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Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe: Full Guide on Safety, Beaches & Where to Stay

Last updated on March 30th, 2024 at 08:08 am

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?

Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe? Want to plan your trip soon to Puerto Viejo Costa Rica?

So, you’ve heard about Puerto Viejo’s stunning beaches, wild rainforests, and the irresistible pull of its Caribbean vibes. Awesome, right? But you’ve probably also stumbled across some safety concerns that have made you raise an eyebrow. “Is Puerto Viejo really the spot for my next big getaway?”, you might be wondering.

Let’s get one thing straight: No matter where you travel, there will always be stories that make you think twice. That’s just the nature of being a savvy traveler in today’s age. But here’s the deal – Puerto Viejo, just like countless other hotspots around the globe, has its pros and cons. What it all boils down to is how well-prepared and informed you are.

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In this guide, we’re gonna break it down for you – is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica safe. We’ll chat about those niggling worries, address the big questions, and give you some handy tips straight from folks who’ve been there and done that. By the end, our goal is to have you feeling like a local before you’ve even packed your bags.

Ready to get the real scoop on Puerto Viejo safety? Let’s dive in.

Settled along the Caribbean coastline, Puerto Viejo’s enchanting blend of golden beaches, vibrant culture, and rhythmic ambiance is a haven for travelers. As with any paradise, safety concerns invariably arise. Here, we’ll delve into the safety landscape of Puerto Viejo to equip you with essential information.


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What’s the Buzz about Puerto Viejo?

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?
Beach in Costa Rica – Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?

Alright, let’s set the stage. If you’ve done even a smidge of research on Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo probably popped up on your radar. And for a good reason! It’s this eclectic mix of Afro-Caribbean vibes, pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and that kind of laid-back atmosphere that travelers dream of.

It’s not just another beach destination; it’s a cultural melting pot. The reggae beats, the vibrant local markets, and the fusion food – Puerto Viejo is where cultures, tastes, and colors collide in the best way possible.

Costa Rican Beaches: A Misunderstood Reputation

Now, here’s a topic that needs a bit of myth-busting. There’s this narrative that Costa Rican beaches, particularly on the Caribbean side, are ‘more dangerous’. Let’s dissect that a bit.

First off, the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica offer different vibes altogether. While the Pacific side has its renowned surf spots and plush resorts, the Caribbean side, where Puerto Viejo is nestled, boasts a more bohemian, untouched charm.

Rip Currents

One of the reasons some beaches, especially around Puerto Viejo, get labeled as ‘dangerous’ is due to rip currents. It’s true, some beaches here do have stronger currents, making them less ideal for casual swimmers. But, just like any coastal region, it’s all about knowing where to dip your toes. Local advice is golden here.


This region’s rich biodiversity means encountering the occasional wildlife during beach trips. Just remember most creatures, whether it’s a curious monkey or a colorful crab, are more scared of you than you are of them. Enjoy the show, maintain a respectful distance, and you’re all good.

Those Niggling Safety Concerns Debunked

Ah, the internet! A treasure trove of information, but also, sometimes, an exaggerator of epic proportions. You might’ve read a thing or two about petty theft or some nocturnal activities in Puerto Viejo. But hey, which tourist spot on Earth is immune to these tales?

Remember that time in Bali when everyone said to watch out for the monkeys because they might steal your sunglasses? It’s kinda the same vibe.

Petty Thefts

Just like any other tourist hotspot, it’s about being smart. Don’t flaunt your new iPhone. Maybe skip wearing that flashy Rolex during beach trips. It’s common sense more than a dire warning.

Late Night Activities

Bars and clubs? Amazing! Wandering unfamiliar streets at 3 AM after a couple of mojitos? Maybe not the best idea, whether you’re in Puerto Viejo or Paris.

The Golden Rule: Trust the Locals

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?
Trust the Costa Rican locals – Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe?

You know the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”? It’s a traveler’s golden rule. Locals know their place better than any travel blog or Instagram influencer out there.

Start a casual chat with the bartender or the lady at the local souvenir shop. They’ll offer advice not just on the best spots to visit, but also on areas you might want to be a bit cautious about, especially after dark.

Transportation: Getting Around Safely

Biking is super popular in Puerto Viejo, and it’s such a vibe – feeling the wind in your hair while cycling past picturesque spots. But just as you wouldn’t leave your bike unlocked in New York City, don’t do it here. Rent from reputable places, use a good lock, and you’re golden.

If you’re thinking about renting a car or using taxis, it’s the usual drill: lock your doors, don’t leave valuables in plain sight, and always agree on taxi fares upfront.

Nature’s Call: Stay Safe in the Great Outdoors

Puerto Viejo isn’t just about the beaches and bars. There’s a wild, beautiful side to it too, with its rainforests and exotic animals. But, just like you wouldn’t approach a wild elk in Yellowstone, be smart here too.

Heading for a rainforest trek? Awesome! Just stick to well-trodden paths, hire a local guide, and maybe skip that selfie with the wild sloth.

Health and Wellness: Keeping Fit and Fine

It’s the tropics, so yes, there are mosquitoes. Pack some repellent, and if you’re the kind who gets bitten a lot, maybe a mosquito net for those beachside naps.

Eating local? Super! Just keep an eye on where locals are eating. That bustling joint with a queue is probably your best bet. And while street food is delicious, just like everywhere else, ensure it’s cooked fresh in front of you.

General Safety in Puerto Viejo

Personal Safety

While many visitors find Puerto Viejo relatively safe, it’s important to remember that no place is entirely devoid of crime. Petty theft, such as pickpocketing or bag snatching, occasionally occurs. To safeguard against these, consider wearing anti-theft bags, avoiding isolated areas, especially after dark, and always being aware of your surroundings.

Night Safety

As nightfall descends, Puerto Viejo pulsates with a vibrant nightlife that beckons one and all. Bars and clubs abound, providing a lively setting. Yet, it’s precisely during these hours that tourists become more susceptible to theft. It’s wise to travel in groups, limit alcohol consumption, and always keep an eye on your drink to avoid any unwanted additions.

Sun, Surf, and Sand: The Beaches of Puerto Viejo

Ah, the allure of Costa Rican beaches! Their golden sands, playful waves, and sun-kissed horizons have enchanted many over the years. Puerto Viejo, in particular, boasts a variety of these coastal treasures, each with a unique character and charm. Let’s delve deeper into what makes each of these beaches special.

Playa Negra: A Beach of Stark Contrasts

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?
Playa Negra, Costa Rica – Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica?
  • Vibe: If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’ve stumbled upon a hidden gem, Playa Negra is it. The contrast of the unique black sands against the azure waves offers a picturesque setting that feels both novel and serene.
  • Safety: Its secluded nature means fewer crowds, but always make sure to safeguard your belongings. The waters are relatively calm, but as always, it’s good to be cautious if you decide to take a dip.
  • Activities: Apart from enjoying the sun and sand, horseback riding is popular here, giving another vantage point of the coast.

Playa Cocles: Surf’s Up!

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?
Playa Cocles, Costa Rica
  • Vibe: The pulse of Playa Cocles is undoubtedly set by its waves. With surfers dotting the horizon, there’s an energy here that’s contagious. Beachside shacks play rhythmic tunes, adding to the spirited atmosphere.
  • Safety: While the waves beckon surfers, they can be strong. If you’re not familiar with the waters, always heed local advice and be cautious. Lifeguards are generally on duty, given its popularity, but it’s always best to swim in designated areas.
  • Activities: Beyond surfing, beach volleyball is a frequent sight. Surf schools also dot the coastline for those eager to learn.

Punta Uva: A Slice of Paradise

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?
  • Vibe: Picture lush greenery framing golden sands and tranquil waters. Punta Uva feels like a sanctuary for those looking to relax and recharge.
  • Safety: The calm waters make it safer for swimming and snorkeling. However, as with any beach, keep an eye on your belongings, especially during peak seasons when it gets a bit more crowded.
  • Activities: Snorkeling is a must here. The clear waters often allow glimpses of vibrant marine life. Kayaking is another popular activity, offering a unique view of the coastline.

Manzanillo: Where Nature Meets Culture

Beach in Costa Rica - Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe for Travel?
  • Vibe: Within the confines of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, this beach is a blend of natural beauty and rich local culture. The mix of visitors and locals going about their day adds a genuine touch to the experience.
  • Safety: Given its location within a wildlife refuge, respect the guidelines provided. While the waters are relatively calm, always be observant of natural warnings and local advisories.
  • Activities: Hiking trails lead adventurers into the refuge, giving an up-close experience of Costa Rica’s diverse flora and fauna. Local food stalls offer a taste of authentic Caribbean flavors, making it a culinary hotspot too.

