Central Pacific

The Central Pacific region stretches from the port city of Puntarenas to the mouth of the Barú River, where the South Pacific of Costa Rica begins in Dominical. Its main cities of tourist interest are Puntarenas, Jacó, Quepos, and Manuel Antonio.

The Central Pacific region of Costa Rica is a very popular tourist destination, especially for its easy access to the Central Valley. Just one or two hours from the capital city of San José, it boasts beautiful beaches, fun coastal tourist towns, the country’s most important Pacific ports, and fantastic surfing, sport fishing, sailing, diving, and other water sports. Lined with a mountainous coastline, the Central Pacific is a transition zone from tropical dry forest to rainforest. It is not as humid as the Caribbean coast or the South Pacific; however, it is rainier than Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula.

The Central Pacific also includes the islands of the Gulf of Nicoya, which are accessed from the ferry port in Puntarenas. The port of Caldera, just south of Puntarenas, is the country’s main Pacific port for cargo ships and cruises. Driving along the coastal road from Puntarenas to Dominical, you will be captivated by the stunning scenery.

The national parks and other wilderness areas of the Central Pacific are its main attractions. It is a region with great biodiversity of abundant plant and animal species. Considered the “crown jewel” of Costa Rica’s national parks, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest yet most visited of all the parks.



Carara National Park

Another of Costa Rica’s beautiful wilderness areas, Carara National Park is located along the coastal road from Puntarenas to Playa Jacó. This national park is a very important ecological transition zone between the dry tropical forest of the northern Pacific and the humid jungle of the southern coast. Covering 5,242 hectares, it was created to facilitate research, scientific studies, and environmental education. Carara protects various ecosystems, such as swamps, lagoons, secondary, and primary forests. The fauna is abundant, including peccaries, anteaters, kinkajous, agoutis, coatis, raccoons, ocelots, white-faced capuchin monkeys, two-toed sloths, tayras, deer, and foxes. One of the area’s favorite birds, due to its beautiful plumage and endangered status, is the scarlet macaw. Carara has several pre-Columbian native occupations. Archaeologists have reported 15 archaeological sites dating back at least 2,000 years.

Tarcoles River

The Tarcoles River provides a critical habitat for a number of species, most notably its resident population of giant American crocodiles. Boat excursions along the river to see the crocodiles, along with a variety of bird species and other wildlife, are overwhelmingly popular. The river forms the northern border of Carara National Park.


Being the nearest large beach to the capital city of San Jose, Jacó is a bustling popular beach town known for its festive atmosphere and laid-back lifestyle. Curving in a wide arc for around 4 km, this picturesque beach is surrounded by coastal hills on both ends, creating an open bay. Travelers should note that there is often a strong undertow, and swimming should be done with caution. However, the calmer Herradura Beach is only 7 km to the north and is more suitable for swimming. Jacó and its southern neighbor, Playa Hermosa, are renowned surfing spots; the Quicksilver International Surf Championship and various national competitions are held here every year. In addition to surfing, one can enjoy long beach walks, horseback riding, mountain biking, ATV tours, canopy zip-lining, and sport fishing.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park, the most popular national park in all of Costa Rica, boasts stunning beauty with its impressive beaches, protected coves of brilliant turquoise ocean, lush surprising forests, and an incredible variety of plants and animals in a very small space. Encompassing 683 hectares, Manuel Antonio is one of only two places in Costa Rica where you can see all four types of monkeys: spider, howler, white-faced capuchin, and the endangered squirrel monkey. Increasingly threatened by habitat loss, there are only 1,500 squirrel monkeys left in the wild in Costa Rica, according to the most recent census. Manuel Antonio’s trail system is extensive; the Sloth Trail and Cathedral Point Trail are the best. The most commonly seen species include sloths, coatis, raccoons, iguanas, crabs, many species of birds, and monkeys. An exquisite coral reef, perfect for diving, rests just a few meters off the coast of the sparkling white sand beaches. Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, and Puerto Escondido beaches are the easiest access points; there is also a 14-hectare lagoon and a mangrove. The park also protects 12 islands that serve as excellent refuges for various types of seabirds. When visiting the park, be sure to hire a guide or you won’t see half of the wildlife; also, don’t forget to visit the small open-air natural history museum and park information center.

Damas Mangrove Estuary

“Just on the outskirts of the town of Quepos, the Damas Mangrove Estuary will captivate you with its unique mangrove forest ecosystem. You can explore this tangled labyrinth of waterways by kayak or boat. During your excursion, you may spot white-faced capuchin monkeys, alligators, crocodiles, boas, iguanas, and many varieties of birds.”

