What to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

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Puerto Viejo gives flavor to Costa Rica that no other town is able to offer. With reggae vibes, indigenous Bri Bri influence, and a laid back, beach environment, the small town is the perfect beach getaway. Here are my favorites from my stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica - perfect options for a 2-4 day visit.

WHERE TO STAY:

Since I took the bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, it was important for me to stay in a hotel that was short walking distance, but still sustainable, natural, and away from the nightlife noise. The eco-friendly Casa Verde Lodge was the perfect option. Not only were the owners Rene and Carolina gracefully welcoming, but the native flora throughout the grounds felt like a secluded paradise! Carolina is an art historian and their appreciation for, and collection of, indigenous art from the Bri Bri culture is inspiring. 

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The lodge is hot-water accessible, designed with natural ventilation cabinas, and provides front porch hammocks for an opportunity to relax at any time of the day. They also offer free coffee, biscuits and fruit for all guests. 

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When we weren't soaking in the beach and surrounding restaurants, we were exploring the jungle garden grounds, enjoying their newly renovated pool, and tanning on the poolside lounge chairs. The pool was extremely clean with ideal temperature, and even featured a jacuzzi atop a calming waterfall. 

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The best part of the stay was when Rene sped over to our cabina to show us their other lodge guests, a sloth and her baby! Your trip to Costa Rica isn't complete without a sloth sighting.

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To book a stay at Casa Verde Lodge, visit www.cabinascasaverde.com

Where to Eat:

I spend a good portion of my day on the hunt for food or thinking about my next meal. Puerto Viejo does not disappoint with its variety of gastronomic goodies. 

For a true caribbean dinner, indulge in the flavors of Madre Tierra. The owner Andres, although he insists the restaurant belongs to the people, was the most hospitable restauranteur I've ever encountered. He continuously reminded us that we were there to enjoy each other's company and eat good food, and allowed us to take our time with ordering and get to know each other. All too often we get rushed in and out of dining establishments for a higher turnover, but you could tell he cared more about the experience.

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Every bite at Madre Tierra was mouthwatering. The uniquely cupped patacones held their green plantain flavor while absorbing the juices of red beans and spicy guacamole for our appetizer. Then a local arrived with an acoustic guitar and played live music as Alex's fish arrived full force with a mysterious homemade sauce that only complimented the fresh catch. 

My tacos featured chicken and beef with caribbean spices smothering each juicy bite. Andres followed up with complimentary shots, so naturally, we stayed for drinks and left him a big tip!

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Nema Bar & Restaurant was another treasure. We woke up late every morning and took a five minute walk over to our favorite daytime spot. Affordable and delicious: two mandatory criteria.

The spot is directly across from the beach, so it is easy to sit down and never leave. Be sure to order their Patacones con Guacamole and Ceviche Pescado for massive portions.

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Pita Bonita offers great middle eastern food and the portions are astronomical. We had chicken shwarma pitas after a 20 minute bike ride outside of downtown Puerto Viejo. 

The owner put it simply: "I hate going to restaurants that measure everything. Just make good food and eat that shit". 

Well said.

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Where to Shop:

If you are looking for unique gifts that cannot be found in the San Jose airport, or in any other Central American market, for that matter - I highly recommend the Casa Verde Lodge handicraft gift shop. Made and influenced by indigenous artisans, the shop embodies the culture and history of Puerto Viejo and the handmade baskets and woodwork are ideal gifts.

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Where to Hang:

Beside having some of the clearest water in all of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo is a stress-free town made for those who enjoy simplicity. 

Take a stroll or swim along one of the many beaches, or surf the famous Salsa Brava. Bikes can be rented for as low as $5 per day and grabbing a cold beer with friends is always a guaranteed chill time. 

In the evening head over to Hot Rocks for some awesome BBQ ribs and drink cocktails while swaying in their two-person swing sets as guests hilariously attempt karaoke on Thursdays nights.

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