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It has only been in the last 15 years that Puerto Viejo has truly become a Costa Rican tourist destination. The reason is simple: it has only been in the last 20 years that you could drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo. Prior to the construction of the highway from San Jose to Limon Province, you had to fly into the area, which turned a lot of tourists off from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.
Puert Viejo itself has, unlike its even more laid back northern neighbour Cahuita, become a popular destination for the "alternative" backbacking and surfing crowd. It has also become a haven for tourists looking for a more laid back and traditional Costa Rican holiday, off of the beaten track. Environmentalism is starting to be evident in the area, as ecologically friendly small hotels pop up in the area. However, the town itself remains lost in time, reminicent of a 1970s era small town on the road to nowhere. Not a place that you are going to see the "in crowd' driving Hummers and expensive sports cars.
Given the south Caribbean's roots in the 19th century and early 20th century coffee trade, English (or a localized version of English) is more widely spoken here than other areas of Costa Rica. Also, Europeans enjoy vacationing in the south Caribbean, so you will find yourself meeting tourists from not only Canada and the United States, but also Germany, England, France, Belgium and other areas of Europe. Asian tourists do not seem to have discovered the area yet.