This is the "home beach" of Congo Bongo. A beach with a difference and full of local colour Playa Manzanillo has caves to explore, jungle trails leading to panoramic views, snorkeling off the point and boat trips to go dolphin watching.
Palm-fringed, white sand Playa Grande has majestic views of the bay's curving headlands in shades of blue and good snorkeling in calm clear waters. A long pristine beach stretching down to nearby Manzanillo.
An unforgettable beach where the rain forest drips from the shore into Playa Punta Uva's turquoise calm waters and howler monkeys cavort through the canopy. This is where the Dive Center is and where you do the PADI or organize a diving day.
A wide sandy beach, Playa Chiquita curves around the headland dotted with shallow coral rock pools ... add the ultimate in lazy sea bathing after snorkeling its colourful reef.
Famous for the Beach Break, this beautiful beach is a magnet for surfers. Regular Surfing tournaments attract both professionals and amateurs from all over the world. Take a surfing lesson or watch how it's done.
Just before coming in to Puerto Viejo you'll find the Playa Negra, or, the Black beach. The sand is nearly pitch black, but it is not dirt, neither is it of volcanic origin. Rather it is has a high concentration of magnetite and other minerals. The sand is very fine and soft and this beach stretches up to the Cahuita National Park. Run quickly to the water on a hot day or you'll burn your feet!
Pecora Nera - Cocles
This open-air joint on the jungle's edge has a deserved reputation as the finest Italian restaurant in the region. The menu has a broad selection of pizzas and pastas, but your best bet is to just ask Ilario (the owner and chef) what's fresh and special for that day, and to trust his instincts and inventions. The main dishes come with a variety of side dishes.
Chile Rojo - Puerto Viejo
Chile Rojo offers a true taste of Thailand, Asia and the Middle East, in a cozy and casual atmosphere, complete with an outdoor patio.
They aim to give you a unique dining experience with a selection of exotic, authentic and delicious dishes. Come and experience an "oasis of flavor" with their wide variety of dishes featuring chicken, lamb, seafood, vegetarian, rice and beef side dishes. Specialized in creating exotic cocktails at very affordable prices. We serve you everything from beer to fine wine and the perfect Martini. Happy Hours daily from 6 pm - 8 pm.
Take-away is available. Open Daily 10 am - Midnight
Koki Beach - Puerto Viejo
Best location of all restaurants in Puerto Viejo with a water-front chill-out view. A great place for a couple of mojitos. Food is delicious and the starters are so well-sized they can even make up for a full meal. Prices are $$ with a great price-value.
Latin fusion cuisine with a Caribbean twist. Check out their menu on their Facebook page.
Open Tue-Sun between 5pm and 11pm, closed Mondays ;-). Parking on the street. Take VISA and MasterCard. Attire "casual", Pura Vida you know.
Cafe Viejo - Puerto Viejo
This place is set right on the busiest corner of "downtown" Puerto Viejo. You can get a wide range of pastas and thin-crust wood-oven pizzas here, as well as more substantial fish, chicken, and meat entrees. On weekends, a late-night lounge often develops here, with electronic music and dancing.
Open Wednesday-Monday from noon until 1am.
Bread & Chocolate - Puerto Viejo
Bread and Chocolate is a small, all natural, bakery and cafe on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. We offer a variety of freshly baked goods, hand-made chocolate truffles, and cakes, as well as breakfast and lunch.
The owner takes pride in his food and service and comes around to chat with you. It's a place to appease breakfast, lunch and chocolate needs!
DIWO (old Jungle Love) - Playa Chiquita
Cooking style at Jungle Love Cafe is best described as International-Fusion. Everything is homemade and fresh, and although there aren't many items listed on the menu, there are very few things they cannot make. If you are a vegan or have a certain food allergy, let them know, as they will cater to your request! They will also create a custom menu with you for your wedding reception, party or catered event in the area.
At this time they do not accept credit cards. A 13% sales tax is not included in our prices. A 10% service charge will be added to all orders, 15% for tables of 6 or more. 400 colones will be added to each takeout item.
El Refugio - Punta Uva
El Refugio is owned by a very friendly Argentinian couple and has a mere five or so tables, the atmosphere intimate and perfect for a romantic dinner. The food is beyond compare. The prices range from 3,500 colones to 12,000 colones for the best piece of meat on this coast. And when they have them, and you like mussels (mejillones), that is a must-try!
