Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- The closest airport to Puerto Viejo is in Limón. A taxi from the airport to Cahuita should cost around $20 (£10). Alternately, you can just walk the long block from the airport terminal to the main road south and flag down any of the frequent buses that pass by.
By Car -- To reach Puerto Viejo, continue south from Cahuita for another 16km (10 miles). Watch for a prominent fork in the highway. The right-hand fork continues on to Bribri and Sixaola. The left-hand fork (it actually appears to be a straight shot) takes you into Puerto Viejo on 5km (3 miles) of paved road.
By Bus -- Mepe express buses (tel. 2257-8129 in San José, or 2750-0023 in Puerto Viejo) to Puerto Viejo leave San José daily at 6 and 10am, noon, and 2 and 4pm from the new Caribbean terminal (Gran Terminal del Caribe) on Calle Central, 1 block north of Avenida 11. The trip's duration is 4 1/2 to 5 hours; the fare is $7 (£3.50). During peak periods extra buses are sometimes added. Always ask if the bus is going into Puerto Viejo (you do not want to get dropped off at the turnoff for Sixaola) and if it's continuing on to Manzanillo (especially helpful if you're staying in a hotel south of town). Regardless, don't be surprised if it doesn't do exactly what you were told.
Gray Line (tel. 2220-2126; www.graylinecostarica.com) has a daily bus that leaves San José for Puerto Viejo at 9:30am. The fare is $33 (£17). The return bus leaves Puerto Viejo at 7am. Interbus (tel. 2283-5573; www.interbusonline.com) has a daily bus that leaves San José for Puerto Viejo at 7:50am. The fare is $35 (£18). Interbus buses leave Puerto Viejo daily at both 7am and 2:50pm. Both companies will pick you up at most area hotels in both San José and Puerto Viejo, and both offer connections to various other destinations around Costa Rica.
Alternatively, you can catch a bus to Limón and then transfer to a Puerto Viejo-bound bus in Limón. These latter buses (tel. 2758-1572) leave roughly every hour between 5am and 6pm from in front of Radio Casino, which is 1 block north of the municipal market. Buses from Limón to Manzanillo also stop in Puerto Viejo and leave daily at 6 and 10:30am and 3 and 6pm. The trip takes 1 1/2 hours; the fare is $2 (£1).
If you arrive in Puerto Viejo by bus, be leery of hucksters and touts offering you hotel rooms. In most cases, they just work on a small commission from whatever hotel or cabina is hiring, and, in some cases, they'll steer you away from one of my recommended hotels or falsely claim that it is full.
Express buses leave Puerto Viejo for San José daily at 7:30, 9, and 11am, and 4pm. Buses for Limón leave daily at 6 and 9am, and 1, 4, and 5pm. Buses to Punta Uva and Manzanillo leave Puerto Viejo daily around 7:30am, noon, and 4:30 and 7:30pm. These buses return from Manzanillo at 5 and 8:15am and 12:45 and 5pm.
The road in from the highway runs parallel to Playa Negra, or Black Sand Beach (this is not the same one I talked about in Cahuita), for a couple hundred meters before entering the village of Puerto Viejo, which has all of about 10 dirt streets. The sea is on your left and forested hills on your right as you come into town. It's another 15km (9 1/3 miles) south to Manzanillo. This road is paved all the way to Manzanillo, although some sections are nonetheless in fairly rough shape.
Public phones are located around town and at several hotels. Those looking to change money should head to the Banco de Costa Rica branch on the main road in town. There's also a Banco Nacional branch in Bribri, about 10km (6 miles) away. Both of these banks have ATMs. You'll find the post office in the tiny strip mall behind Café Viejo. There is a Guardia Rural police office (tel. 2750-0230) on the beach, near Johnny's Place.
There are several little Internet cafes around town. There are also a couple of full-service laundromats -- the one at Café Rico (tel. 2750-0325) will give you a free cup of coffee, cappuccino, or espresso while you wait.
There are a handful of taxi drivers in town. You'll either find them hanging around the parquecito (little park), or you can try calling Bull (tel. 2750-0112 or 8836-8219) or Delroy (tel. 2750-0132). You can rent scooters and bicycles from several operators in town. I like Sucurucú (tel. 2750-0700), which is just south of the bus stop, and Dragon Scooter Rentals (tel. 2750-0728), which is across from the restaurant Salsa Brava, at the stand for Aventuras Bravas.