Beach Safety

Puerto Viejo’s coastline is its crowning jewel. While the shimmering waters and balmy breezes are inviting, they also conceal certain dangers.

Rip Currents

Popular surf spots, notably Salsa Brava, sometimes exhibit powerful rip currents. If caught, it’s vital not to panic; instead, swim parallel to the shore until out of its grip. Even if you’re an adept swimmer, never underestimate the ocean. Consulting local surfers or lifeguards can provide valuable insights into the day’s conditions.

Beach Belongings

Stories of beachgoers returning from a refreshing swim only to find their belongings vanished are not unheard of. If you must bring valuables, consider a waterproof pouch that can be worn while swimming. Alternatively, buddy systems, where one person stays onshore, can also work effectively.

Can’t-Miss Experiences in Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo isn’t just about sun-soaked beaches; it’s a vibrant tapestry of nature, culture, adventure, and rhythm. Let’s dive deeper into what makes each experience in this coastal haven unique and unforgettable.

Jungle Adventures: Nature’s Thrill at its Best

  • Zip-lining Through the Rainforest: Feel the rush as you soar above the lush canopy, catching panoramic views of the sprawling green below. Several tour operators offer zip-lining experiences, with guides ensuring both fun and safety.
  • Trekking to Hidden Waterfalls: Deep within the Talamanca mountains lie secret waterfalls, their pristine waters cascading into serene pools. Take guided hikes to discover these hidden gems, each trek unveiling more of the region’s natural beauty.

Cultural Exploration: Dive into Puerto Viejo’s Rich Heritage

  • Local Cooking Classes: Dive into the world of Caribbean flavors! Join a local cooking class to master dishes like “rice and beans” or the delicious “pati”. Beyond recipes, these classes often share stories, making the culinary journey rich and immersive.
  • Indigenous Bribri Community: Spend a day with the Bribri, one of Costa Rica’s indigenous communities. Learn about their traditions, crafts, and relationship with nature. Engaging with their culture offers invaluable insights and fosters mutual respect and understanding.

Wildlife Watching: An Encounter with Costa Rica’s Biodiversity

  • Jaguar Rescue Center: This rehabilitation center for mistreated, injured, and orphaned animals is more than just a tourist spot. It’s a testament to human compassion. Get up close with monkeys, sloths, snakes, and more, all while supporting a noble cause.
  • Cahuita National Park: Spanning both land and sea, this national park is a biodiversity hotspot. Wander through its trails spotting monkeys, coatis, and iguanas, or snorkel in its marine part for a colorful underwater spectacle.

Nightlife: Rhythms of the Caribbean Night

  • Beach Bonfires: As the dusk settles, many beaches transform into hubs of camaraderie. Join in or watch from a distance as locals strum guitars and sing, all around roaring bonfires.
  • Bustling Bars and Clubs: If you’re in the mood to dance the night away, Puerto Viejo’s nightlife won’t disappoint. From reggae bars to lively clubs, there’s a spot for every groove. Popular haunts include Lazy Mon and Tasty Waves Cantina, where the music, drinks, and energy flow freely.

In Puerto Viejo, every day promises a new adventure. Whether you’re chasing waterfalls, swaying to reggae beats, or bonding with nature, it’s a place where memories are crafted at every corner. Don’t just visit; immerse, engage, and let Puerto Viejo’s rhythm become a part of your journey’s story.

Puerto Viejo, being a smaller town, has basic medical facilities. For complex ailments or emergencies, the nearest major hospital lies in Limón. It’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical evacuations.

Food and Water Safety – Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe

The delectable flavors of Costa Rica are a sensory delight. But, diving into culinary explorations requires caution.

Street Food

Vendors dishing out tantalizing treats are common. While these can offer an authentic taste, it’s crucial to observe hygiene standards. Well-frequented stalls, especially those patronized by locals, are generally a safer bet.

Tap Water

Costa Rica boasts relatively high water purification standards. However, in more remote areas like Puerto Viejo, relying on bottled water is recommended. This not only guards against potential contaminants but also stomach upsets that can disrupt travel plans.

Transportation Safety – Is Puerto Rico Puerto Viejo Safe

Navigating Puerto Viejo’s scenic landscapes comes with its own set of guidelines.

Bike Rentals: Bicycling is a favored mode of transportation. But with frequent rentals comes wear and tear. Before setting off, inspect brakes, tires, and lights. And, just as you would lock a car, always secure your bike.

