What You Need to Know About the Central Pacific in Costa Rica
Whether you are searching to experience the diverse flora and fauna, the white-sanded beaches, or extreme sports, Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast has it all. This region is a tourist hot spot with many attractions and amenities that ensure a good time in this paradisiac country. Costa Ricans are known for their hospitality and friendliness, making any tourist feel welcomed.
Due to its size, Costa Rica can be crossed from coast to coast in one day. However taking your time, especially on the Pacific Coast, is totally worth it. You will not have to travel much to experience various activities that will ensure you have a great time.
Map of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast
If you are traveling to Costa Rica, chances are that you will consider passing through the Central Pacific Coast. Here are some of the places that might interest you if you are traveling from The Gulf of Nicoya all the way down to Manuel Antonio.
Weather on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast
Unlike most countries, you’ll only encounter two seasons in Costa Rica. As their names indicate, the dry and rainy seasons demonstrate an extreme and scarce amount of rain during the year. These seasons are extremely important in order to know when to visit the country.
The dry season begins in December and ends in April, which includes the hottest and coldest days of the year. December and January are the coldest months, while March and April are often the hottest. The temperatures in this season often range between 68°F (20°C) and 86°F (30°C).
On the other hand, the rainy season is marked by extreme rains from May to November. Depending on the location, it can rain from 40 to 100 inches. Do not expect the rain to cease in order to do your activities, because it often will not. The rains can last days, especially on the coasts, which also means a lot of mud and mosquitoes. Nevertheless, it is also the time of the year when the country turns green and flora blooms. Because it is never really cold in these areas, the rain is less of an obstacle and an inconvenience at worst.
The Different Regions of the Central Pacific in Costa Rica
Despite being such a small country, Costa Rica has so much to offer that planning a visit can oftentimes be overwhelming. That is why we have chosen some of the best tourist areas in order to assist you with your travel.
Gulf of Nicoya
El Golfo de Nicoya is an inlet full of tranquil waves and islands. You can rent a catamaran from Puntarenas or Jacó and spend the day in Isla Tortuga. Since the island is surrounded by land, it makes it one of the few places in the pacific with crystal waters which makes this beach characteristically beautiful. Furthermore, you can kayak, snorkel or hike the island.
We also recommend going to the floating seafood restaurant in Isla Venado. This restaurant can only be accessed through a free-of-charge boat in Jicaral town. The restaurant cultivates the shrimp that are used for their dishes, making this a sustainable, locally owned production. The food is delicious, and the view is spectacular.
Puntarenas is a protruding land only connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land which locals call “La Angostura,” meaning “The narrow.” Once you reach Puntarenas, you will see a boulevard with the sea to your left, and if you continue, you will reach the lighthouse. Although this infrastructure is now plainly decorative, it is a great spot to take pictures.
The boulevard itself is a safe space where families and friends can enjoy the beach and sunsets. You can also go to “El Paseo de Los turistas” to have a characteristic Costa Rican dessert called a “Churchill.” Lastly, if you are planning on crossing the Gulf of Nicoya, you can take the ferry near the lighthouse and have an extraordinary time with the boat’s many amenities.
Tarcoles and Carara National Park
Tarcoles’ highlight is the splendid view you can have of the crocodiles that inhabit it. You can have a boat tour through the river or watch the most intrepid people give food to the crocodiles, though technically, you are not supposed to anymore. If you are just passing by, you can also watch them from the Tarcoles bridge on your way south.
Only a 10-minute drive away from Tarcoles is Parque Nacional Carara, a place where the flora and fauna of the dry forest and rainforest converge. Since it is only about an hour and a half from San José (SJO), many locals consider this to be a great one-day trip.
This national park is renowned for its innumerable types of birds, making this the best place to go birdwatching. The park is home to the famous and endangered Scarlet Macaw, Toucans, and blue and brown Motmots. Furthermore, this park maintains a universal path meant to include people with wheelchairs. There are also statues and Braille on the railings so that blind people can also enjoy the park’s experience.
If you are planning on staying the night at Herradura, we recommend staying in Los Sueños. This condominium will ensure safety and the utmost accommodations. The place consists of various villas and hotels, a golf court, and restaurants.
It also has direct access to “La Marina,” which is where many yachts and boats are docked. You can also spend the day there independently of whether you are lodged or not since it is a public space, after all. If you are staying in this place for more than a few days, we recommend renting a golf cart in front of the condominium’s entrance for a better experience.
Other than Los Sueños, Herradura provides lots of activities like snorkeling, surfing, and diving, but most people use the place as a departure point for boats and yachts.
Due to its close proximity to San José, this is one of the places that Costa Ricans, or as they refer to themselves, Ticos, go on a one-day trip. It takes only an hour and a half to reach Jacó from Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose (SJO).
When you enter Jacó, you will not see its appeal right away. Actually, you’ll see a coastal city like any other. By day you can go surfing, have brunch at a restaurant and take a casual stroll through the beach, but when the sun sets, Jacó is transformed into a party town. Jacó’s boulevard is brimming with nightclubs that get completely crowded in peak season. It mustn’t go unsaid; this environment is definitely not minor friendly but also be mindful that the legal drinking age in Costa Rica is 18. Like any other party town, please watch your belongings and drinks. Most of the clubs will be playing reggaeton, so make sure to learn a few songs. Other than that, be cautious of your surroundings and have lots of fun.
Only about 10 minutes away from Jacó is Playa Hermosa. If you search for Playa Hermosa (beautiful beach) in Costa Rica, you will actually get several results. Not to be mistaken with Guanacaste’s Playa Hermosa, this white sanded beach has violent tides and should be swum with lots of caution, or not at all.
There is a good reason this beach is the site of the International Quicksilver Surfing Championship every August. This event brings experts and surf fanatics from all over the world to see who will master the sport. This is definitely not a place for beginner surfers since waves can reach up to 13 feet high. This is considered one of the best surfing spots in the world and should be visited if you are an intermediate to expert level surfer. The waves are consistent throughout most of the year, which makes this place a surfer’s paradise.
Manuel Antonio (Quepos)
Quepos is the main city of the zone that is surrounded by a wide mangrove and rainforest where you can enjoy the wildlife and biodiversity of the country. You can kayak through the mangrove, go horseback riding, take surfing lessons or rent a catamaran for the day. The city is also only 15 minutes away from the Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can go birdwatching, partake in a nocturnal rainforest tour or hike one of their many trails.
The park is fairly small and can be hiked in about an hour, but we highly recommend it either way because it is a notorious place for its abundant wildlife. You will most likely spot one or two monkeys and the occasional lizard before even reaching your parking space. We also recommend investing in the tour guides at the entrance of the park because their experience makes the difference between seeing any big mammals or not. Take into consideration that it takes around 2 hours to reach Quepos from the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose (SJO) and around 4 hours from the Guanacaste Airport in Liberia (LIR).
Costa Rica is a beautiful country, not only for its famous biodiversity but for its kind people. If you have the chance to travel to Costa Rica, the central Pacific coast is a good starting point for any tourist. Locals are welcoming and will make your experience as gratifying as possible.