Country Guide » Destinations
Puntarenas is a city and province in Costa Rica. The province consists of the southern two-thirds of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, from the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and the eastern side of the Gulf of Nicoya in the north, all the way down through the Central Pacifc and Osa Peninsula and border with Panama in the south. The tourist centers of Mal Pais, Montezuma, Jaco, Esterillos, Manuel Antonio are all part of Puntarenas Province.
The province is names after the city of Puntarenas, its capital and administrative center. Puntarenas literally means “sandy point” in Spanish, and that’s exactly what Puntarenas is built on, a sandy spit of land sticking out into the Gulf of Nicoya, surrounded on three sides by water. Long and thin, Puntarenas is no more than 5 blocks wide and more than 25 blocks long. Known simply as “El Puerto” (the port) by the majority of Costa Rica, Puntarenas was the country’s principal sea port, and was developed in the 1840’s as a transit center for the Central Valley coffee crop, which arrived at the ships first by ox cart and then by rail. Since those days, the port and the town has declined, although Puntarenas still hosts a large fishing fleet. The main seaport for Costa Rica is now at Caldera, a few miles south. Puntarenas is a popular beach destination for Central Valley Costa Ricans, being the closest beach to San Jose, and the main beach strip is crowded most weekends. For foreign tourists, Puntarenas is really only visited to use the ferry terminal to cross to the more pristine beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula.