Cocles Beach — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica Each day the sun rises over the Talamanca mountains and the howler monkeys bellow from the trees at 5:00 am. Once you get to the far east side of Costa Rica, the Caribbean coast on the southern border with Panama, you’ll sense that time tolls differently here year round- no matter what season it is, it’s always green and slow, like the sway of reggae lilting through the treetops. Barge in Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonicaSome claim it’s a magical place that casts a spell as difficult to explain as it is to shake. Far from the rest of the country in distance as well as in spirit, it’s easy to believe that la pura vida originated in the tiny enclave of Puerto Viejo de Limon.
Development has been slow to arrive to the Caribbean coast, which suits Puerto Viejo just fine. There are no high-rise hotels, no luxury resorts, no fast food franchises, and the vibe is anything but pretentious. Welcome to Puerto Viejo, an ideal destination for escaping it all, leaving the accoutrements of the big city behind, and experiencing the joys of nature up close.
Surfboards at Cocles Beach — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonicaRent a bicycle from one of the many places along the main road, it’s the easiest way to get around. Explore the unpaved path that begins just south of Salsa Brava and runs parallel to the water until it reaches Cocles, a long sandy beach for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. Snorkeling is best at Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo beaches a few kilometers further south.
Seaside Bench in Puerto Viejo — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonicaPuerto Viejo lies nestled along the coast between Cahuita and Manzanillo, both of which host national parks where all kinds of birds and wildlife roam. Hire a naturalist guide whose intimate knowledge of the native flora and fauna will deepen your appreciation of the region immeasurably.
At sunset, mozy to the beachside lounge The Lazy Mon at Stanford's, where you can sip cocktails with your feet in the sand and play ping pong with local legends.
What Puerto Viejo lacks in ostentation it more than makes up for in natural beauty. A scenic four hour ride by car or bus from the capital city of San Jose, Puerto Viejo de Limon is easy to get to, hard to leave, and impossible to forget. Visit a unique and distinctly different part of Costa Rica still remarkably untouched by tourism before it’s too late.