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Travel Guide to Northern Puntarenas Central Pacific Region, Costa Rica

Map of the Area

Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery
  • Puntarenas Province 34.34 km2 (13.26 sq mi)
  • 30 to 35 °C (86 to 95 °F)
  • UTC (GMT) -6 hrs
  • The Costa Rica Colon (CRC) ₡575.75 = $1 USD.
  • Spanish
  • Puntarenas Province (2012) 34,085
  • 9°58′N 84°50′W

Northern Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Islands, surfing and nature reserves

Puntarenas is one of the most important tourist regions of Costa Rica. Its coasts are decked by plenty of islands, inlets, beaches and beautiful natural treasures, which make Puntarenas a tourist destiny by excellence. Its territory offers a wide range of attractions supported by the sun and the beach, which are complemented with protected zones, continental and insular areas. The northern region also comprises the islands in the Gulf of Nicoya and the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, as these are mainly accessed from Puntarenas and stretches down to the mouth of the Río Barú in the area known as Dominical de Osa. This spectacular area is very close to the Central Valley, a two-hours drive, 120 km away from the capital. Puntarenas City is its principal center. Another tourist center is Tambor. Worthy of note is the scenic beauty along the coastal highway that connects the Caldera area with the Quepos and Manual Antonio region.

Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Main attractions in Northern Puntarenas Central Pacific Region, Costa Rica

Puntarenas is the largest province in the country. The port of Caldera has become one of the most important ports in terms of exports and can also receive cruise ships. This province can be travelled along two tourist routes: the Central Pacific and the Gulf of Nicoya, and the South Pacific. Visitors have their choice of beaches perfect for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, or just peacefully taking in the surrounding rainforests.

Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery


Puntarenas was discovered by Gil González Dávila in 1522. Despite the use of the Gulf of Nicoya as an entryway to Costa Rica's inland territory, the port of Puntarenas was not developed until 1840 when coffee production in the highlands reached exportable volumes. In 1845 the Congress of the Republic declared Puntarenas a duty-free port (with the exception of Cognac and hard liquor). Originally, the coffee was brought to port in oxcarts via a trail through the mountains. In 1859, a stretch of railway track was completed between Puntarenas and the town of Esparza (one of the country's earliest Spanish settlements, founded in 1574). Eventually, the railway was built all the way through to San José and service was inaugurated in 1910.

With the railway connection to the Central Valley, the Pacific port's activities continued to be a major part of the region's economy throughout the 20th century. However, due to the aging and deterioration of the port facilities and the need to accommodate the much larger vessels of modern shipping fleets, a new port was constructed in the 1980s to the south of Puntarenas. The site chosen was Caldera, where ships had anchored during colonial times. Caldera was more appropriate site for larger ships, and actually was the first port site used since 1522.

Islands, surfing and nature reserves

At just four meters above sea level, the city or port of Puntarenas features extensive beaches for enjoying sea and sun. Historically the place for national tourism and recreation, it offers a variety of quality tourist services appealing to international visitors as well. Puntarenas now boasts a cruise ship terminal at the remodeled Puntarenas Wharf, which has a series of piers and docking areas from which ferries depart for established tourist destinations such as Paquera and Cóbano on the Nicoya Peninsula, as well as tours around the islands and mangrove swamps in the Puntarenas estuary.

Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Northern Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Islands, surfing and nature reserves

The Manuel Antonio National Park contains tropical forest with its exotic fauna and flora and also protects 12 islands that serve as excellent refuges for several seabird species, as well as several stunning beaches, a 14-hectare lagoon and a mangrove swamp. For more information on day tours to the many special attractions in this area, please contact us.