Taxis: Not all taxis are created equal. To ensure a smooth ride, opt for officially marked taxis. Before starting a journey, either ensure the meter is running or settle on a fare to avoid disputes later.

Staying Connected

Connectivity, in today’s digital age, is paramount.


While most establishments provide Wi-Fi, be wary of unsecured networks. These can be gateways for cyber threats. For sensitive tasks, like banking, consider a VPN for added protection.

Local SIM

For those seeking consistent connectivity, local SIM cards are invaluable. Providers like Kolbi offer extensive coverage. Ensure your phone is unlocked and compatible with local frequency bands.

Cultural Respect and Interaction

Ensconced in Puerto Viejo’s heart is its rich tapestry of cultures, deserving utmost respect.


While the town’s beachy ethos is casual, dressing modestly in religious or indigenous spaces is appreciated. It not only shows respect but can also foster deeper interactions.


Engaging with locals enriches any travel experience. Basic Spanish phrases, coupled with genuine interest, can bridge cultural divides, turning fleeting encounters into lasting memories.

Where to Stay in Puerto Viejo for Safety

Selecting the right accommodation goes beyond comfort; it’s also about safety.

When choosing a place, consider its location, security measures, and guest reviews. A centrally located hotel may provide better safety due to its proximity to essential services. Utilize in-room safes or locker facilities, ensuring your valuables remain secure.

Your choice of stay can significantly impact your trip, and in Puerto Viejo, there’s a myriad of options ensuring both comfort and safety.

Boutique Hotels:

  • Le Caméléon Boutique Hotel: Nestled amidst the lush greenery, this boutique hotel prides itself on its sophisticated design that blends seamlessly with nature. Beyond its aesthetic allure, it offers 24-hour security, in-room safes, and is located in a well-trodden part of town. It’s not just about luxury here, but also peace of mind.
  • Lanna Ban Hotel: A fusion of Caribbean and Thai designs, this haven is a tranquil space with a keen focus on guest security. The perimeter is well-lit, staffed around the clock, and located in a peaceful area of Puerto Viejo, making it a top choice for those who prioritize safety.


  • Selina Puerto Viejo: Not just an eco-resort, but a hub for travelers, Selina offers community vibes with eco-friendly accommodations. Their security measures include lockers for guests, 24-hour staff presence, and a well-lit compound.
  • Cariblue Beach & Jungle Resort: A stone’s throw away from Playa Cocles, this resort merges safety with an authentic jungle experience. Gated, with round-the-clock security, guests can revel in the beauty of the surroundings without a care.

Homestays & B&Bs:

  • Casa Verde: Run by a local family, staying here feels like home. Situated in a safe neighborhood, the hosts often share safety tips and updates with guests, ensuring a secure experience.
  • La Costa de Papito: A quaint B&B with rave reviews about not just its hospitality but also its security. Guests often mention the safety of the neighborhood and the diligent staff.

Hostels for Solo Travelers:

  • Rocking J’s: A well-known establishment in Puerto Viejo, it’s a magnet for backpackers. Beyond its hammocks and vibrant mosaics, it emphasizes security with lockers, a guarded entrance, and a camaraderie that ensures solo travelers always have company.
  • Hostel Kinkaju: Set in a renovated wooden house, its charm is undeniable. A smaller hostel means a tight-knit community. Safety features include individual lockers, a secure perimeter, and well-lit interiors.

In Puerto Viejo, the essence is in the blend of relaxation and vigilance. While accommodations offer their security measures, maintaining personal safety practices enhances the experience. Enjoy the town with peace and assurance!

Emergency Numbers

Staying prepared is half the battle won.

In the unlikely event of emergencies, having these numbers can be crucial:

  • Police: 911
  • Medical: 911
  • Fire: 911

Our Conclusion and Final Thoughts on Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica Safe

Puerto Viejo, in all its Caribbean splendor, promises an unforgettable escape. Its safety profile is comparable to many tourist destinations globally. Forearmed with knowledge and a sprinkle of common sense, you’re poised for a journey that’s as safe as it is exhilarating. Embrace the ‘Pura Vida’ spirit and let Puerto Viejo weave its magic around you.

So let’s wrap this up. Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica safe? Absolutely, when you use the same street smarts you would anywhere else. It’s a gem of a place, brimming with culture, nature, and some of the best vibes you’ll find. So, plan that trip, pack that bag, and go experience Puerto Viejo like the savvy traveler you are. Safe travels! 🌴🌊

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