The province of Puntarenas is the largest, and one of the most important tourist regions of Costa Rica. It includes islands, coves, beaches and natural treasures of great beauty. Its destinations for sun and beach are complemented by unique protected forest areas. The city of Puntarenas is not only a place to visit, but is also a departure point for the southern Nicoya Peninsula, the Nicoya Gulf and its islands. Puntarenas is very close to the Central Valley – about 120 km (90 minutes) from the capital city of San Jose.
The southern Nicoya Peninsula is full of natural beauty and offers first-rate exquisite beaches. The Peninsula's jagged and mountainous landscape has an isolating effect on many of the region's small coastal towns and beaches, adding to their unique allure. Major sights include the beaches of Santa Teresa, Mal Pais, Montezuma and Tambor, the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, the Gulf islands of San Lucas, Chira and Tortuga, and the exceedingly remote and exotic Coco Island.
The community of Monteverde, located in the Central Highlands north of the city of Puntarenas, is an important region both nationally and internationally since it is known worldwide for its efforts in conservation and a lifestyle dedicated to respecting nature. At 1,440 meters high, cool, misty mountains and prehistoric-looking cloud forest has made the mountaintop paradise of Monteverde a favourite hot spot for ecotourism in Costa Rica. Its main attraction is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, with its unique cloud canopy encompassing eight distinct biological zones, and featuring scenic hiking trails for observing flora and fauna. Bird watching is especially spectacular to see species like the Resplendent Quetzal, three-wattled bell birds, trogons, toucans, and guans.
The main activities you can do in North Puntarenas include: sun and beach time, surfing, photography, boat tours through mangroves, boat tours to see dolphins and seabirds, fishing, historical and cultural tours, visit butterfly gardens, bird watching, recreational biking, hiking, horseback riding, and rural community tourism services.
- Puntarenas: The city and port of Puntarenas is a major centre for recreation and tourism in Costa Rica. There is a newly remodelled terminal for cruise ships, and docks for ferry services to the southern Nicoya Peninsula. In Puntarenas, you can arrange tours of the Nicoya Gulf islands and mangroves in the Puntarenas estuary. Puntarenas is known for its fresh seafood cuisine. Additionally, you can visit several buildings of interest and historical value.
- Paseo de los Turistas (Tourist Boardwalk): A lively and attractive port city, perhaps one of Puntarenas’ most interesting features is the “Paseo de los Turistas,” a tree-lined promenade adjacent to the beach. This boardwalk turns into a colourful street festival on weekends, as people from all over come to the popular restaurants, discos, cafes, bars and hotels that are found here. It is located parallel to the main beach of Puntarenas. In the immediate area of the cruise ship pier are kiosks selling crafts, and traditional beach desserts like fruit salads with ice cream, and sweet frozen ices called a “Churchill.” Near this area, you can find other facilities such as tennis courts, parks, showers, and restrooms – all that you need to enjoy the beach.