Central Pacific area of Costa Rica, very close to the capital city… In normal days (Not big Costa Rica holidays) getting to the coast takes about an hour. If you are going for the Central Pacific… Maybe an hour and a half. It is truly the nearest beach and resorts area to the main international airport and the city.
Now… Where does it start? Where does it end? What is the Central Pacific area of Costa Rica?
Well! It goes from the port (And town) of Puntarenas to the area of Manuel Antonio Beach and National Park.
Let’s start from North to South here with the town and port of Puntarenas.
This small city is located, literally speaking on a sandbar and surrounded on one side by the picturesque Gulf of Nicoya and on the other by what’s called by the locals the “Estero”, the Estuary of Puntarenas, a full area of gorgeous mangroves where hundreds of birds nest and live all year round.
It is, as well, a port of call for the main cruises that arrive on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and because of that, whenever there is a ship in port there is quite a big art crafts market, worth it to take a walk by.
Another remarkable thing that Puntarenas has are the piers of the different companies that take you to the Nicoya Gulf islands: Tortuga and San Lucas (These are the most renowned areas in the gulf, in terms of tourism). So, whenever you are going to either one of them, you will pass through Puntarenas for sure! As well as the ferry that goes to the Peninsula and beaches like Santa Teresa and Malpaís goes from this area too.
So, yes! It is the gate for the Nicoya Gulf and the southern part of the Peninsula.
Now, it is worth a visit itself?
Yes, and no.
It is a town, no rainforests around, no big developments, no real tourist facilities. The beach has the Blue Flag which means that the water is clean and it is a favorite spot for Costa Ricans that simply want to drive out of the city, plunge in the ocean and come back home. This means that in holidays and school vacation time (December and January) the beach is usually quite crowded. To be honest s not my first choice for a beach and relax sort of vacation.
Gulf of Nicoya
Now! Here we are talking about beauty… Beauty with a capital B. And by saying the word I mean white sanded beaches, gorgeous deserted islands, warm waters, hammocks and cocktails. Tortuga Island is the most known. And if you have the time definitely worth paying a visit!
The other islands: Caballo, Venado, Pájaros are wildlife and birds reserves and not suited for visitors.
The San Lucas island, quite large, used to be an infamous old prison and is quite beautiful also.
However, if I only have one day, I would definitely go for the Tortuga Islands. Probably best if you go with Calypso Manta Ray Catamaran. The ride itself is fantastic! The views amazing, every now and then you get to see dolphins and when lucky humpback whales.
Tarcoles and Carara National Park
In the area of the Central Pacific, there are two great activities due to the great amount of wildlife in the region.
At first we find the Tarcoles River, where the largest American Crocodile population in the country. From the very famous “Crocodiles Bridge” over the Tarcoles you can see a good amount of huge crocodiles taking sun baths and/or using the bridge to shade.
On this matter you can take the Crocodile Safari that goes on a pontoon into the mouth of the river where you can see its mangroves, its aquatic birds and the massive crocodiles.
And then there is Carara National Park (Carara means in the indigenous huétar dialect, “River of Crocodiles”). A great transition forest (Transition between dry tropical forest and humid rainforest) with one of the best bird watching experiences in the country. Home of the gorgeous and noisy Scarlet Macaws and many others.
Herradura is a small beach located in a very quiet bay. It is very well-known because of the Marriott Los Sueños, its hotel, condominiums, apartments and golf course. This area is conveniently located to be used as a hub for many activities, not only in this region, but also in the Central Valley, Arenal Volcano or Monteverde.
Jacó is a large and popular beach that has grown out of huge condominiums buildings, shopping areas, hotels and bars. Very well-known among fishermen and for bachelor parties.
Manuel Antonio Beach and National Park is located in this region, however in terms of options and accomodations, the diversity is so large that we rather make a separate article on that (Coming… )
In the Central Pacific you can find several other tours, such as: Rainforest Canopy Tours, outriggers, sea kayaking, artisanal fishing, bird watching, nature hikes, hanging bridges and many more. Please ask our Travel Consultants about the acommodations and the tours of this close, varied and easy area.