Podcast producer and host of Freedom Lifestyle.
Puerto Viejo is a truly stunning location for digital nomads who want to avoid crowds. This quiet beach town on the Caribbean coast isn’t dominated by tourism. I’ve visited more popular spots around Costa Rica and didn’t feel a connection with the local community - most people I’ve seen in bars, restaurants, cafes or beaches were also tourists. In Puerto Viejo, you’ll find nomads looking to actually live there, along with the locals.
If you keep coming back, you’ll always be welcomed by the digital nomad community and locals. People in Puerto Viejo are usually very excited to hang out with you for the week, but they’re tired of the imminent goodbyes. They often won’t invest time into building friendships with people visiting for short periods of time. I can understand that. I felt like I was auditioning to be their friend and saying: “I'm only here for three months, but I do come back! I’m here every winter.” I’m based in Canada for most of the year but always escape to Costa Rica during the cold winter months. Pristine nature in combination with a low cost of living and decent wifi connections are the main reason why so many nomads and expats choose Costa Rica as their destination.
It’s the perfect tropical home base. When biking from one beautiful beach to another, it’s common to see sloths and monkeys hidden in the trees. There’s a big biking culture in Puerto Viejo and everything is connected by one main road. Tuk-Tuks are available around town but we rarely use them. Biking is the way to go. There are roads with untouched jungle areas on both sides, leading to the most pristine sand beaches I’ve ever seen. The lush area around Puerto Viejo gets lots of rain, so be prepared for it as a daily ritual. But on the plus side, the rain is what makes the national parks, jungles and waterfalls some of the most beautiful in Central America.
Remote workers - make sure your accommodation has fiber optic internet! We stayed in several different Airbnbs and learned this lesson quickly. For those of us that have online meetings regularly, this is one of the most important things to check with your potential host. Selina's coworking space is a good backup option.
Show up at the beachfront around sunset and you can play volleyball with people from all over the world. At our favorite beach, Playa Cocles, there are four volleyball courts set up. All you have to do is show up, and someone will ask if you want to join the next game. This has been the best way for me to make friends in Puerto Viejo. Afterwards, you might grab dinner or drinks with the people you just met, or perhaps you’ll see them a couple of days later and say, “Oh hi, we met at volleyball.”
Along with making friends, you’ll have to get comfortable with jungle life too. You will likely be staying in a traditional townhouse by the beach, surrounded by jungle. I had a scorpion wander into my Airbnb once. I posted a hilarious video on my Instagram of the Airbnb host walking into the room and saying, “Is there something we need to fix in here?” He grabbed the scorpion with his hand, put it in a bucket, and flicked it outside. Easy as that! You should also be careful when you’re at the beach. While I was swimming, I saw a monkey slowly walking toward my bag. He picked up my sunglasses and ran away! He lost interest once I started approaching him and dropped them. Be ready for some interesting animal encounters!
It’s wise to be careful at night and mindful of where you are. While places like Puerto Viejo are magical and amazing, you should always be aware, especially when alone or partaking in nightlife. I believe the overall safety is getting better, and is much safer than in bigger cities, but it has been a challenge for the small town. The more you get to know the area and the people in it, the safer you will feel. Overall, it’s been incredible meeting other digital nomads and remote workers in Puerto Viejo, and we even invited introduced Costa Rica as a destination to some of our friends and family!