Puerto Viejo was the last city on our week-long Costa Rica trip – We began in La Fortuna to see Rio Celeste, went east to Tortuguero for turtles, and then south to Puerto Viejo. Our main reason for visiting Puerto Viejo was to see sloths and check out the Caribbean atmosphere. Even though Costa Rica isn’t a large country, there are definitely different cultures and vibes depending on the coast or province. We made the most of our one full day in Puerto Viejo and J and I left with full stomachs and big smiles. Here are our recommendations if all you have are 24 short hours.
Check out the town. Spend the rest of the afternoon of your arrival day on the beach and head into Puerto Viejo proper for dinner. The sand is soft and the waves were strong, not large, but definitely not calm. Town is a short walk from the hotel. Many hotels provide bikes to get to town, but we preferred our feet over wheels. Walk around and check out the shops. On your way to dinner, stop for a drink at one of the many bars. Not sure which one to patronize? Go for loud, raucous and beach view. We met not just one, but multiple bartenders who left the states for this slice of paradise on a one-way ticket. For dinner, dine at Stashu’s Con Fusion, a delicious Thai fusion restaurant (yes, in Costa Rica). Highly recommended, especially if you’re tired of Sodas and need a small break from rice and beans. In lieu of local fare we had green and red curries, satay skewers, and cocktails, all with a Costa Rican twist. If you happen to get in earlier, head all the way to Manzanillo Beach where you’ll find a nice calm beach with a lovely seafood restaurant, Maxi’s Restaurant. If you’ve ever wanted a to try a whole fried fish – order the snapper for two!
Animals, Chocolate and Waterfalls tour.
Because we only had a day, we joined the “Animals, Chocolate and waterfalls tour” via Gecko Trail Adventures. Transportation in a private vehicle made this much easier than taking buses and taxis around, especially if you are short on time.
Sounds like quite the perfect combination, right? Apart from the beauty of the country, we were extremely keen on seeing sloths. If two or three toed adorable fuzzballs are your guilty pleasure, then the Jaguar Rescue Center is the place to visit. On the tour you will get to see sloths, possibly both the two-toed and three-toed species and babies! You will also get to see the other animals that are rehabilitating at the center such as a jaguars and toucans. We saw both on our visit.
After visiting the center it is a short ride to chocolate paradise. You will get to learn the ins and outs of chocolate making at a cocoa farm. The lesson begins with the cacao pod on the tree and takes you through the entire process, without the addition of milk or sugar, from pod to seed to bar.
After, you get to taste the bars and have an opportunity to purchase some to bring home. It was the only chocolate tasting or tour that we had been on that felt like a cultural celebration, and a little scientific, in addition to being downright delicious. Last but not least, the tour takes you to a nice waterfall that you can swim and jump in. The hike is quite short, and you will have ample time at the waterfall — a great place for pictures too.
Banana Azul. This unique lodging offers free breakfast, is located right on the beach, and offers many different set ups and views, including the garden room which we stayed in. Most of the rooms offer hammocks on their balconies which just adds to the extremely relaxing vibe on the property. If you forgot a book, don’t fret, as they have a small library in the lobby. The location is perfect, as you are a short walk or even shorter bike ride away from town.
If you have more time, rumor has it that Cahuita National Park is amazing and we had friends that took a rafting trip along the Pacuare River on their way back to San Jose Airport. Both are on the list for next time, when we have more than a day!