Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
A well-known beach town against the border with Panama is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. There is also another Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, so make no mistake. Puerto Viejo has a number of beautiful beaches that are easily accessible by bicycle. Also, Cahuita National Park is 30 minutes away by bus. Most people tend to stay longer in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca because of the relaxed atmosphere and fun things the area offers.
Plenty of opportunities to both surf, swim and relax, as Puerto Viejo has several beautiful beaches in the area. Playa Punta Uva is a nice place to go. Then make sure you can swim on the side of Cuevas or the cave of Playa Uva. If you are too much on the side of Playa Cocles, there are many rocks in the water.
Playa Cocles is a nice beach to (learn to) surf. This is therefore the place to rent a surfboard and/or take lessons.
Playa Negra is located near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and, as the name suggests, has black sand.
Rent a bike (or other vehicle)
A common activity is to rent a bicycle or other vehicle such as a scooter, motorcycle or quad. The environment is therefore ideally suited to it. The distances are small and the road from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to the different beaches is good. To Punta Uva it is about half an hour cycling and on the way you may also encounter several animals such as a large iguana by the side of the road or a sloth in the tree.
You can rent a bicycle or other vehicle at several places in the center. You pay about €4 for a half day (morning or afternoon), and rental for several days is also possible. For a scooter/motorbike and quad you pay more.
Cahuita National Park
Another place in the area to stay is Cahuita. It is quieter and less touristy, but is very famous for the national park it has. It is the only national park in Costa Rica that has no set entrance fee; you pay a donation upon entry. It is a large park where you have many chances to see animals like sloths, monkeys, many kinds of birds, crabs on the beach or even crocodiles. The park has 1 walking path along the coast that eventually rejoins the central road. There are no hiking trails through the park, only parallel to the coast. You can also choose to walk a section and return via the same route. Also hiring a guide possible. The park is open daily from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.
How do you get there and back?
You get to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca by bus from Cahuita (30 minutes), by bus from Limón (75 minutes) or from Bocas del Toro, Panama.
From Puerto Viejo de Talamanca you can take a bus up and down to Cahuita. The bus leaves every hour and leaves at 20 minutes past all from Puerto Viejo and at 15 or 50 past all from Cahuita. See photos, as there are exceptions when the bus does not go. The ride Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Cahuita (or visa versa) takes about 30 minutes and costs 915 colones/€1.40 per ride, you pay at the driver.
From Puerto Viejo de Talamanca you can cross the border very easily. By shuttle, for all convenience and that costs around €35 (even if you are coming from Panama). But easy cost cutting can be done by taking the buses yourself. From Puerto Viejo de Talamanca take the bus to Sixaola, which goes at 40 minutes past whole and once an hour. But be sure to check the times on the schedule that almost every hotel has on display or ask about it, because the times are still sometimes changed. The bus goes to Sixaola in just over an hour and costs 2010 colones/€3, you pay on the bus and arrive at the border (Sixaola) a few 100 meters away. If you go to Bocas del Toro, chances are several men on the Costa Rica side of the border will be willing to offer you a ride in a shuttle to Almirante or help you with the process. It is advisable to politely decline them. It all speaks for itself.