Wherever you go in Costa Rica, you’re sure to be surrounded by at least two if not three ecological reserves or national parks. The easy-going and stylish southern Caribbean stretch of coast popularly known as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is no exception.

Just under an hour south-east of Limón, the vibe is unhurried and youthful. The beaches, deserted in places, are also dotted with cool beach bars playing reggae in others. The waters are generally calm and crystalline, except for the perfect surfing waves off the Salsa Brava beach, and all set to the sights and sounds of the teeming rainforest you’ll find at every turn.

Puerto Viejo is actually set on the edge of the Gandoco-Manzanillo Refuge, whose vegetation brushes the high tide line and is brimming with eagles, pelicans, caimans, tapirs and its reefs alive with sea turtles, dolphins, blue parrot fish and other dazzling marine life. Taking a day trip to Panama’s Bocas del Toro coral reefs is well worth it, as are the many cultural tours, cycling routes and sport fishing charters on offer.

Understandably growing in popularity year on year, the relaxing charm of Puerto Viejo has brought a number of intimately chic hotels to its shores and visitors can choose from boutique boltholes to eco-friendly cabins a stone’s throw from the virgin beaches or first-rate restaurants.

What to do

  • Dive or snorkel the coral reefs of the Cahuita National Park
  • Hike through the Gandoco-Manzanillo Refuge for some excellent bird watching and crocodile spotting
  • Visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre
  • Sea Turtle watching
  • Beach bar hopping
  • Cycling
  • Day trips to Bocas del Toro (Panama) coral reefs
  • Tours to local chocolate farms & cultural tours to see the aborigines
  • Sport fishing (sailfish and marlin)