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Travel Guide to Southern Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Map of the Area

Southern 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

Southern Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Ecotourism: Whales, dolphins and impressive waterfalls

The entrance door and distribution main center is Pérez Zeledón’s city, its limit extends through Puntarenas’ edge, including the Fila Tinamastes attractions, such as the Cataratas of Nauyaca (waterfalls), Platanillo town and even the Barú River, where the coastal sector, that extends to Punta Burica with a total of 490 km, initiates. The main activities include beach enjoyment and marine resources, such as whales and dolphin’s observation, as well as mangrove swamp’s, landscapes, reptilian, sport fishing, surfing, hiking through the National Park’s paths, professional diving, the energetic walks to the Chirripo’s summit, botanical gardens, protected areas’ impressive waterfalls… Two important protected areas are located in this zone, one is the Corcovado National Park, which National Geographic Magazine defines as “the planet’s biologically richest place” and the Humanity Biosphere Preserve, declared as Humanity Patrimony and part of the Amistad International Park.

Southern Puntarenas Costa Rica - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Main attractions in Southern Puntarenas 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.

Southern 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.

Southern Puntarenas Costa Rica - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Southern Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Ecotourism: Whales, dolphins and impressive waterfalls


Tours & Activities at El Remanso Lodge

Adventure - Nature - Culture - Sports

The El Remanso Rainforest Wildlife Lodge invites you to share the wonder and richness of seeing, feeling and living immersed in the natural unity of the rainforest where life’s troubles just drift away. In order to make the most of your stay the lodge offers a variety of tours and activities, some organized by the lodge’s staff, some arranged with other local partners, like guided hikes, zip lining, bird or dolphin watching and much more. Come and enjoy an extraordinary experience that will remain in your memories forever.

