Like a guardian looking after the biodiverse treasures within this corner of the world, the town of Puerto Jiménez stands at the opening of the Dulce Gulf, in the south Pacific of Costa Rica. This is the closest you will get to a city in the peninsula, offering visitors all the amenities one might need: a post office, bank branch, and ATMs, gas station, health clinic, a busy airstrip, grocery stores, and more. But then, there are plenty of things that make you remember you are not in a city, like the constant red flashes in the sky and the noise flocks of scarlet macaws, and the fresh breeze coming from the ocean.
Jimenez, as is called by Costa Ricans, used to be a small and tranquil town dedicated to fishing, mining, and logging. But the fame brought to the peninsula by Corcovado National Park, turned the town into the hub for all travelers wishing to explore the park and surroundings.
Today, serving tourist visitors has become the main income for close to 3,000 inhabitants of Jiménez. Services include not only a great variety of lodging for all kinds of budget, but also great seafood dining experiences and guided tours to both Corcovado and other attractions. Transportation by land, water, and air is also offered from here to the heart (or the edges) of the national park or across the gulf to other important towns like Golfito.
Getting to Puerto Jiménez
Driving to Puerto Jiménez is very easy, but long. It can take up to eight hours when traveling from San José. The drive will take you through the entire South Pacific Coast while you enjoy the change of vegetation and scenery. Roads are paved and usually in very good conditions all the way to the center of town.
There are also direct bus services to Jimenez from San José and other important towns in the South Pacific part of the country, like San Isidro del General and Ciudad Neily. The bus ride from San José takes also eight hours and is the same route as if you were driving.
The two airlines that operate inside Costa Rica offer daily flights to Jimenez, twice a day. The flight from San José takes 50 minutes. The airstrip at Jiménez is just a few blocks from the center of town.
Weather in Puerto Jiménez
Temperatures in Jiménez vary all year round between 20 and 35°C (68 and 95°F). The South Pacific is (in general) more rainy than the rest of the country. The rainy season goes from mid-April to mid-December, with a strong peak in rainstorms during September and October. The driest time of the year spans from mid-December to mid-April.
What to do in Puerto Jiménez
There are a lot of activities one can engage in while visiting Puerto Jiménez, the simplest would be walking the waterfront and pier trying to spot dolphins and turtles in the water. If you continue your stroll inland towards the center of town you will also witness and enjoy a true intermingling of humans and nature.
As common as it is to see locals go out and about their daily activities, one can still get very close to wildlife like squirrels, capuchin and spider monkeys, herons and many other wading birds, macaws, parrots, and crocodiles. Some of those animals sleep and feed in the mangroves that flow around the town and many come to visit from the nearby protected rainforest areas.
Here are some of our top recommendations for things to do in Puerto Jiménez.
Corcovado National Park
Visiting the Corcovado National Park, known as the most biodiverse place on earth, is the main reason for travelers to come to Puerto Jiménez. From here, one can take local transportation to two of the ranger stations at the edge of the park, Los Patos and Carate, where one can hike around the station for a bit or take the trails into the heart of the park, where the Sirena Ranger Station is located. Also, to reach Sirena, local pilots offer flights into its airstrip, and it’s even possible to hire a boat to go around the peninsula and into the park by sea.
There are several kayaking tour operators in Jiménez that will be able to take you to explore the waters of the gulf, where you can look for wildlife, practice some fishing or just wander around. Another place worth kayaking around is the Platanares river, located just southwest of the town, where the bracket water offers a special environment for flora and fauna under and above water.
Dolphin and Whale watching
A tour into the gulf can take you on a quest looking for Humpbacks whales. They are found in the gulf during their migration time, from December to April for northern whales, and from July to November for whales from the south. The gulf is a preferred spot for mother whales to give birth and look after their calves. Another stunning find in the gulf is huge groups of dolphins jumping out of the water and curiously getting close to the boats to say hello. So cool!
Some of these tours can be expensive since they are charged by the boat and not per person. If you have a tight budget, one option is to take the boat across the gulf into Golfito. Many times, from this boat, you can stop dolphins and whales, and it also gives you the opportunity to go visit another town bordering the gulf.
Fishing in the gulf is good all year-round, but it is better between December and April. Many local captains offer charter services for inshore fishing, targeting key species like roosterfish, snook, jacks, grouper, sharks, and several types of snappers. Offshore fishing is also very common, and boats go out to the mouth of the gulf looking for species like sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, and marlin.
One can also practice small scale (but very fun) fishing off the Puerto Jiménez pier, where every day and night there are locals tossing a line in the water to catch whatever is around. Also, some more experienced and equipped local fisherman like to fish from the shore and on a kayak.
At the waterfront of Puerto Jiménez, locals and visitors share the calm waters and the black sand beach. If you have a car, there are many different beaches that you can visit located along the road that connects Puerto Jiménez with Carate…a lot of them known for their great surf!
Within biking distance from Puerto Jiménez, there is Playa Puntarenitas and Playa Platanares, just on the other side of the Platanares River, southwest of Puerto Jiménez, and past the east side of the airport. These are two long beaches where, with the right conditions, the water is very calm and nice to swim in. When it’s low tide, you can also cross the mangrove at Platanares river by foot from Jimenez and reach the two beaches. Lots of locals go there and fish during low tide.