Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

RAINFORESTS ARE REALLY WET!!!

It was a February like none other! It rained and rained and rained. Of course, we were staying in the rainforest. But, still, they’d just had the rainiest January in 75 years, and February was shaping up to compete! 

Nevertheless, we settled into our bungalow just outside of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Sea with a beautiful view of the water and howler monkeys scrambling daily in the trees just above our deck. Howler monkeys may be very small, but they have the growl of a tiger! As we started out on our morning run into town the first day we were there, this gigantic growl seemed to be coming from the woods just between us and the beach. I feared a jaguar may be jumping us at any moment. It was somewhat unsettling. Later that morning, thanks to a phone call with my sister, we learned that this enormous sound was coming from the cute little howler monkeys!

Our breezy bungalow at the edge of the sea
Howler monkey trapezing his way from tree to tree just outside our bungalow

RENT A BIKE

We rented bikes for about $5 per day while we were in Puerto Viejo, which was a wonderful way to get around. One day we even made 25 mile loop from Playa Chiquita up and over Margarita Road to the highway through Bri Bri, Hone Creek, Puerto Viejo and back to Playa Chiquita … not so easy on single speed cruisers, but fun nonetheless! On bikes, it’s possible to visit many places from hidden beaches (Punta Uva and Eden Beach) to coffee shops and restaurants, or even the grocery store. Our favorite morning excursion was to CariBeans, a coffee shop along the beach road between Puerto Viejo and Playa Cocles. CariBeans offers a grand assortment of artisanal chocolates from their plantation, besides coffees and pastries. 


PADDLING UP THE CANALS

We spent one afternoon in Playa Chiquita paddling up one of the inlet channels that lead from the Caribbean up into the jungle. This is so peaceful and quiet and a great place to spy all sorts of interesting birds, monkeys, caymans and iguanas. You can rent the kayaks right there at the beach and drop them into the water for an hour or two of paddling and viewing nature.


JAGUAR RESCUE CENTER

Guide at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Playa Cocles

The Jaguar Rescue Center is a temporary or permanent home for injured or orphaned animals. There these animals are rehabilitated for a return to their natural habitat, or if unable to be rehabilitated, they are kept on at the center as their permanent home. It all began back in 2007, when Encar Garcia Vila and Sandro Alviani received a very sick and dehyrated baby jaguar whose mother had been killed. They tried to nurse her back to health, but lost the battle. They decided to name the center in honor of that baby jaguar, even though they care for many other types of animals from penguins to caymans. The center offers tours and it is a very well-worthwhile endeavor to spend a morning or afternoon visiting this beautiful place.

CHOCORART CHOCOLATE TOUR

Cacao pod on the cacao tree

Chocolate Tours are another fun way to while away a few hours, learning all about how one of our favorite foods is grown and harvested, dried, and ultimately made into the chocolate that we know and love. Although there are many options for taking cacao tours, we decided upon Chocorart, located in Playa Chiquita about 6 kilometers south of Puerto Viejo. 

We started with a walking tour through the cacao tree plantation, where we could see the cacao pods hanging from the trees. This led us to the soaking stage, where the pods are soaked to release the cocoa beans. The beans are then dried on a big wooden platform and finally roasted in a kettle over a wood fire. Ultimately, the beans are ground into a paste and made into chocolate, which can be sweetened or not, depending upon the future use of the product. The tour offered snacks and a cup of hot cocoa made from this amazingly fresh ground chocolate. This is a fun thing to do, but try to pick a day with no rain, if possible! We managed to squeeze this excursion in between rain storms! 

Be sure to sample their amazing chocolate bars available at the tour shop.

Our guide cut open one of the cacao pods to show us the slimy cocoa beans inside. The beans are covered with a soft white pulp, that is also delicious to taste.
The roasting process where the beans are cooked over a real wood fire.

This is where the beans are dried for approximately 5-7 days.

DAY HIKE @ CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK

View of sunbathing birds from the shore in Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park is just about 17 kilometers northwest of Puerto Viejo. It is a park filled with lush vegetation, white sand beaches, capuchin monkeys and plentiful vignettes of the sparkling Caribbean. The hiking trails take you from the shore in and out of the jungle where all sorts of creatures can be seen in the water and hanging from tree vines. We took a picnic lunch on our hike and enjoyed a few moments sitting on the short watching the waves and the birds flocking to an old dilapidated pier posts. The hiking trail is really an out and back, unless you park your car in Cahuita town and get a ride back. We opted to hike out and back and it wound up being about 10 miles round trip.  

Capuchin monkeys are prevalent in the Cahuita National Park.

For more information about the park, this website offers detailed instructions about entrance fees, guides, etc. https://mytanfeet.com/costa-rica-national-park/cahuita-national-park-costa-rica/#Tours

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