  • This is the most popular tour, and since 1995 the first of its kind in Costa Rica. Enjoy four waterfalls and four hours of adventure in a truly beautiful deep forest setting. Challenge yourself and enjoy an extraordinary day. Rappelling, also known as abseiling or canyoning takes you into the heart of the jungle through the wild river canyon at El Remanso. The Waterfall Rappelling Tour can be done by most reasonably fit people with a good sense of balance. After rappelling the first waterfall, you follow the river to the second, then third waterfall. The best is saved for last as the fourth waterfall is a 70 foot high beauty. Bring your cameras for this one as the photo opportunities are marvelous. The light filters through the canopy towering above you and reflects off the many pools. The sounds of rushing water soothe your mind while cooling your body.
  • Within seconds of leaving your cabin you can enter the canopy world, riding a cable onto a platform that is 125 feet above the jungle floor. Enjoy spectacular birding and wildlife watching as you look down into a canyon of leaves and branches. El Remanso offers zip line tours to one of the trees that rise above the canopy of the jungle. Attaching a harness to a cable enables you to ride over to a tree platform that is 125 feet above the jungle floor. Look out over a canyon of leaves for extraordinary botanical observations and where you may see many species of birds, monkeys, sloths or anteaters. This zip line is right next to the cabins, which means that very early morning or late evening trips are also possible. These cooler times of the day are the absolute best time for observing the Osa Peninsula wildlife. You can even enjoy a delicious breakfast, while sitting 125 feet up. What a way to start the day!The tree platform is one of the best places for bird watching. Be sure to bring you cameras, and binoculars. Almost any age group can partake in this tour. Safety is taken seriously, and you have double lines attached to you for added security. You also have double lines attached while you stay on the tree platform.
  • The lodge's resident naturalist guides will take you on one of several different trails and while you gaze at magnificent giant trees and observe wildlife you will get a real introductory lesson to tropical biology! You may see Scarlet macaws, toucans, parrots, hawks, tanagers, and many other types of birds. There are over 400 species of birds identified in the local area.The most commonly seen mammals are monkeys. There are 4 types in Costa Rica, and all of them can be seen here: Howler monkey (Congo), Spider monkey (Colorado), White face (Cara blanca), and Squirrel (Titi). Other commonly seen animals are white lipped and collared Peccaries (saino and chancho de monte), Coatis (Pizote), Agoutis (Guatusa), Tayras (Tolomuco), Kinkajous (Martilla), Sloths (Perezoso), Armadillos and Anteaters (Oso Hormiguero). Occasional spottings (i.e. with camera traps) on our refuge include jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margays and jagarundis. There are also a host of amphibians and insects to observe such as poisonous frogs, iguanas, morpho butterflies, leaf-cutter ants (zampopas) and many more.Price: $35 per person (long hike: 3-4 hrs); $25 per person (short hike: 2 hrs)$25 per person (night hike before dinner); $35 per person (night hike after dinner)
  • The Osa Peninsula is well known as one of the worlds' best birding destinations. Costa Rica may be the only country in the world to have so many bird species (830 species) and habitats accessible within such a small area. There are more species here than in all North America and North of Mexico together. The Osa Peninsula, also known as the "last wild frontier" of Costa Rica, is home to approximately 400 species of birds. With its 65ha of private reserve, El Remanso offers plenty of opportunities to spot your favorite birds. Hear the White Hawk crying out in the afternoon, the Scarlett Macaws flying over your cabin, the Tucans nesting in front of the restaurant or if you get up early you might see hummingbirds drinking from the morning dew. Beautiful colored Honeycreepers, Tanagers or the spectacular white crested coquette also figure among the species seen in our birding tours.
  • El Remanso Lodge is known to be a real Oasis of Peace and Tranquility. Yoga groups are welcome! There's hardly any better place to practice your passion than our Yoga Platform with primary forest views. If you are a group looking for a place to do Yoga, please contact us as the lodge can customize a special package, including transportation, accommodation as well as all the activities that you would like to do.
  • The best way to see the forest is to get up into the tree tops. That is where 80% of the forest species live. At El Remanso you can enter their world. Canopy touring has something for everyone: botanists, artists, photographers, birders, researchers and for those who like the thrill of adventure. Our favorite platform has ocean and forest views, a worthwhile reward after your climb. Experience the grandeur of 180 foot tall giants while sitting in a safe and comfortable platform or hammock in their branches. The forest vegetation takes on a totally different perspective as you look down and through the canopy seeing the flowers, fruits and vines. Safety is taken very seriously here, so we only use top of the line climbing and arborist equipment kept in good condition and used properly. Conscientious instruction and guiding will provide you with a safe and comfortable experience.*For researchers, the lodge is inventorying the different tree species and their flowering and fruiting seasons and can make special arrangements to suit your needs.
  • Costa Rica is well known for its excellent surfing conditions, with many spots with great waves, not to mention the warm water temperature all year around! Cabo Matapalo is a relatively uncrowded surfing area. It offers waves for beginners as well as world-class breaks for the more advanced surfers. The beaches of Cabo Matapalo are just a 10 minutes drive away from El Remanso Lodge. Surfing at Cabo Matapalo is a unique experience. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, the beaches in this area offer a variety of spots for all levels. The view you have from the water is amazing: scarlet macaws flying over your head, monkeys in the nearby trees and the occasional sea-turtle showing up while you are in the water! A south or a west swell is what really makes surfing at Cabo Matapalo turn on. The season is from April and October, but flat spells do happen during the rest of the year occasionally. If you are a beginner we can organize surfing classes for your first experiences in the waves! If you bring your own board we do offer a shuttle service to the beach.
  • One of El Remanso's most popular outside tours, a discovery of the rainforest & Pacific Beach on horse back. Enjoy a 3hour-long ride trough the rainforest and along the impressive Pacific beach. The tour is guided by Miguel Sanchez, the lodge's local neighbor, who with his eagle-eye is capable to see the most little creatures on the way.
  • This spectacular tour brings you close to these incredible animals in the Golfo Dulce and is one of the favorites of the guests. The gulf is one of 4 tropical fjords around the world and is home to a big variety of wildlife, including dolphins, whales (from August to November) rays, whale sharks and sea turtles. The tour starts early in the morning in Puerto Jiménez's harbour where you will take a private boat to go out and look for dolphins. The most commonly seen are the spinner, bottlenose and spotted dolphins. The trip also includes snorkeling and swimming on the other side of the gulf.
  • El Remanso offers different kayaking tours which will allow you to see, and explore the beauty and variety of wildlife in the Golfo Dulce. The sunset kayaking trip is one of the guests' favorite outside tours, appropriate for all ages and skill levels. The trip leaves in the early afternoon from El Remanso to go to town, where you will head to a beach on the outskirts of Puerto Jiménez. Depending on the tide, your guide may take you into the mangroves for a look at the plants and animals in this interesting and diverse biological setting. Then you will head out to the Mangroves and the Golfo Dulce for some kayaking. There is a good chance you will see various fish, birds, dolphins, and rays. There is a beautiful beach where you can swim. At the end of the trip you will have a fantastic view at the sunset in the gulf from your kayak.


