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Travel Guide Central America Costa Rica Puntarenas



Paa vei til Montezuma

Paa vei til Montezuma

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Although discovered in 1519 the city of Puntarenas and port was not developed until the 1840s because of the coffee industry. This nice city has homey old town and has wonderful beaches that surfers love. This is a great place to relax and spend a day or two.

Puntarenas (from "punta arenas" or "sand point") is the capital and largest city in the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica. The city sits on a long, narrow peninsula that juts out into the Nicoya Gulf, only about four blocks at its widest. Most travellers use Puntarenas as a stepping stone, riding the ferries from San José and the mainland to the Nicoya Peninsula and back. However, the city is a popular destination for Costa Ricans during holidays and the dry season. Cruise ships also frequently dock here, sending their passengers on day-long inland excursions.



Sights and Activities

  • Football - catch a local football game while in town.
  • Beaches are great places to relax and these ones never let down.
  • Surfing is a big activity on these wonderful beaches.
  • Mangrove Forest in the estuary above the north side of the peninsula. Crocodiles, herons, and red snappers can be found in and around the mangrove forest that grows here. The forest can be seen from any pier on the north side of the city, and some fishermen with small boats on these piers may be able to take you for a small tour if asked and offered compensation.
  • Stroll along the Paseo de los Turistas and see the many colorful shops, street vendors, and bars.
  • Walk out onto the main pier (when there is no cruise ship docked) at night. Many locals come here to drink, fish, and hang out. A wonderful place to view stars and the small lights of distant cities.
  • Visit the new public park on the end of the peninsula. Walk along the south beach until you see the large rocks that make up the sea wall, there are walkways with lights and benches on top of them. A public basketball court, playground, and many benches are a wonderful and quiet place to watch the sunset from.
  • Take a ride on one of the inflatable banana rafts being towed by boats on the south beach. On busier beach days (holidays, cruise days, and weekends), men will offer rides on these tubes for about ₡1,000 (~US$2). Life jackets provided.



Events and Festivals

  • Carnaval is one of the largest celebrations every year and is held in February.




Puntarenas' climate is on average about the same as many other places in Costa Rica. Tropical conditions mean high temperatures and high humidity. Average daytime temperatures are around 30 °C, while nights generally are still above 20 °C. The wet season lasts from May to November, making the months of December to April a better time to visit.



Getting There

Cruise ships call; ferries from Playa Naranjo and Paquera in the Nicoya Peninsula; buses from San José, Quepos (via Jacó), Monteverde.

From the airport in San José, you can take a taxi (available in front of the airport, once you leave baggage claim) to the bus depot in San José. From there, you can take a bus to Puntarenas. The trip will take a couple of hours depending on traffic and weather conditions, but its inexpensive.



Getting Around

Local buses leave from downtown and are relatively inexpensive. For travel to places outside of Puntarenas (e.g., Jacó, Manuel Antonio) there's a main bus station. Buses are usually on time and sometimes even leave early, so plan accordingly. Don't be surprised to see vendors on buses selling snacks and drinks.

Taxis are easily accessible and can be flagged down in the street, or you can call ahead to schedule a pick up.

Most locals ride bikes or walk. You can rent bikes from any of the bike shops at really good rates. Just make sure you keep your bike locked. Helmets may be hard to find though, so you might want to consider bringing your own. Pedestrians do not have right of way. You must ride your bike in the street (not the sidewalk), so be careful!




