A 3.5 hour bus ride from San Jose takes you to the southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. This is a place where pristine beaches sneak out of the jungle creating the perfect setting for those who can entertain themselves with the ocean and walks into the forest.
During our stay we first visited Cahuita beach then made our way south to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca where we stayed in Rocking J’s Hostel, a good base location to visit beaches further south.
A small beach town with very little to see and do besides lay on the beach or snorkel. Walk through its beautifully desolate national park reserve and enjoy one of the best tasting coconut sauce dishes on the Caribbean Coast at Restaurant La Fe. The town becomes lively at night when interesting local characters harmlessly wander the streets. Take a seat outside Coco’s Bar and enjoy the show.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
An hour bus ride south of Cahuita rests Puerto Viejo, considerably more action and development. Near the town’s main street there are two beaches, including a black sand beach. We preferred to avoid these dirty, narrow beaches and walked south to Rocking J’s Hostel, a backpackers favorite lodging spot offering tents and hammocks for lodging. The rooms are less than desirable. Here you will find the beginnings of pristine beaches and reefs. Ride a bike 10 minutes south from Rocking J’s to find Playa Cocles, a surfers hot spot and a wide flat beach to spend the day playing on. This is the closest clean beach around Puerto Viejo.
Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva
These two beaches are a must visit when traveling near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. The feedback from many visitors in the Puerto Viejo area is that the beaches are dirty. This holds true if you never leave the active bar hopping atmosphere in the center of town. Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva are completely untouched and provide you the picture perfect postcard you envisioned from the Caribbean Coast. They can be reached either by bike or car on a narrow road that cuts through the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Consider taking a very long, but rewarding walk along the shoreline. Playa Chiquita extends 4-6KM and further south is Punta Uva where you will enjoy great swimming and a peaceful jungle setting.
The last beach town you will encounter south of Punta Uva is not as impressive as the previous beaches, but it’s worth making the journey to see the Caribbean painted palm trees and enjoy a beer at the town’s popular restaurant/ bar.
When visiting the area be mindful of the season. Make sure you don’t visit during October-November, their rainy season, which is when Jason and I were there. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy more sunny days than we did.