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200km (124 miles) E of San José; 55km (34 miles) S of Limón

Puerto Viejo is the Caribbean coast’s top destination, and deservedly so. Not to be confused with the landlocked Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí in the north, this beach town is sometimes called Puerto Viejo de Limón or Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops abound, and the streets teem with bicycles, cars, trucks, tourists, expats, and locals. Here you can feel perfectly normal strolling the main street in a bikini, and don’t be surprised if someone offers you something to smoke. The town is popular with surfers who come to ride its famous and fearsome Salsa Brava wave, and the only slightly mellower Playa Cocles beach break. Non-surfers can enjoy other primo swimming beaches, plenty of active adventure options, nearby rainforest trails, and a slew of restaurants.

This area gets plenty of rain, just like the rest of the coast; February through March and September through October are your best bets for sun.