When arriving in Costa Rica you can choose to either go right or left; explore the Pacific or the Caribbean coast. With paradise coastlines on both sides, it’s almost impossible to make a choice. So just don’t. Do both! Head to the Caribbean Coast and be welcomed by Bob Marley tunes and little cocktail bars serving up Piña Coladas and Margaritas. If you are looking for proper holiday vibes, then the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is where you should be. While Puerto Viejo might be a typical tourist town, when you cycle out of town you come across empty stretches of beach and jungles full of wildlife. There’s so much to do, explore, and discover, so tag along!

Surfer at Playa Cocles on the Caribbean Costa Rica

Get your Caribbean surf fix

We wouldn’t be Mokum Surf Club if we didn’t mention the surf here. Surf’s definitely up on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. While most surf spots in Costa Rica can be found on the Pacific side, the Caribbean side doesn’t stay behind. Though the surf isn’t as consistent as on the Pacific side, the Caribbean side can be on fire as well. From December till April, the Caribbean swell picks up and can give you some serious sizable and powerful waves. July can also surprise you with some good swells, so if you’re around that time of year, make sure to keep an eye on the forecasts. The main spots are Playa Cocles, Playa Negra, Isla Uvita, and Salsa Brava (called for a reason). The Caribbean surf isn’t particularly for beginners, but if you wanna give it a try, check out the surf schools on Playa Cocles.

Be careful of croc and shark visits, however.

Sea Kayaking in Punta Uva

A fun activity when you feel like you’ve seen enough beaches and enough Piña Coladas is kayaking in Punta Uva. Rent a kayak and explore both the beautiful bay and the little river that goes more into the jungle. Guaranteed sloth spotting on this little field trip!

Sloth in Punta Uva Costa Rica
Cycling around the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica

Go Dutch - Cycle between Cahuita and Manzanillo

The perfect way to get around the Caribbean Coast is by bicycle. Explore all the little towns, rest at the pretty beaches, and munch in one of the many restaurants you’ll come across during your tour de Carib. I would advise renting a bike for your stay here, as it makes you so much more flexible to visit all the gems the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica has to offer. Spend a day at Playa Cocles, Playa Grande, or Playa Manzanillo, watch the locals play soccer on the beach while the sun sets, eat some fresh Ceviche, and cycle back all happy and relaxed.

Cahuita National Park on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica

Cahuita National Park

When visiting the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, a visit to Cahuita National Park is a definite must-see. This beautiful National Park is a collection of rugged paradise beaches with white sand and crystal clear blue water. Some parts of the National Park are perfect for wildlife spottings like nose bears, different types of monkeys, and lots of different colorful birds. Bring yourself some food, lots of water, and lots of sunscreen, and you’re ready for a day of exploring this tropical paradise.

Where to eat

Jerk chicken, fresh ceviche, and plenty of tropical cocktails to choose from. They definitely know all about the good life on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. Start your day at Puerto & Co. Whether it’s the vegan concept or the excellent WiFi that will lure you in, or none of the above, you can’t go wrong at Puerto & co. The staff is incredibly friendly and welcoming, so it’s pretty easy to stick around a little longer. Really good coffees, fresh tea, delicious smoothie bowls, and cakes that make you drool. Yep, we’re fans!

Puerto & Co restaurant in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
margaritas at Madre Tierra in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Madre Tierra

This two-story restaurant is the perfect hangout for your daily dose of cocktails and Caribbean fare. We did a Margarita battle across town and came to the conclusion Madre Tierra knows how to mix up the best one. We tried a few other cocktails on their menu as well, and one was even better than the other. However, it’s not just the cocktails that should lure you into Madre Tierra. Their yummy food with dishes like breadfruit gnocchi with coconut shrimp sauce and Mahi Mahi with ginger passionfruit drizzle, are just what you need after a day of beach exploring.

Koki Beach

Although Koki Beach is mentioned in basically every travel book, I’m not leaving it out of our Caribbean travel guide. We try to introduce you to all the hidden gems, but this discovered gem was just too good to leave it out. We tried a whole bunch of stuff from their menu (all seafood), and everything was just finger-licking good. Their grilled pulpo however, was from another level of goodness. You may wake me up for that one any time.

Koki Beach restaurant in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica
breakfast at Bread & Chocolate in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Bread & Chocolate

The name says it all. Bread and chocolate might be two of my favorite foods ever, and also the things I miss the most since we’ve been living in Costa Rica. But… Bread & Chocolate makes up for that! They got bagels! And about 6 different chocolate cakes, which unfortunately I haven’t been able to try all. So I guess that means we have to return. Perfect spot for breakfast or lunch, or just cake.

Where to stay

The absolute best place to stay on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is Congo Bongo EcoVillage. We already mentioned them in our Coolest Places to Stay in Costa Rica Guide, and not without reason. These jungle houses are located close to Manzanillo and are a true nature lovers’ dream. One of the most important features of Congo Bongo is sustainability and this is something you’ll encounter in every part of your experience at Congo Bongo. 

The houses are big with a very private feeling as you’re surrounded by lush greens. The only visitors peeking in might be the howler monkeys or the nose bears, and they stop by regularly. The beds are big and comfy, there are indoor and outdoor showers, and the beach is just a hop and a skip away. 

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House Congo Bongo hotel In Costa Rica

Caribbean charm in Costa Rica

So yes, the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica should be on your travel itinerary. I mean, who can say no to paradise beaches, wildlife abundance, sunset cocktails, and good surf? I certainly can’t. It’s a beautiful part of Costa Rica with such different vibes to the rest of the country. A trip to this part of the world just wouldn’t be complete without a few days of Caribbean charm.

Pura Vida,

Marthe

Tropical beach in Cahuita National Park Costa Rica

Recap

Do you rather look at images than reading stories? No worries, we have a short recap of everything you need to know below.

Best time to visit

For surfing between December and April.
Not a surfer? Then September and October are the best months to visit the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica.

Our hotel picks

Definitely Congo Bongo EcoVillage in Playa Manzanillo.

Currency

Colones or US Dollars.

Remember to pay the currency which is asked to avoid crazy exchange rates.

Congo Bongo beach at Playa Manzanillo Costa Rica

Best Margarita

Absolutely Madre Tierra.

Best surf spots

Beginners: Playa Cocles for lessons. Careful for the strong currents.
Intermediates: Playa Cocles
Advanced: Isla Uvita and Salsa Brava; you gotta try to tame the beast at least once in your life.

Must-do activity

Visit Cahuita National Park for the day and enjoy pristine beaches, wildlife, and amazing nature all along.