Maxi's - Manzanillo
Cooled by sea breezes and shaded by tall, stately palms, this two-story, brightly painted wooden building offers weary travelers cold beer, potent cocktails, and great seafood at unbeatable prices after a day's hike in the refuge. Locals and expatriates alike—and even chefs from Puerto Viejo's fancier restaurants—come here for their lobster fix, and the fresh fish is wonderful, too. Locals tend to congregate in the rowdy but pleasant downstairs bar, where reggae beats into the wee hours.
Activities, excursions and day trips from the Caribbean
- Zip-lining or canopy is great fun and there is, for example, a tour north of Puerto Viejo, in Hone Creek, which is very recommend. It has a parcours of about 20 stops.
- Horseback riding on the beach
- There exist various operators for horseback riding - let us help you choose one and we will arrange it for you.
- Jaguar Rescue Center in Cocles
- The Jaguar Rescue Center is located in Cocles, near Villa del Caribe. It does not host a jaguar, but is a center where they take care of damaged animals and help them finding back to their natural habitat.
- Walk down Playa Grande
- The Playa Grande is a long and beautiful beach, white sand and it will take you almost down to the Panamanian border. Offers excellent snorkeling, a stop for lunch in Manzanillo and a sunset.
- Spa morning
- Or afternoon. treat yourself well and book a body treatment or massage at the Indulgence Spa & Beauty Salon or the Pure Jungle Spa.
- Sloth sanctuary
- Go and visit the sloths, cute, slow and always smiling Pura Vida! Visit homepage.
- Bird watchingCosta Rica has about 900 different bird species - watch and learn about some of them in the Manzanillo area. Visit homepage.
- Tortuguero Turtle watch
- Going to the Tortuguero to watch turtles is a fascinating trip. Maybe best with one over night stay as it is located north of Limón.
- Do the PADI in Punta Uva
- If you are curious to start diving we will send you to the Punta Uva Dive Center. And if you are already experienced you now know where to go. They offer PADI certifications of various levels.
- Bocas del Toro
- On the Panamanian side there is Bocas del Toro. It is possible to do in a day, but perhaps best with one overnight stay. Highly recommended.
- Monkey Point
- A full day hiking and boat trip with snorkeling. Trip includes lunch - book conveniently at Congo Bongo - read more on their home page
- Chocolate "museum"
- Learn all about chocolate - organic fair trade is a motto - and we're sure you'll be able to have a bite, too! Caribeans home page
- Go fishing!
- Go fishing, do some snorkeling and then cook a great meal - sounds like a deal! Visit homepage
Culture and History
The lovely town, Manzanillo located on the most southern coastline of Caribbean Costa Rica, was named for the Manzanillo tree. The fruit of this tree is toxic, but the tree is hard to find in the area today.
The town was originally founded by 2 families from the Islands of Bocas del Toro and Bastimientos in Panama and Jamaicans that had immigrated to work in the area.
The Jamaicans brought a West African heritage with them called Afro-Caribbean. There is a unique language known as Patwa that the local people still speak. There are many customs and festivals with strong African influences that you will find to this day. It was a largely fishing-based economy along with the cultivation of cacao and coconuts.
The cacao was a very successful for many years,but unfortunately, in 1990 a fungus devastated the the trees.
See photos here in our gallery.
The Restaurants and Grocery Stores
In Manzanillo town you will find several sodas. These are small restaurants that serve the local food. This food is a blend of cultures and flavors.
The specialty, of course, is the fresh fish caught right here in Manzanillo served with a spicy Caribbean sauce and rice and beans cooked in coconut milk. Maxi's is a larger restaurant featured in many guide books as a must visit for the area. You will enjoy the great food and lively reggae music from the bar downstairs.
You will also find 3 grocery stores in town, one of which sells fresh produce. They all have the drinks or snacks you might be looking for and if you are staying where you can cook you will find what you need.
See photos here in our gallery.
The Wildlife Refuge
Manzanillo is located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, established in 1985. There is an association of guides in Manzanillo who will help you discover paths that will fill your senses with the vivid colors of the rain forest and the mysterious sounds produced by different species of monkeys, sloths, lizards, parrots, toucans and other birds that live here.
