How To Get To Manzanillo from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Manzanillo, Costa Rica is a beautiful town situated on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica just north of the Panamanian border. It is a very small town but also very beautiful, and it brings in visitors from all over the world to enjoy its amazing views, warm Caribbean waters, and delicious Caribbean food.
But how do you get to Manzanillo? Well you could find someone with a boat or a seaplane to give you a ride (highly unlikely), you could hike through the jungle from Panama (ridiculously dangerous), or take the road from Puerto Viejo. We would suggest taking the road from Puerto Viejo because, well... it just makes sense for the average traveler.
Other than a bumpy, fairly unknown shortcut from Sixaola (the official Panamanian border crossing) there is only one tiny bridge to get in or out of Puerto Viejo and down to Manzanillo. The distance from this bridge at the entrance to Puerto Viejo down to Manzanillo is approximately 13 kilometers of straight road.
Option 1: Walk
Google Maps says that it should take 2 hours and 43 minutes to make the walk to Manzanillo from Puerto Viejo. Obviously, they do not take into account stopping for monkey and sloth sightings, grabbing a snack from one of the cafes along the way, or trying to hitchhike because you decided that walking was a bad idea. The route is fairly safe during the day. The road has been newly paved so watch out for some of the local drivers that are dreaming of being a Nascar driver someday.
Option 2: Hitchhike
We do not suggest this option, even though it is fairly common. Most likely you would be fine but there are not-so-nice people all over the world.
Option 3: Bicycle
This is probably the most popular option for travelers that do not have a car. The bike ride from the center of Puerto Viejo can take 30-60 minutes depending on your fitness level and if you are doing some sightseeing along the way. You will pass a few small 'towns' along the way. First would be Cocles, the most popular beach for surfing and just hanging out. About 5 kilometers down the road you will find the Playa Chiquita / Punta Uva area which contains a lot of nice small shops and cafes where you can refuel your body along the way. Punta Uva also has one of the top-rated beaches in the world so if you are too tired to continue you can cut your trip in half and enjoy the beach. From Punta Uva, you have about 5 more kilometers to look for monkeys and sloths until you reach Manzanillo.
Just remember that it starts to get dark at 5pm and is fully dark by 6pm, so give yourself enough time to get back. Even though the roads are better and have more lighting than they did a few years ago, it still gets very dark in some areas.
Option 4: Public Bus
Taking the bus is probably the second-most popular way to get to Manzanillo if you do not have a car. It is a good option if it is a bit rainy since you may not want to get halfway to Manzanillo and get caught in a downpour (which is sometimes unavoidable no matter how the weather looks before you leave). The bus schedule is kind of odd, with buses running every 1-2 hours depending on the time of day, so make sure you review the bus schedule before leaving
so you are not sitting at a bus stop for 2 hours. Tickets can be bought before the bus arrives at the Mepe office across the street from the basketball court near the main bus stop. You can also wait at any location south of Hot Rocks and wave the bus to stop, since the only buses passing south from that point will be heading to Manzanillo. You can pay the driver when you get on the bus. The last bus leaving Manzanillo is at 6pm so make sure that you catch this bus for your return trip, or else you will need to find a room in Manzanillo or take a taxi back to Puerto Viejo (which may be more expensive than getting a room for the night).
Option 5: Taxi
If you have a group of 6-8 people and are lucky enough to find a minibus taxi, it may not be too bad of a deal. But taxi will charge anywhere from $20-$30 each direction to get from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo. Unless you are in a hurry or in a bind, we would not suggest taking a taxi. But if you do need a taxi, stop in at any cafe and ask if they can call a taxi for you, and have them get the price before the taxi arrives.
Option 6: Car Rental
Renting a car may be a good option if you are planning on doing a lot of exploring and may also be less expensive than public transportation depending on the size of your group and the number of locations that you plan on exploring. Some credit cards cover part of the rental insurance which can make it even more reasonable. Just be aware while driving because there are always children, dogs, sloths, horses, monkeys, iguanas, and many obstacles that could appear in your path at any moment. There are both Adobe and Alamo offices in town but you will always get the best deal by booking the car online first.