To meet locals in Puerto Viejo, one need do no more than pull into town. On the bus or the road into or out of town is the number one local meeting site. Once you’ve crossed the bridge and spotted the barge in the water on your left, locals will be there to greet and guide you, and along the way you’ll be likely be introduced to la pura vida Caribbean style.
Lots of locals like to start the day at Pan Pay Bakery, the number two spot to meet locals. Two brothers from Spain own this popular hangout breakfast joint, and locals love it the most. Street hustlers and winos share tables with magicians and shamans while bambinos wait for moms in bicycle baskets at the best local cafe beside the sea, next door to the police station. Bonus Tip: Check the walls for current surf contests, art fairs, and local classifieds. Snag a piece of luscious homemade chocolate cake if you’re lucky, a steal st 500 colones ($1).
Cruise around the bend in the road just south of Pan Pay and arrive at Tex Mex, the number 4 spot to meet locals, at the intersection smack dab in the center of town. A large open-air cafe with a circular bar under a thatched roof, the Mexico meets Texas inspired menu also boasts a long list of cocktails. The vibe is laid-back island casual and the pool and foose ball tables add an extra element of fun for locals and visitors. Tex Mex overlooks the Old Harbor itself otherwise known as parquecito (little park), an unbeatable view point of colorful fishing boats, and the number 5 spot to meet locals.
Heading south, the shacks that line the water’s edge and the stretch of road that runs alongside them is number 6 on the list of local meeting spots, right up to the trees, in which locals have been known to hang.
Browse the bounty of souvenirs, from rasta sarongs to hand carved masks and amulets, chat with local artisans and fishermen, and stop at El Diamante de Puerto Viejo to refresh. This upscale market is the number 7 place to rub shoulders with locals. Bonus Local tip: Great buy for wines and brews. If you haven’t already obtained wheels, rent a bike next door at Gallo’s bikes.
Number 8 place to meet locals is the Lazy Mon, formerly known as Stanford’s Disco and Restaurant, in a prime waterfront locale, with ping pong, live music, local DJs, and awesome sunsets. Happy hours from 4 to 7 pm are a sweet way to find your way to Salsa Brava, the number 9 site to meet locals in PV. The semi-annual Puerto Viejo Open Pro surf fest is held here or at Cocles Beach, the number 10 place to meet locals in Puerto Viejo.
On the sand, surf, and street, locals crawl to and fro Cocles (pronounced Coke-eles) Bonus tip:Visit OM Viva el Momento, a cool local establishment. Book a surf lesson from Peace.