The far side of the refuge is home to Punta Mona and the Gandoca community. This is about a 75 minute hike with a trained guide going one way. Perfect for ecotourism,you will enjoy its lagoon where you are likely to see otters and waterfowl.
Some of the most pristine mangroves in Costa Rica are here. Also, the leatherback turtle, the largest in the world, comes to these beaches to lay her eggs. There are programs in place here to protect these nesting turtles. These programs are always looking for volunteers if you are interested.
See photos here in our gallery.
The Reefs and Sea life
Hire a guide and set out to explore the coral reefs just off-shore or go it alone. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular here.
The blue Caribbean sea on a calm day, will offer you the chance to spot many beautiful fish, octopi and maybe even a sea turtle. If you have time, hire a boat to take you out to spot the 3 types of dolphins that call this area home.
See photos here in our gallery.
Here at Congo Bongo we contribute to Recycling in many different ways. A few examples:
- All houses have three recycling bins: for glass and cans, for organic matter and trash. All organic refuse we use in the garden and to feed the wildlife animals that live on the grounds. Glass and cans get picked up by a recycling company. The local trash truck picks up non-recycling trash. We also recycle batteries, paper and textiles.
- The private walkway to the unspoilt beach in front of Congo Bongo is built from 207 recycled truck tires. We put recycled wood and sand in the tires to make it a more comfortable to walk. It is a walkway of 210 meters (230 yards) to the lovely and beautiful beach. Many people have taken pictures and used the concept in other projects in- and outside Costa Rica.
- We like to be creative at Congo Bongo and find many ways to do that. You will find recycled bottles used in the houses as decoration. They are hanging, used as lamps and also worked into the shower walls. We have used recycled large water bottles in our parking area. They mark each house's parking spot and at night they illuminate. We think that is a good use of items that are often disposed of.
Congo Bongo reforestation project started in February 2015. The project has planted more than 2000 trees. You might ask why a reforestation project in a jungle area in Costa Rica where everything is green? Let us explain: About 40 to 50 years ago people living in this area cut down trees to build their houses. When the roads came in to the area they sold wood as a source of income for their survival. This had a drastic negative impact on the local wildlife. Things are changing little by little. That is why Congo Bongo has become one of the first on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica to start bringing the original trees back to the area. These trees supply much needed food to the native birds and animals. Here is a list what we have planted so far:
Almendro (Dipterix Panamensis)
Biriba (Annona Mucosa)
Casha (Chloroleucon Tortum)
Cedro Amargo (Cedrela Odorata)
Cenizaro (Samanea Saman)
Cortez Amarillo (Handroanthus Ochraceus)
Espavel (Anacardium Excelsum)
Guaba (Inga Edulis)
Hombre Grande (Quassia Amara)
Jack Fruit (Artocarpus Heterophyllus)
Mandarina (Citrus Reticulata)
Manzana de Aqua (Syzygium Malaccense)
Nispero (Manilkara Zapota)
Ojoche (Brosimum Alicastrum)
Pilon (Hyeronima Alchorneoides)
Pulsan (Nephelium Mutabile)
Sotacaballo (Zygia Longifolia)
If you feel like contributing to our reforestation project you may do so. You can adopt a tree at Congo Bongo and have your name placed by the tree to show you are taking care of the world. With your help we hope to keep on planting to save and protect the natural beauty of the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. Please join us as we live green and love the trees around us all.
Congo Bongo installations:
All houses in Congo Bongo use low energy light bulbs and a gas heater for the shower. We use some roof material that is transparent plastic . This way we save energy on a cloudy day. No need to turn the lights on.
Congo Bongo Beach cleaning:
Our staff does a daily beach cleaning in front of the property. They rake the whole beach and get it ready so the guests can have a true beach day in paradise. Also, we try to keep the whole shore line clean of plastic. This is a stretch of 6 kilometers in total that stretches from Manzanillo to Punta Uva.
We also support other projects. We are always looking for new or established projects that we can assist. The focus is on those which aid animals and nature. We support efforts in the area as well as other areas in the world.
- Sea Shepherd with protecting the turtles and eggs
- Ara project with the green macaws
- Sea turtles Bonaire
- and more...
If we all make little contributions we believe the world will be a better world.