Puerto Viejo Info
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The Puerto Viejo area starts at Black Beach (aka Playa Negra) where the road from Limon comes back to the beach about 1K before PV, and begins it's lazy stretch to the southeast for about 16 kilometers, passing Cocles Beach (aka Beach Break, Playa Cocles), then the village of Cocles, past Playa Chiquita, then Punta Uva and arrives refreshed at the village of Manzanillo - truly "the end of the road." (There's a song in there somewhere, if anybody's paying attention). Just beyond the end of the road starts the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, where you can walk for hours through the jungle and along the beach toward Panama.
One of my favorite things to do around here is eat. Tons of fresh fruit, smoothies, veggies, etc. The main dish in Costa Rica is called a casado: some kind of meat, rice beans, fried plantain, and a little cabbage salad or some other side dish. It's usually yummy, filling and cheap. Here in PV they offer a Caribbean twist on things. The sauces are different, and it comes with a dish called "rice and beans" as apposed to rice and, well, beans. Confused? Come eat and enjoy; you'll figure it out.
The other typical Costa Rican food is Pizza. It's everywhere. Besides the local flavor, there are a number of good restaurants with internationally inspired menus, including Argentinean BBQ, Thai, Japanese, Middle-Eastern, Mexican, French, tons of Italian and more. Many of these international dishes are tweaked with spices from this region. Explore and enjoy. One thing, don't expect fast service. The kitchens are small with clocks that run backwards. And they would never insult you by bringing a check until you ask for it. You can die of old age at the table, and they still won't bring it, so ask.
What to Do in Puerto Viejo
This is a bit of a surf town. Salsa Brava, which breaks right in front of my office, is considered one of the best waves in Costa Rica. When it's working it's a thick, heavy, hollow ride breaking onto shallow reef. Not for the uninitiated or timid. Cocles beach is safer, but this can also be dangerous. Playa Negra is usually a beginner's wave. And there are other spots on down the line. The waves are a little less consistent here than on the Pacific, but we get our fair share. If you surf, I encourage you to get in our warm water. The local vibe can be a bit heavy, so be respectful.
Biking your way down the coast to Manzanillo is one of the most popular free things to do. When you get there you can walk in the reserve, snorkel, hang on the beach, join a pick-up beach soccer game, drink some beer and eat fish at MAXI'S. The traditional whole red-snapper in Caribbean sauce is great, but the grilled snapper with grilled veggies is the way to go, if it's available. If you want a guide for the Refuge (recommended but not cheap), go early.
What else? We can help you get biking, snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, yoga, waterfalls, or dolphin watching. We can get you to Cahuita National Park, the spa, Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, give you a massage, send you out bird watching, and much more.
Then there is the activity of non-activity: geting into that book, exercising your napping skills, savoring the good life, hanging on the beach, testing that hammock, being one-with-the-pool. It is tradition (but not law) to enhance these activities with a fru-fru tropical drink - complete with umbrella.
Females (and some males) may also enjoy a dark, ripped cabana boy to spritz them occasionally or to attend to their delicate desires. This can be had, too, if you know how to go about it.
Depending on where your hotel is, you likely won't need a car. Of course it is convenient to have a car, but you may find it sitting around more than going around. In Puerto Viejo, the world turns a little slower, powered mostly by bicycles and flip flops; best you try to get on pace. Pura Vida!
Lots of beach cruisers to rent (known locally as bananos), about $4 for half-day, $5 for a full day, and $6 for 24 hours. Problem: There are a few sections outside of town that don't have street lights, so beware of night time riding. If you might be riding after dark, we recommend packing a headlamp or flashlight!
There are almost no mountain bikes to be found, and the couple you might find are crap, so get over it.
The road between PV and Manzanillo follows the coastline, no more than 500-600 meters from the beach, mostly flat except for a couple small hills before Manzanillo. Perfect for a nice bike ride, except that it's jiggley bumpy much of the way. One of the most popular activities is to ride to Manzanillo, take a walk in the park, and have a couple cold ones along with some fish, rice and beans at MAXI'S, a local landmark. Beach There are 20-25 scooters for rent - a fun to get around, but dangerous, especially on our bad roads.
Taxis are in short supply, especially at night and Sundays. Most are just private cars working like taxis & not marked. And they are more expensive here than in the cities. You can't get in a taxi for less than $2. From Puerto Viejo to Cocles - $4. To the village of Cocles $6. To Playa Chiquita $8. To Punta Uva $10. To Manzanillo $12. Meters are not used in Puerto Viejo, so ask the price before you get in. You can bargain, but don't piss them off -- you may have trouble finding the next cab.
The nicer hotels can call you a cab. Or, during the day you can call 750-0439. This is a store that has put together a loose association of taxis, & is the fastest, easiest way to get a cab during business hours. You can usually find taxis hanging around the bus stop in Puerto Viejo till about 7:30pm when the last bus from San Jose comes in, and at MAXI'S in Manzanillo till closing. At night, there are usually a couple taxis in front of Bar/Restaurant Stanford till last call; then they get used fast.
Buses pass this stretch only five times a day. You can flag one down anywhere along the road, and get out anywhere. They leave Puerto Viejo heading towards Manzanillo roughly at 7am (only Mon-Fri), 7:30am, 12 noon, 4:15pm and 7:30pm, arriving in Manzanillo about a half hour later after stopping every fifty frickin' feet. Buses leave Manzanillo coming towards Puerto Viejo at 5am, 8:30am, 10:30am (only Mon-Fri), 12:45pm, and 5:15pm.
Hitch hiking is dangerous anywhere in the world and not a good idea. And you may find it harder to get a ride than you expect. I do it, and most of my friends do it, especially my girlfriends, but we're locals, and people recognize us and pull over. You, especially females, should avoid it. 'Nuf said.