Ecotourism: Protected Areas

  • Have an experienced nature guide take you on an informative hike through the Manuel Antonio National Park. Our guides know where you are most likely to encounter sloths, monkeys, etc. They will also provide a great deal of information on the history, flora and fauna during this easy 2 hour walk. Snacks are offered during the tour, and guests may remain in the park afterwards.
  • In this combination tour, you'll hike through the rain forest along 1500 meters of easy access trails, and visit the Butterfly Botanical Gardens, with an experienced nature guide. You will have a chance to spot Howler, Cara Blanca and Titi monkeys as well as 10 different species of butterflies. It will be a learning experience as you will observe the four different stages of metamorphosis (Egg, Larvaem Chrysalis, and Adult Butterfly) and perhaps witness the magical moment when a butterfly first opens its wings and takes flight for the first time.
  • Glide through crystal clear, aqua blue pacific waters, marvel at the unspoiled beaches of Manuel Antonio, explore the mysterious islands that lie just offshore our coast. After enjoying the tranquility of sailing these pristine waters, our Catamaran glides into a beautiful, protected bay so you can swim under the protected cover of our tropical jungle. Snorkel along the coral reefs near the coastline, discover our fascinating underwater domain, or rather, our underwater playground of tropical fish and exotic marine life. As you frolic and enjoy the secluded bay and romantic scenery, your crew will prepare a savory meal (lunch or dinner depending upon the time of your departure).
  • Paddle protected inland waterways, a perfect place to learn this magical way of exploring coastal mangrove areas and seeing wildlife. None of these trips is in open ocean and the pace of this trip is according to your abilities. Lunch is at a great seafood restaurant.
  • Come experience one of Costa Rica's most striking coastlines by open-seat ocean kayak. Paddle to Biezans Bay for a refreshing swim and delicious local snacks. Feel free to have our bilingual naturalist guide direct you to the best snorkeling spots as you experience three small but growing, active, and astounding coral reef systems nestled very close to the shore of Biezans. Or just relax and enjoy the tranquility of a private white sand beach. After an unforgettable experience at Biezans, continue kayaking towards Manuel Antonio National Park and see the nearby nesting islands, which exotic boobies and frigates call their home year round. Finally, a rewarding hot meal in a typical restaurant awaits you.
  • Let Don Gilberto and his family show you the real Costa Rica - on horseback! Once they pick you up the adventure in history and nature begins, starting with the Quepos Indians and leading you through the changes of Manuel Antonio today. Enjoy learning about Costa Rica's exotic plants and rare wildlife as you ride through the tropical jungle. After that refresh yourself in the pristine waterfalls of Tocori.
  • The trip begins with an amazing 4x4 safari drive through the tropical rainforest and across the river You will arrive at a ranch house where you will enjoy a "tipico" breakfast. There are 16 platforms, 8 cables, and 3 rappels lines. You will get and incredible rush while zipping from one platform to another in the canopy of the rainforest. Then you will reach a pond where you can swim and refresh yourself.

* Please note: Information on this page is believed to be correct but not guaranteed

* Inquire for recent prices and schedule

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Moana Lodge Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica

Moana is a small private luxury ocean view hotel. During your vacation you'll encounter high quality modern hotel suites and rooms that blend comfort with style leaving you with an unforgettable personal experience.

avg/night$130.00 SELECT

Hotel Villa Caletas Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica

Villa Caletas is located in the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica between Herradura and Punta Leona, on a jungle hilltop.

avg/night$180.00 SELECT

Clandestino Beach Resort Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica

The Clandestine Beach Resort hotel is located in the central Pacific region of Costa Rica in a large stretch of sand that forms this wonderful continental island almost unique, beautiful and wild beach with coconut palms.

avg/night$206.00 SELECT
Si Como No Resort

Si Como No Resort Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica

We call it "Si Como No", an ideal balance of design and comfort placed within the rain forest of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

avg/night$250.00 SELECT

Arenas del Mar Resort Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica

The resort is beautifully situated on a cliff above Espadilla Beach with its white sand beaches and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

avg/night$300.00 SELECT

Florblanca Resort Northern Puntarenas Costa Rica

Positioned on the Pacific Coast of the Puntarenas peninsula, Florblanca’s spectacular location sets a mood all of its own.

avg/night$400.00 SELECT

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