The twelve-kilometre coastal stretch between the languorous village of PUERTO VIEJO DE TALAMANCA, 18km southeast of Cahuita, and Manzanillo is among the loveliest in Costa Rica. Though not great for swimming, its beaches – Playa Chiquita, Playa Cocles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo – are some of the most picturesque on the Caribbean coast. Puerto Viejo itself is one of the most popular backpacker towns in Central America, with plenty of accommodation, plus a lively social scene, and the entire place sells out at weekends, so prepare accordingly.

It’s surfing, however, that really pulls in the crowds; the stretch south of Stanford’s restaurant at the southern end of Puerto Viejo offers some of the most challenging waves in the country and certainly the best on the Caribbean coast. Puerto Viejo’s famous twenty-foot wave “La Salsa Brava” crashes ashore between December and March and from June to July; September and October, when La Salsa Brava disappears, are the quietest months of the year. Then there’s the South Caribbean Music and Arts Festival (t 2750-0062, [email protected]) held every year for the four weekends leading up to Easter, and featuring Costa Rican musicians playing a variety of music including ska, jazz, reggae, calypso and more.

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