Little Puerto Viejo de Talamanca whisks you over to the Costa Rican Caribbean.
It shows, too. The town here would look right at home somewhere on the Jamaican north coast. It’s filled with paint-peeling cantinas and ramshackle eateries where the scents of coconut curries twist and turn with the rhythms of reggaeton in the air.
And there are buzzing bars that slosh with rum cocktails and cold beers, meaning you won’t be short on nightlife.
Once upon a time, Puerto Viejo was just an unknown fishing village. Then the surfers came. They were drawn by the promise of the thundering left-hand barrels that peel over the reefs of Salsa Brava, and the hollow beach peaks at Playa Cocles.
Those are now two of the most legendary surf spots in Costa Rica as a whole, offering a place to score tubes in the dry season months between November and April when the Pacific coast is usually a little less reliable.
Puerto Viejo isn’t just about waves, though. The town is perfectly located for launching expeditions into the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, a lush land of eyelash vipers and emerald parakeets.
It’s also the home of the acclaimed Jaguar Rescue Center, where you can go to learn all about frontline conservation efforts in Costa Rica.