  • Matobes - Located along the Paseo de Turistas across from Parque Jurassico, the restaurant's tables are located on a lovely wooden patio. They serve up excellent pizzas and pastas, as well as delicious, giant calzones. Drinks include red and white wine, and Tona (Nicaraguan beer). Prices are reasonably cheap, and service is strangely quick for Costa Rica, but just as friendly.
  • Apretados - A delicious ice cream-like snack that comes in a variety of different flavors. You won't find these sold in any store, but out of the front of residents' houses, and will run you about ₡250 (US$0.50). Holding the plastic bag in your hand, tear off a small corner with your teeth and suck out the melting apretado.
  • Granizados dos Leches - This sweet, cold snack is similar to a snow-cone, but with a little something extra. Wait on the beach for a cart pushing vendor, and order a Granizado dos Leches in Kola (fruit punch), Chicle (bubblegum), or Naranja (orange) flavor. Shaved ice with powdered and condensed milk, served with a spoon and straw. Costs about ₡800-1000 (~US$2).




  • Hotel La Punta. At the extreme west end of the town, one block south and one and a half blocks west of the ferry terminal. Hot water, secure parking, upstairs rooms good value at US$38 plus ₡1100 taxi each way from bus terminal.
  • Hotel Cabezas. Check-out: 11:00. 3 blocks north and 1/2 block east of the bus terminal. Convenient to downtown and the bus terminal, Hotel Cabeza's rooms are clean, the service is friendly and towels are provided. A double runs about US$25. Private bathrooms, fans, and cable television are available. US$20-30.

View our map of accommodation in Puntarenas or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Keep Connected


It's easy to find internet access, and although you can still can find a lot of internet cafes, wifi is growing fast in the country. The further away you get from San Jose, the slower and more expensive it becomes when you are using an internet cafe. Wifi is generally free of charge at most places though and apart from off the beaten track parks, jungles and mountains, the connection generally is ok. Some internet cafés also offer international calls via either phone or IP using services like Skype.


See also: International Telephone Calls

  • The country calling code to Costa Rica is 506.
  • To make an international call from Costa Rica, the code is 00.

There are plenty of phone booths around and you will get the best rate using a pre-paid international card (can often be purchased in internet cafés and other small stores). There is usually a connection fee making short calls extra expensive. International calls are fairly expensive. The cheapest way to make them is over the internet using a service such as Skype at an Internet café. But making short calls using the domestic calling cards (you can make international calls using these but the denominations of the calling cards are quite small so your call will be short!) or the international calling cards available within Costa Rica (all from the government phone monopoly ICE) is the next best deal.

Those travelling with a mobile phone and willing to pay the roaming costs should ensure it supports 1,800 MHz GSM network. Note that the GSM phone systems in the United States and Canada use different frequencies and that travelers from there will need a "world" handset, such as a tri-band or quad-band phone, if you want to use your existing cell phone. If you want to use a local Costa Rica number, you can rent cell phone service, and of course anyone can buy a cell phone. If you have an unlocked cell phone (either one from home or bought in Costa Rica - all cell phones sold in Costa Rica must be unlocked), prepaid (prepago) SIM cards can provide a local number and service can be purchased throughout the country by anyone with a passport from any country. Try using companies like Grupo ICE under the Kölbi brand, TuYo Movil, Movistar and Claro.


Correos de Costa Rica (website in Spanish only) is the national postal services of Costa Rica. You can find post offices (correos) in almost any city and town and they are generally open from 7:30am to 5:30pm or 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 7:30am to noon on Saturdays. There are not that many mailboxes, so it's best to ask your hotel or go directly to the post offices. Services tend to be slow but generally reliable and on the whole cheap regarding letters and postcards. It costs about US$0.20 to the USA and Canada (taking about 1 week to 10 days), US$0.25 to Europe (about 2 weeks) and US$0.30 to Asia and Australia (3 weeks or even more). All in all, if you can try and arrange your mail from the capital San José as it's generally quicker from there. Small packages are also no problem, though take them to the post offices unpacked for inspection first! Otherwise, arrange things through private international courier services like UPS, FedEx, DHL or TNT.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 9.96948
  • Longitude: -84.842949

Accommodation in Puntarenas

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Puntarenas searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Puntarenas and areas nearby.


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This is version 12. Last edited at 9:17 on Jan 25, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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