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Costa Rica Caribbean Beaches

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Beach at Rocking J's Hostel

Beach and Reef at Rocking J

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.

Cahuita

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.

Rocking J's Hostel in Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica Caribbean Coast

Rocking J's Hostel in Puerto Viejo

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.

Surf Beach Near Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Playa Cocles at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica

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.

Manzanillo

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.

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JB says:

I’ve been to all of those places I believe, including three times to Cahuita, which is one of those places that really appeals to me but might not others. While surfing there (yes, you can surf there though Puerto Viejo is better known and probably better) I did have my sandals stolen. I was in the water surfing and saw a guy with a bike stopped near my shoes but figured I would never get back in time and hoped I was being paranoid. Nope. He got them. Not very nice ones either so not sure what the appeal was for him. On my final visit there were a string of robberies, and everyone seemed to know it was some guys traveling from another part of the country (Cahuita is the kind of small place where everyone living there knows everyone and they all talk), though the police approach to the situation was very confused. I think they physically beat one of the suspects but didn’t bother to actually search their car or other belongings for evidence of the stolen goods and I think eventually just let them go. Having relayed these two stories, I wouldn’t at all discourage you from visiting a very nice part of a very lovely country. Just take the precautions you should anywhere in Central America.

Jason says:

Thanks JB, I agree, sometimes it was shady there, but still a cool spot to visit. We really enjoyed our walk along the beach National Park in Cahuita. The almond trees in the sand and crabs digging all over.

Brian Green says:

I too have heard stories of crime while there. Thankfully in my 14 days in Panama and Costa Rica my girlfriend and I never experienced any issues. Although we played it very safe.

costa Rica says:

Costa Rica is ni different that any other countyr, there is crime but per 100 people the percentages are much lower than most other countries. Tourist though have to be careful, just don’t be flashy and acting drunk in public (the majority of people who are robed are) and you will have a great trip.

Jason says:

Drunks are always more susceptible to robberies. Thanks for sharing.

Stephen says:

How is the crime on the Caribbean beaches? You have any problems? Hear of anything?
.-= Stephen´s last blog ..West Bank Slide Show =-.

Jason says:

Crime is a topic on it’s own, a very complicating one. We hear random crime stories all the time. We have even had it happen to others traveling with us, people staying in our hostal at the same time as us, and locals that we befriended. Crime can be everywhere, we just have to be continually cautious and conscious of it. People here are typically more poor and desperate, therefor we are even more cautious.

To answer your question… Yes, we heard stories about thefts in the Puerto Viejo area, but I still wouldn’t discourage you from visiting there.

Hey Stephen,

I lived in Panama for 6 months and traveled to CR quite a few times. Mostly on the Caribe coast. There is most definitely more crime here and people are likely to prey on tourists. Particularly those who get drunk and don’t know what’s going on. You also want to watch your stuff in hostels.

But for the most part, it’s just fine. When we were there, we got stranded in Manzanillo long after the bus stopped running. A complete stranger gave us a ride all the way back to Cahuita (half an hour drive). We paid him, but not for one second did I doubt my safety.

Panama tends to be even safer than Costa Rica. You’re always going to hear stories, and Panama City (particularly certain parts) can be sketchy. But the interior tends to be fine.

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