"The Rainmaker Hanging Bridges Reserve"

“For those who love nature and hiking, the private Rainmaker Reserve with its dense tropical rainforest in the Fila Chonta mountain range and its spectacular suspension bridge through the forest canopy are an exceptional attraction.”

"Damasco Caves"

“The Damas Caves, about 20 km north of Manuel Antonio, are dry and horizontal, making them easily accessible to tourists. The passages are filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and there are chambers with ceilings reaching 30 meters high.”

Quepos Point

“This rocky promontory with forested areas and clear sandy beaches offers spectacular viewpoints to admire the beauty of the calm blue sea. At the highest point, there are several hotels where you can enjoy expansive views of Manuel Antonio National Park and the entire northern coast of Quepos.”


“This small fishing village on the coast is known for being one of the best places in the world for big game sport fishing. Travelers come from all over the world to catch marlin, sailfish, snapper, roosterfish, dorado, wahoo, tuna, yellowfin, and more. The eclectic tourist town offers visitors a variety of accommodations, food, and entertainment. Manuel Antonio National Park is only 7 km to the south. The Quepos pier also serves as a starting point for boating, kayaking, jet skiing, and dolphin and whale watching trips. Adventure tours such as canopy zip-lines, rafting, horseback riding, waterfall rappelling, scuba diving, paragliding, and surfing are also very popular. Quepos Airport is the fastest way to reach the Central Pacific coast from the Central Valley, with just a 20-minute flight from San José.”

"Hacienda Barú Wildlife Refuge National Wildlife Refuge"

Located about 2 km north of Dominical, Hacienda Barú’s 330 hectares host a fantastic variety of habitats, from beach, wetlands, and secondary forests in the lowlands to primary forests in the high coastal mountain range. You can explore 7 km of hiking trails and 3 km of pristine beach, as well as an orchid garden, butterfly garden, and bird observation tower. Night tours and bird watching excursions are offered on-site, and there’s even a zip-line tour with eight cables. Golfina and hawksbill sea turtles lay their eggs on these beaches. The evolution history of Hacienda Barú from a working cattle ranch to a national wildlife refuge and eco-lodge is quite fascinating.


Punta Leona

La Leona Punta Refuge is a private natural reserve spanning 300 hectares, comprising lush primary and secondary forests, and two white sand beaches separated by Leona Point – Mantas Beach and Blanca (White) Beach. They are ideal for swimming and other activities such as sunbathing and hiking. The reserve is home to over 330 species of migratory and native birds, particularly the rare and endangered scarlet macaw.

Herradura Beach

Forming a tropical bay, the aptly named Herradura (Horseshoe) Beach is a beautiful oasis of tranquility adjacent to the Los Sueños Resort. The small beach is enclosed by hills on both sides. At the northern end is the world-class Marina Los Sueños, and to the south is Herradura Island, a natural refuge for seabirds. This beach is ideal for swimming, water sports, and enjoying fresh seafood at the many outdoor beach restaurants.

Herradura Island

In addition to being a colony of seabirds, Herradura Island is an excellent spot for diving and snorkeling to see colorful fish and other marine species.

Hermosa Beach

Just 5 km south of Jacó, Playa Hermosa is a wild 10-kilometer-long beach with dark sand facing the open Pacific Ocean. Its strong and consistent waves make it one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for surfing.

Bejuco Beach

This small beach, located 20 minutes south of Playa Hermosa, is popular for shore fishing or at the mouth of the Bejuco estuary. Also popular here are beach walks, horseback riding, photography, and sunbathing. Travelers should be aware that rip currents are very strong on this beach, and caution should be exercised.

Boca Vieja Beach

This beach is located in Quepos and is good for walking and swimming. You can take a boat tour along the nearby Paquita River.

Espadilla Norte Beach

Located in Manuel Antonio, Playa Espadilla Norte is very popular for swimming and water sports such as surfing, kayaking, boat rides, and jet skiing, among others. There is a wide variety of tourist services here.

Naranjo River

East of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, the Naranjo River plunges abruptly from the coastal range through narrow gorges, passing farmland, oil palm plantations, and primary and secondary forests before opening into the Pacific coastal plains. Scenic whitewater rafting trips on the river’s class III-IV rapids are challenging and exhilarating.

Savegre River

One of Costa Rica’s most pristine rivers, the Savegre is a magnificent watershed flowing from the Talamanca cloud forest through a long valley of lush primary and secondary tropical rainforest to the Pacific coast. It’s ideal for whitewater rafting trips (Class II-IV) on the thrilling roller-coaster rapids. Many tropical birds reside in the rich vegetation along its banks.

Barú Beach

The extensive beachfront of Barú Wildlife Refuge encompasses the Hacienda Barú, a rich natural landscape of forests and mangroves. From September to October, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles lay their eggs on this beach.