Tours & Activities at Lapa Rios

Adventure - Nature - Culture - Understanding

All guided tours in the Lapa Rios Reserve help support the ongoing maintenance of the reserve. The tours also help, in a moderate way, to preserve the National Park Corcovado by paying for a ranger to guard the park. Choosing to hike and learn with a knowledgeable local guide gives the community continuing economic support and demonstrates that this diverse lowland tropical rain forest left standing is more valuable than one cut down.

  • Share the cool early morning air with some of the over 319 bird species inhabiting the Osa Peninsula. Leave at 6AM with a ride to the main road coming from Puerto Jiménez and hike up for breakfast at around 8:15AM. For keen birders and animal lovers, this guided tour will guarantee numerous species of birds, morpho butterflies and other mammals. Binoculars highly recommended. High quality binoculars can be rented. Level/duration: Easy, 2 hrs.
  • Hike up and down through virgin rain forest to pristine waterfalls and splash back along the Carbonera River. A rain forest experience with adventurous hiking. Difficult, but great fun. For all hardy hikers looking for a challenge (wet walking and some climbing). Level/duration: Medium-difficult, 3 hrs.
  • This walk follows an old track through primary forest. It's an opportunity to view the cool, primary forest along with fascinating "local" explanations of medicinal uses of barks, leaves, saps. Our guide will teach you the traditional Indian medicines from the rain forest. Transport to trail head. Level/duration: Medium hike with hills, 3 hours.
  • A walk along the beach and tide pools in front of Lapa Rios and back through one of the rivers teaches you about the marine biology of the area. See various land crabs, starfish, sea cucumbers, etc. 2 hours. Tide dependent tour. Level/duration: Easy, 2 hrs.
  • Hike down the hills along cool ridges through Lapa Rios' most impressive primary forest. Your guide will introduce the flora and fauna, and highlight features of the forest's immense diversity. Huge trees and wonderful forest views. Level/duration: Medium-difficult, 3-3 ½ hours.
  • The complete rain forest experience! This tour descends through the reserve's most remote and pristine forest. The 4 km. trail features many different types of rain forest vegetation and offers you the best opportunity to see something rare. Transportation to trail, road permitting. Level/duration: Medium-difficult, 3 ½-4 hrs.
  • Hike along nearby beaches and secondary forest while your guide points out lively creatures in the rainforest. A great tour for wildlife lovers who also want to explore nearby pristine sand beaches and rocky points. Level/duration: Easy, 2 hrs.
  • Experience the bird activity in the afternoon. Leave at 2:45PM with a ride to the main road coming from Puerto Jiménez and hike up at around 5:00PM. For keen birders and animal lovers, this guided tour will guarantee numerous species of birds, iguanas and any of the mammals. Binoculars highly recommended. High quality binoculars can be rented. Level/duration: Easy, 2 hrs.
  • Departing from the lodge at 6:00 PM., experience the sights and sounds of the rain forest after dark. With flashlights and use of "eye shine" the forest's nocturnal creatures come alive after dark. Level/duration: Medium, 1 ½-2 hrs., return for dinner.
  • Spend the night in the middle of the rainforest! Try to have an early dinner, and depart at 8:45 p.m. Do a 1-2 hour night walk, while arriving to a covered platform in the jungle. Sleep or rest in foam mattresses (we'll provide clean linens). Return at 5:30 a.m. after coffee and a snack. Arrive at the hotel by 9:00 a.m. for breakfast. Your guide will be with you at all times. See nocturnal species! More information available at reception. Level/duration: Difficult. All night.
  • Go by taxi early AM to Puerto Jiménez and fly into Sirena Station. The park is one of the areas with greater biodiversity in Central America. In a remote, exciting and isolated environment, offers a great opportunity to see larger mammals. Return by late PM. Take binoculars, hiking boots, camera, hat, insect repellent, bathing suit and a waterproof pouch. The cost includes your guide, park entrance fee, picnic lunch, snacks, water, taxi and airplane transfers. 4 people max. Cancellation fee within 72 hours (Nov.-April), or within 24 hours (May-Oct.) is $100.
  • Beginning at the main lodge and looping through the prime forest into the secondary forest and lower bungalows, this trail features 18 marked points of interest that correspond with a biologist's guide book available at the reception. Easily learn about the flora of the forest in a short medium walk. No charge
  • Contribute to sustainable development in the Lapa Rios reforestation program by transplanting a primary rain forest seedling to an area of second growth. Participants will learn about "their tree", its role in the ecosystem and receive a certificate to commemorate their efforts. Gift certificates can be purchased on behalf of others and the trees planted in their honor. Plan 10-20 minutes, planting is at 7AM or 4:30PM when the soil is cool.
  • We will be pleased to take guests to our local school for a visit with the children. Any sharing you can contribute - songs, stories, photos, reading - is highly encouraged. Depart at 8:15 AM.
  • Led by our coordinator, this highly recommended tour will take you around the lodges' premises and allow you to see and understand all the daily practices and efforts Lapa Rios does regarding sustainability, from biodegradable building materials to the bio-gas produced by our pigs. Wednesdays. Level/duration: Easy, 1-1 1/2 hrs. - Wednesdays only
  • Experience what soccer is all about in Costa Rica. Live the passion of soccer and participate in a game with the locals and employees. A guaranteed lifetime experience. Thursday 1-1:30 hr


