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Enjoying Puerto Viejo on $28 a day

Enjoying Puerto Viejo on $28 a day

Enjoying Puerto Viejo on $28 a day

Destination: Puerto Viejo

Costa Rica often gets a bad rap as the most expensive country in Central America. There is some truth to that, but you can still find $10 a night hostels, $2 beers and a wealth of free sunshine, white beaches and clear water off the Puerto Viejo's coastline in Costa Rica's southern Caribbean.

With our little bit of local expertise, you'll be traveling like a king on $28 a day.

Wake up

Walk barefoot in the sand around the Playa Chino and catch the Caribbean sunrise scorching the sea. Stop-in for breakfast at one of the small cafés that dot the beach and the dirt roads through town, or better yet, grab a hot cup of coffee and a fresh croissant for a $2 from Pan Pay, Puerto's Viejo's most popular breakfast joint and bakery.

Running total: $2

Get out

Catch a bus from Puerto Viejo for little more than a $1 and get off at either Punta Uva or Mazanillo inside the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge (hyperlink). For a golden beach and a short hike through the coastal rainforest, visit Punta Uva. For a longer hike, take the bus down to Manzanillo, walk south along the coast and you'll enter the southern tip of the refuge complete with miles of walking trails through coastal rainforest, lagoons, hidden coves, white sand beaches and enough wildlife to keep you enchanted all day long.

Alternatives (not included in the running total):

  • Skip the surf lesson, watch a few demonstrations on YouTube and rent a board on Playa Cocles for $10 per half-day – find out when high-tide is and ride the two hours before and after for the best waves.
  • Rent snorkel gear from the info center in Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva Dive Center in Punta Uva, or Aquatic Sports and Adventure in Manzanillo for about $10 per day and explore the reefs, rocks and coves around Puerto Viejo.
  • Rent a bike for $5 to $10 per day from your hotel or any of Puerto Viejo's bike rental shops. Cruise around Puerto Viejo then ride up the coast to Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita and Manzanillo enjoying the town, the forest and the ocean along the way.
  • Visit with monkeys, sloths, deer, snakes and jungle cats at the Jaguar Rescue Center (hyperlink) in Playa Chiquita. Tours start at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and cost $15 per person.

Running total: $4

Indulge

With the sun reaching its zenith and your shadow having all but vanished, duck for cover in any of Puerto Viejo's local sodas (small, family owned restaurants).  Tasty, cheap and different than the rest of the country, Caribbean sodas infuse their food with rich and bold flavors. Try the Caribbean-style chicken, pork and beef (pick one) marinated in herbs and spices, slow-cooked and served with coconut-milk-simmered rice and beans, crispy patacones (fried green plantains) and salad; all for about $6.

Alternatives (not included in the running total):

  • Mopri  (hyperlink) is the local favorite for fresh seafood and leisurely extended lunches. Taste Mopri's specialty; the mixed seafood plate, $13, clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, shrimp and fish tossed in a creamy, Cahuita rum reduction. Top it off with an ice cold local brew, Imperial or Pilsen, for $2. The meal is a little bit of a splurge, but it's worth it.
  • Humor your sweet tooth with homemade artisanal gelato at Deelite. Located seaside on Playa Chino, Deelite scoops locally-flavored gelato like passion fruit, mango, chocolate orange and dulce de leche into cups and cones for $2 to $5.

Running total: $10

Happy hour

Happy hour runs like wildfire through Puerto Viejo. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., you can get two-for-one drinks at any bar in town for $6. But for the best place to enjoy those dwindling twilight hours, head over to the Lazy Mon's shaded patio beside the sand and sea of Salsa Brava. Live music starts about an hour before sunset dousing patrons with smiling calypso and languid reggae rhythms.

Running total: $16

Dine

Puerto Viejo's restaurants are a reflection of its international community: Costa Rican, Spanish, German, American, Asian and Italian. Walk down the main street that cuts through central Puerto Viejo and you're sure to find more than one of each. Follow your nose and you might just end up at A Mi Modo, where there is sure to be fresh baked pizzas in its wood-fired oven. Though you'll find a variety of different toppings, the most popular pizza is the Rustic; $12, a hearty tomato sauce and a layer of fresh mozzarella topped with ham, salami and bacon sprinkled with rosemary laid out on a wooden block straight from the oven.

Alternatives (not included in the running total):

  • Monday nights are all-you-can-eat sushi down at Chile Rojo in the Puerto Viejo town center for $12.
  • Taco Tuesdays at Tasty Waves in Playa Cocles cook up $4 tacos from happy hour onward.
  • Lazy Mon makes a killer cheeseburger, $6, topped with bacon and an onion ring and served with home-cut fries.


Running total: $28

Enjoying Puerto Viejo on $28 a day in Pictures

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