRBO. You never know what you’re going to get when you rent someone’s home but after a week at Casa Pilon we felt as if we really scored with this place. We thoroughly enjoyed swimming in the salt water pool, playing pool in the open air portico and making meals in the gourmet kitchen. Our boys are spending their mornings doing online school and so having space in a comfortable home away from home is important especially given our plans to keep traveling for another few months.

Enjoying a family game of pool

Secondly, the beaches of Puerto Viejo, and the region, did NOT disappoint. While Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula are famous for their beaches, and rightly so, we found three world class beaches in Playa Cocles, Playa Negra, and Playa Blanca at Cahuita National Park. It’s hard to compete with the size and scale of the Pacific coast beaches but these all had amazing sand and surf and beach lovers will not be disappointed with the Caribbean side, not at all.

Playa Cocles

Thirdly, the wildlife was really something else. In a single day at our villa we had an ant infestation, and we had a bird and a bat fly into our house. We also saw coati’s, raccoons, and several species of birds whose songs filled the air morning, noon and night. Yes it was a tad noisy at night but you do get used to it quickly. While some animals can be unwelcome guests and can be real pests, for the most part we really enjoyed being immersed in nature this way and we see the biodiversity of Costa Rica as a feature rather than a defect. Our villa wasn’t the only place we encountered wildlife. We saw sloths and spider monkeys in the wild at Cahuita National Park. We also spent a morning touring the nearby Jaguar Rescue Centre where we saw a whole range of animals that, for a variety of reasons, needed rehabilition and either temporary or permanent refuge.

Watching a Sloth at the Jaguar Rescue Centre

Puerto Viejo is a little bit out of the way if you’re only in Costa Rica for a week or two, but the more time we spent here the more we appreciated it, even if the sunshine is a little consistent. Once you are here the area is easy enough to navigate even if you don’t speak Spanish. We found the Caribbean side to be considerably cheaper, and we found the locals to be warm and welcoming. As the roads to Southeast Costa Rica get better, and if/when the nearby Limon Airport opens up more travel corridors you can be sure that more travelers will be making the trek to Puerto Viejo.

So far our trip is going well. We are two weeks in, with one country down and no major whammies so far! Thank you Costa Rica! Once again you did not disappoint. Next up: Panama.

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