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- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
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About 13 kilometers south of Cahuita, the road forks just after Hone Creek (also spelled Home Creek). The main road turns east toward Bribrí; a spur leads three kilometers to Playa Negra, a black-sand beach that curls east to Puerto Viejo, enclosing a small bay with a capsized barge in its center.
The tiny headland of Punta Pirikiki at its eastern end separates Puerto Viejo from the sweep of beaches—Playa Pirikiki, Playa Chiquita, and others—that run all the way to Manzanillo and Panamá. You can walk along the beach from Cahuita at low tide.
Puerto Viejo is one of the most happenin’ spots in Costa Rica. The discos are hopping, and, on peak weekends, you can’t find a room to save your soul. Nonetheless, it is low-key and funky.
The surfer, backpacker, and counterculture crowds are firmly rooted here and dominate the scene, having settled and established bistros and restaurants alongside the locals. Drugs traded up the coast from Colombia find their way here, and the whiff of ganja (marijuana) drifts on the air. Violent crime has risen accordingly.
The first deluxe hotels, however, have opened, as have malls, although a proposed 398-slip marina was killed in 2008 due to local opposition.
The overpriced Cacao Trails (tel. 506/2756-8186, www.cacaotrails.com, $25), at Hone Creek, is a cacao farm with a tiny “chocolate museum.” There are also crocodiles, a snake exhibit, a museum on indigenous culture, and a botanical garden, plus canoeing ($25) on canals through the cacao plantation. Stay a while and enjoy a meal at the thatched restaurant.
Anyone even mildly interested in nature would find a visit to Finca la Isla Botanical Garden worthwhile.
To participate in and support grassroots ecotourism in action, head out to the Kèköldi Indigenous Reserve.
Getting to Puerto Viejo
The bus fare from San José to Puerto Viejo is $8, and from Limón $2. Transportes Mepe (tel. 506/2257-8129) buses depart the Gran Caribe terminal in San José for Puerto Viejo at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m., via Cahuita
Return buses depart Puerto Viejo (tel. 506/2750-0023) for San José at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 4 p.m.; and for Limón hourly 7:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. daily. The Puerto Limón–Puerto Viejo buses are usually crowded; get to the station early.
Interbus (tel. 506/283-5573, www.interbusonline.com) operates minibus shuttles from San José. Caribe Shuttle (tel. 506/2750-0626, www.caribeshuttle.com) offers bus service to Bocas del Toro and Panama City from Puerto Viejo at 7 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily ($32).
You can rent beach-cruiser bicycles from Tienda Marcos (tel. 506/2750-0303, $6 per day, $48 weekly) and from Surf Rentals (tel. 506/8375-7328, surfrentals [at] gmail [dot] com). For ATV rentals, head to Dragonfly Quad Rentals (tel. 506/2750-2067, $55 for five hours, $75 per day). For scooters ($15 one hour, $40 six hours, $50 per day, $250 weekly) and golf carts ($60 full day, $300 weekly) head to Red Eye Cart & Scooter Rental (tel. 506/8395-6211. Poás Rent-a-Car (tel. 506/2750-0400) has an outlet here.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition