Cahuita National Park: this beautiful hike meanders along the protected Caribbean coastline with ample opportunities to spot wildlife including monkeys, sloths, and many species of birds. Located 10 kms from Puerto Viejo, the entrance of the national park is directly in the Cahuita town center. The hike takes approximate 3 hours ending on the opposite side of the park where you can join the main road and hop on a bus or take a taxi back to Puerto Viejo or Cahuita. Donation based entrance fee.
Manzanillo: The end of the road…about a 1 hour bike ride or a 20 minutes drive from Puerto Viejo. Manzanillo is a laid back fishing village with beautiful beaches, a few restaurants (Cool and Calm and Maxi’s are the local favorites) and a local vibe.
For one of our favorite hikes, continue south past the town of Manzanillo and follow the path along the beach. After crossing a small bridge you will find yourself inside the Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife refuge. This is a great spot for hiking through the jungle and exploring beautiful deserted beaches – amazing on a sunny day.
Indigenous Reserve Waterfall: There is a beautiful 20 meter high waterfall outside of the nearby town of Bribri. Only accessible by car this natural wonder is about 25 minutes driving from Puerto Viejo. After passing the Police station in Bribri turn right and cross three rivers (no bridges – you actually drive through the water). The trailhead is shortly after the third river on your right hand side. Safe parking is available just before the second river for a few dollars.
Punta Uva: this rock outcropping offers beautiful views onto Arrecife (reef) beach to the south and Cocles, Black Beach, and Cahuita to the north. For adventurous types climb below the overlook and discover an hidden natural bridge.
Take a Chocolate Tour with Caribeans:
This region has a rich history for growing quality cacao. Let Caribeans take you on a “Chocolate Forest Experience” to discover chocolate like you’ve never known before. Learn why the Greek name for cacao is theobroma or “food of the gods” and how chocolate in its pure form is actually healthy.
During the tour, you will sample raw cacao fruit and learn how its seeds are processed into organic chocolate from “tree to bar.” The tour includes a guided walk through the cacao farm, a gourmet tasting (think wine tasting but with chocolate!), and a gorgeous ocean view ending at a Willy Wonka-like chocolate factory. Caribeans’ dream is to create the Napa Valley of chocolate right here in the southern Caribbean. Forget Hershey’s, Nestle, and Cadbury and try the real thing!
Tours leave from Caribeans Chocolate Lounge and times are listed below. The 2.5 hour tour costs US$28 per person. No reservation required. Just meet at the café next to the surfing beach in Cocles. Don’t miss out on Caribeans’ house-roasted organic coffee, drinking chocolate, free chocolate tasting room, community bakery, and of course daily yoga and wellness classes at the ocean-view platform upstairs. www.caribeanscr.com
CARIBEANS CHOCOLATE TOUR TIMES:
Monday @ 10 am
Tuesday @ 10 am & 2 pm
Thursday @ 10 am & 2 pm
Friday @ 2 pm
Saturday @ 2 pm
Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center: discover and learn about tropical wildlife. Located in Cocles, the center is open every day except Sunday. They have 2 guided tours per day at 9:30 am and 11:30 am. The visit takes about 1.5 hours and costs US$20 per person. www.jaguarrescue.com
Raft the Pacuare River with onward transportation to San Jose Included: This world-famous river hosted the world championship of rafting in November 2011. Located in the mountains less than 2 hours from Puerto Viejo. Daily trips include: transport to and from Puerto Viejo (or onward transport to San Jose free of charge), a quality buffet breakfast, 4 hours on the river, and lunch. It’s an unforgettable experience riding class III and IV rapids through the beautiful Costa Rican rainforest and steep canyons. The cost is $99 per person. http://www.exploradoresoutdoors.com
Horseback Riding: one of the best ways to discover the coast and the natural beauty of the Caribbean along the beach and through the jungle. Guided by an English speaking professional rider who will teach you not only how to ride your horse but also explain about Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo, and the surrounding nature. All levels welcome. Our horses are very well trained and suitable for beginners. We use quality imported equipment, the best you can find here. Book through Caribe Horse 8705-4250 or www.caribehorse.com.
ARA Project: this amazing non-profit is dedicated to saving Costa Rica’s two native macaws. The Great Green Macaw was once prevalent throughout the Caribbean but is now on the brink of extinction with only 1,000 birds left in the wild. Threats include habitat destruction (for logging, farming, etc), exploitation for the lucrative pet trade, and hunting. Once native to Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean region, the Ara Project has successfully re-introduced a number of breeding pairs into the wild where the are reproducing on their own. This is your chance to see these majestic birds up close and learn about the conservation efforts of a commendable non-profit, the ARA Project.
Cocles and Punta Cocles: the primary tourist beach is great for walking, swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. To the southeast you will find Punta Cocles where the coral reef pools offer gentle bathing and swimming options. To the northwest is the main sunbathing and surfing beach with a lifeguard on duty. Use caution when swimming as there are sometimes dangerous riptides in this area.
Playa Chiquita: heading south it is the next neighborhood and beach after Cocles. This quaint little “suburb” of Puerto Viejo offers beautiful small beaches and coral reefs as well as delicious restaurants and cafés. The main beach access is just after Shawanda resort on the left hand side, marked by a little wooden gate with a roof and a post prohibiting motorized vehicles. Because it’s pedestrian-only it’s a nice option on crowded weekends or holidays.
Punta Uva and Arrecife: Our favorite beach! The rock outcropping called Punta Uva (or grape point in English) separates Punta Uva beach to the north and Arrecife (reef) to the south. Boasts narrow palm fringed beaches with reef offshore. We recommend taking the second entrance to the left with a sign that says Arrecife then follow the coast to the south and find your piece of paradise. Note: this beach can get busy with cars and out-of-towners during weekends and holidays.
Salsa Brava: world-famous reef break located right offshore from Puerto Viejo. If it’s breaking, there will be many cars and spectators parked next to Salsa Brava bar and lounge. Not for the faint-of-heart, experts only.
Cocles, Beach Break: As the name implies this is a beach break with fairly consistent waves.
Playa Grande: between Punta Uva and Manzanillo this beach break offers arguably the best wave in the area. Follow the dirt road across from El Refugio restaurant (also highly recommended for dinner).