Tours offered by community members

Please note: Most tours require 24 hours advance notice and all guides charge a cancellation fee, sometimes as much as 100%. Length of time for all tours is approximate. Tour prices are subject to change without notice. Tours and guides are endorsed by Lapa Rios.

  • The masseuse offers massage therapy sessions to foster a greater sense of health and relaxation. In a private room which overlooks the forest and the beach.
  • meet at the private yoga deck, next to the massage room, and obtain harmony and balance for body and soul. Cushion mat provided.
  • Guaranteed to stand up! A perfect right point break for beginners, with different sections to match your level of ability. The learning area is a forgiving wave that makes learning fun and the water is a wonderful 83 degrees. Whether you are 5 or 78 it is a dream wave to learn on. Lycra surfing shirts provided and professional soft top boards.
  • Go to Puerto Jimenez for a wonderful sea kayak mangrove tour in the Golfo Dulce area. Tons of marine wildlife present! No experience necessary and lots of fun. Tide dependent tour. 3 hrs.
  • Visit a private botanical garden begun over 25 years ago. Hundreds of different species of tropical orchids, ornamental plants and trees. Accessible only by taxi and boat ride on the Golfo Dulce. Not available on Fridays.
  • You will be snorkeling and exploring the gulf and its lush coastline, great opportunity to see any of the three species of dolphins (common, bottled-nosed or spotted). You will be able to listening to dolphin language through our new hydrophones; snorkel equipment available. Whales and turtles occasionally seen.
  • Cross the magestic "Golfo Dulce" by boat and visit the non-profit Wildlife Caña Blanca Foundation. Learn about the rehabilitation programs and participate with the injured and orphaned animals, most of them endangered species which eventually will be released at Piedras Blanca National Park. Followed by a relaxing swim in a quiet beach. Price includes $20/person donation to the sanctuary. No children under 6 years of age allowed.

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

* Inquire for recent prices and schedule

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El Remanso Rainforest Wildlife Lodge Southern Puntarenas Costa Rica

Located on Costa Rica's southwest Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula, close to Cabo Matapalo, the area where the hotel is located is well known as one of the world's most pristine and biodiversity rainforests.

avg/night$120.00 SELECT

Hotel Lapa Rios Southern Puntarenas Costa Rica

Lapa Rios Ecolodge overlooks the pristine point where the Golfo Dulce meets the wild Pacific Ocean.

avg/night$260.00 SELECT

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