The province of Puntarenas in Costa Rica is a hot spot for local and international travelers. The name Puntarenas in English means the sand point which is fitting as the province jets out into the Pacific Ocean and is populated with beaches. This province rests close to the Central Valley and is a short ride to the capital city of San Jose. At about 4,350 square miles (roughly two times the size of Delaware), Puntarenas is the largest province in the country, covering two-thirds of the country’s exposure to the Pacific Coast.
Being on a peninsula, the province of Puntarenas has many beaches, inlets, islands, and natural treasures for visitors to explore. Slowly developing in the area today is an infrastructure to help support the growing tourism in Costa Rica. This province has taken a while to catch up with the tourism trends but that is a part of the charm of this beautiful peninsula. Visitors today can find secluded beaches, conserved lands, and hospitable company.
Temperatures in the province can range from a low of 68 degrees Fahrenheit in January and can climb up to 95 degrees in April. The best time to visit this area is from December to April before it gets too warm and muggy. If you are right on the beach, you will be delighted by the cool breezes that sweep off the Pacific ocean. Heading inwards towards the mountains you will experience more temperate weather. From May–October, during the rainy period, you can easily get caught in a heavy rainstorm and is not the best time to visit.
Places to Visit
The main city in this province is the city and port of Puntarenas. Just about 13 ft. above sea level, this area has long been a place where Costa Ricans would travel to for vacation. The Europeans first settled in Puntarenas in 1519 by the explorer Hernán Ponce de León, who named the area Villa Bruselas. It took a while before Puntarenas’ Gulf of Nicoya was used as a port but when coffee production reached exportable volumes in the country in 1840, the port was opened. The area is now a hub for maritime transportation and has a large cruise ship port where you can catch a ferry to the islands and mangroves in the Puntarenas Estuary.
A worthy day adventure is to take a stroll along the Paseo de Los Turistas (Tourist Walk), where you can stop and check out local art, find some food to eat, and enjoy frozen drinks known as “Churchills.” Popular cuisine in the area is inspired by the catch of the day from the ocean. If you are visiting in February you can experience concerts and parades put on by the locals along the beaches.
Just north of the city of Puntarenas is the popular Monteverde area which is world-renowned for its efforts to conserve and protect its natural areas. One of the main features here is the Monteverde Biological Reserve which houses exhibits on butterflies, frogs and has beautiful hiking trails for visitors to enjoy. During the dry season, you might be lucky enough to catch one of the passing musical groups. All year round you can visit the many art galleries and even sign up to take courses in ceramics, sculpting, or painting.
The most famous attraction in Monteverde is the milk cooperative which has become a famous cheese factory where you can tour the facility and try their ice cream, cheeses, and sweets. This business was started by the Quakers who came to the area in the 1950s. The main objective of the Quaker group today is to help protect the Tilaran mountain range so many can experience the beautiful plants and wildlife for years to come.
The Puntarenas region is blessed with many beautiful waterfalls. The highest in the country is the Pura Vida Garden and Waterfalls which reaches about 650 feet. There are natural pools available for swimming as well as gardens and trails to enjoy. This waterfall can be found in Bijagual de Turrubares. Other notable waterfalls in the area include the Montezuma Waterfall and the Cocalito Waterfall.
Towns & Destinations in Puntarenas
Feeling exploratory? We have you covered with even more travel info about towns and destinations within Puntarenas.
- Manuel Antonio
- Monteverde Cloud Forest
- Drake Bay & Corcovado
- Malpaís and Santa Teresa
- Puerto Jiménez
- Cabo Matapalo
Beaches and Islands
There are quite a few islands, beaches and inlets located within the province of Puntarenas. Along these beaches, you will find plenty of activities for you and your partner or family to enjoy. Locals and tourist alike take part in surfing, swimming, hiking, sunbathing and jet skiing. If jet or water skiing is your thing, a great place to visit would be the Puntarenas or the Mata Limon Estuary. The waters there are much calmer and you can rent tour yachts or go fishing. Another good place for this is the Mata Limon Estuary.
Of the most popular of the nearby beaches is Jacó Beach. To locals, Jacó Beach is the party beach that is filled with resort travelers, surfers, locals, and backpackers. It is an easy beach to get to with only a two-hour ride from San Jose, which helps in its popularity. If you really like to surf, check out the Santa Teresa beach, the Barranca River Mouth, and the Playa Tivives.
On the northeast end of the Ballena Bay is a nice long stretch of beach called Playa Tambor. Here you can enjoy a nice swim, go horseback riding along the shore and hike amongst beautiful coastal vegetation. There are many tourism accommodations suited for any traveler at Playa Tambor. Other favorite local beaches include Caldera, Mata de Limon, and Organos. From the shoreline of the Organos beach, you can see the Negritos and Tortugas Islands.
Planning a Trip to Puntarenas?
We can help! The vast majority of Costa Rica Escapes’ itineraries visit the province of Puntarenas. The area is full of coastal as well as amazing jungle terrain. Puntarenas encompasses the Osa Peninsula and Drake Bay which can be visited in any one of our “Remote” collection of itineraries for Families & Romantic/Honeymoon travelers. The Costa Rica Collection visits Monteverde as well as the Central Pacific Coast which are both located in Puntarenas.