Oh, Puerto Viejo…Puerto Viejo was my fourth stop on my trip around Costa Rica (after Montezuma, Monteverde and Arenal/La Fortuna) and I fell completely, head over heels in love with the place. To get there, I travelled with two French-Canadians from the hostel in La Fortuna down to San José in their hire car, before taking a bus straight to Puerto Viejo. The bus leaves from the Mepe bus terminal and costs around $9 – it takes 4-5 hours and makes a 10 minute stop in Límon to use the bathroom and buy food.
Puerto Viejo is on the Caribbean coast and you will immediately notice the difference from the rest of Costa Rica. For a start, it’s a lot lusher and greener due to the increased rain, particularly during the summer months.
Secondly, the people are very different. The Caribbean coast is very multicultural and many locals descend from Jamaican roots, which heavily influences the culture of the towns. Apparently around the third of the population is black, primarily of Jamaican descent and this is reflected in the music, attitudes and culture the people of Puerto Viejo. Rastafari culture is booming: reggae nights are the big draw and walking down the street you may be offered marijuana ten or more times!
I stayed at Rocking J’s, a Puerto Viejo institution! The hostel is HUGE, offering dorms ($11), tents ($8) and hammocks ($7) for the night and the entire place is decorated with mosiacs.
We were greeted to the hostel with fresh cocunuts.
You can hijack hammocks for a lazy afternoon nap…
The hostel is a great place for meeting people, clean enough and there’s plenty of mosaics and graffiti to read! It even backs on to its own section of beach front.
Now I have to admit something…I had plans to do a bunch of stuff whilst in Puerto Viejo, from renting bikes to visiting the Jaguar Rescue Centre…but it didn’t happen. My first morning in PV I wandered down to Playa Cocles beach, just south of the town, and took a surfing lesson, and from that point on I didn’t really leave the beach! I mean really, would you ever want to leave this place?!
The beach is host to some large surfing competitions and there’s plenty of talent to watch catching the waves! There isn’t a ‘surf school’ per se, but rather local surfers surrounded by a ring of boards, offering their time.
I met William, and started out with a two hour lesson. His method was simple: 1) Look ahead, 2) Kung fu. Yes, these were my instructions for learning to surf…and they worked! I was getting up on the board pretty fast and while my technique was terrible at first (I came away with very bruised knees), I was addicted already. We went back out for more in the afternoon, and then again the next day! Everything is very casual, and I was charged $50 for the lesson, and $20 the next day for the board rental (even though it was more like another lesson in reality..!). I ended up spending a further two days on the beach surfing, with William’s help, for no charge. He just loved surfing, to teach people to surf, and to light up a joint between surf sessions! He was a pretty chilled out guy!
In the evenings this small town comes to life! It seems that it’s always ‘Ladies Night’ somewhere, and that tends to be where the party is happening. Mondays is Mangos bar, Tuesday is Tasty Waves Cantina (Tasty Tuesdays), and the rest of the week is pretty much at The Lazy Mon, a bar/restaurant right in the centre of town, on the beach front. Ladies Night means a lot of free drinks and lots of dancing! I enjoyed the first two nights in town, but nowhere was as much fun as Lazy Mon. There was even a great fire show.
The music varies, but is largely hip hop or reggae tunes, and by midnight the dance floor is packed! I spent six days in PV on my original visit, but actually loved the town and the locals so much that I returned for one night on my journey back to San José for my flight home. This time I stayed at Lazy Loft, a small hostel right above The Lazy Mon, just for the convenience of being right in the centre of town. This hostel is super chilled out, although there was a lot of ants around which I wasn’t a great fan of…
Some of the town’s locals and stall owners will shout things at you as you walk past, or make comments, but if you shout ‘Buenos’ or ‘Hola, que paso?’ back at them in a friendly manner, they will leave you alone and may even offer you a better deal if you decide to buy something from them. Overall I found the locals very friendly and welcoming and enjoyed being back for the night to see them all again – given how many tourists must pass through, I was taken aback by how many shouted ‘England, you’re back!’ at me as I walked through town on my final day. It all makes the town a very tough place to leave.
I really didn’t do much more than surf, beach and nights out in Puerto Viejo, but I cannot speak highly enough of the place. I had the time of my life here, met some great people (both fellow travellers and locals), and know that this is where I will be dreaming of from my classroom in September!