The Most Beautiful Beaches near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
November 20, 2019
One of the best things about the Caribbean side of Costa Rica are undoubtedly the beaches. There is such a wide variety to choose from, which means there really is something for everyone: white sand, black sand, big waves, no waves at all,… and all of them are wonderful in their own way! Plus, they’re some of the most pristine beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. During my 2-week stay in Puerto Viejo, I’ve explored all of the beaches that were reachable by bike and I must say I was surprised I loved it so much.
I’d never really been a beach bum, but there’s just something about the pure, wild and unspoiled nature of Costa Rica’s seaside. There’s so much space! Visiting those beaches, I discovered a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in ages and I’ve actually been a bit sad now that I’m no longer close to the ocean. Anyway, this isn’t the place to sulk, here’s my list of the most beautiful beaches I’ve come across near Puerto Viejo!
If I had to pick a favourite, it’d probably be Playa Cocles. This beach was the closest to our Airbnb and I went there almost every day to play in the waves or to lie on the sand and watch all of the tropical birds cruising the sky *sighs in mermaid*. I can’t say enough good things about this beach: it’s gigantic, it has the BEST waves (not too big, not too small), there’s always people swimming, surfing or playing volleyball (but it’s definitely not too crowded), the water is warm and clean and the sand is super soft.
Some practical advice: Don’t swim too far, rip currents can be dangerous. Do NOT leave your stuff unguarded, thieves hide in the bushes and they will steal your backpack if they get the chance. Go in the afternoon if you want to escape the heat. Keep all of this in mind, but don’t forget to enjoy the carefree, chill vibes!
Playa Chiquita (love the name) is pretty much next to Playa Cocles, but as far as I know, you can’t walk there. Just keep following the main road straight ahead and take the first small pathway to the left. This beach is a lot more calm and lowkey than Playa Cocles and the water has a beautiful green shade. It’s also a lot less rough, which is perfect if you don’t feel like being hit by a wave every 2 minutes. You can chill and float for a while, have some snorkelling fun or engage in hour-long conversations with your friends like the locals do. Have a beer while you’re at it!
PLAYA PUNTA UVA
Next down the line we have Playa Punta Uva, which consists of two beaches separated by one of those long, narrow pieces of land that gradually disappear into the sea. There’s a little path that connects the two, so it’s fairly easy to switch sides. They’re quite different as well: the one closest to Puerto Viejo doesn’t have a lot of actual beach going on, as jungle vegetation reaches almost all the way up to the water (as you can see in the image below). This does provide some nice shading spots, in case you’ve had enough sun for the day.
We spent the longest at the other side though, because of the more accessible beach and the amazingly clear and calm water. Again, a nice change from the crazy waves that we were used to. I don’t exaggerate when I say I spent an hour doing nothing but floating around in knee-deep water. Best hour of my life. There’s also a lot of rock formation, which makes for much-needed shade. Don’t worry, you won’t get cold.
Both beaches are filled with locals having a good time, we hardly saw any tourists. There are some stalls with souvenirs though, as well as a bit of reggae music and people were even BBQing under the trees! Chill vibes all around.
GANDOCA MANZANILLO WILDLIFE REFUGE
As you may have guessed, this isn’t just one beach but an entire national park. It may seem pretty far (by bike), but it has some of the best views and beaches I’ve seen in the area! I don’t know if it’s the best place for swimming, as the water can get pretty wavy and there are lots of rocks too. I have seen some people going in, although I feel like their sole purpose was to get those Instagram shots (guilty).
When you arrive in Manzanillo, drive all the way until paved road becomes dirt road and then drive (or walk) some more and you’ll eventually reach the park’s entrance. It’s technically free, but they do ask for a small donation. It’s an adventurous hike, but still manageable on flip flops (if I can do it, anyone can).
Even though this is the closest beach to Puerto Viejo, I only discovered Playa Negra when I returned a week later for just a day on my way to San José (Olé). Before, I’d always gone in the direction of Panamá and never even thought to explore the other side, as it seemed like there was nothing interesting there. Boy, was I wrong! Playa Negra is amazing. The black sand and swaying palm trees fit the whole piraty scene perfectly. Have a swim there when the sun is setting, it’s simply magical.
I had a lot of fun compiling this list and re-living the time I spent on these beautiful beaches in Puerto Viejo. Have you ever set foot on a Caribbean beach of some sort? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!