The Talamanca province on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is well known for its surfing, snorkeling, and excellent beaches. However, it also has some great FREE hiking spots! These are my tips for the best hikes near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
From San Jose, there are daily direct buses to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca that leave every two hours from Terminal de Atlantico Norte. It’s important to note there is also a Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui in Costa Rica. Don’t take that bus! It’s a five-hour bus ride to Puerto Viejo with a 20-minute rest stop in Limon. You can also head to Terminal de Caribe and hop on a bus to Limon and catch a connecting bus going to Puerto Viejo/Cahuita/Manzanillo. The total cost for either option should be around $10 USD or 5600 Costa Rican Colones.
Cahuita National Park
This is one of the highlights of my stay in Costa Rica. The trailhead is pretty easy to access. Hop on a bus from Puerto Viejo to Cahuita which leave every hour or two from the bus terminal. Once you get off the bus in Cahuita, you are less than a 10-minute walk away from the park entrance!
It should take no more than a few hours to hike the full 8.3 km trail through the national park. The best thing about Cahuita is no entrance fee to this national park. This is a very family-friendly hike and something visitors of all ages can do.
The path is relatively flat and easy to navigate and stays along the beach until the last kilometer when it dives into the jungle. There are plenty of spots to stop along the way to relax at a beach or take a break on a bench in the shade. I saw a huge variety of wildlife at Cahuita compared to other places I visited throughout Costa Rica. When I went there, I spotted sloths, pacas, monkeys, lizards, butterflies, and crabs, all of which you can see on my YouTube vlog for this hike. I highly recommend visiting this national park.
Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
This park is a bit trickier to access if you don’t have a car or motorbike. There are a few buses passing through Puerto Viejo heading towards Manzanillo in the morning but catching one back in the afternoon can be an issue. I got to and from Manzanillo by walking and hitchhiking. You are welcome to wait for the 6:00 pm bus back to Puerto Viejo. It’s a 10-minute walk to the start of the trailhead from the bus stop in front of Maxi’s. There is no entrance fee for this wildlife refuge.
I hiked through this wildlife refuge on a rainy day. Therefore, there were a few flooded parts of the trail to navigate around. Part of the trail is permanently flooded. If you want to go beyond this area, I recommend checking out my YouTube vlog of this hike for complete instructions.
This hike starts off along the beach and takes you past a nice viewpoint of the rocks in the ocean before turning into a forested area. Compared to Cahuita National Park, I heard more birds on these trails here. I also spotted multiple blue crabs on this hike as you will see in the YouTube vlog. I think it is because of the rain storm and many crabs began to emerge from their shelters. This hike should take no more than 2.5 hours roundtrip.
**Since completing this hike, I have read about isolated incidents of robberies on this trail over the past few years. Therefore I would recommend hiking here with a large group or hiring a local guide who knows the area really well.**
BONUS HIKE: Voilo Waterfalls
Voilo waterfalls are relatively easy to access located just a few kilometers outside the town of Bri Bri, which is a short bus ride from Puerto Viejo. Maps.me has the correct location of this waterfall northwest of town. The Google Maps location is wrong! The waterfalls should take no more than an hour walk to reach from the bus station. You do have to cross a river on the short trek to the falls from the road so bring water shoes for this hike. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up hiking here (instead I had to deal with card issues in San Jose). Although I still think it is a hike worth doing if you in the area.