Puntarenas © Jasperdo
Overview: A gateway to Costa Rica's best natural forests and islands, Puntarenas is a port city that is fading as a commercial centre, but slowly developing as a new cruise and tourist destination. The most popular attractions are excursions out of Puntarenas but within the town, the aquarium Parque Marino del Pacífico and the walkway Paseo de los Turistas are popular, especially with locals. Cruise ships either dock at Puntarenas Pier or ten miles (7km) south at Puerto Caldera, which is one of the country's most important commercial shipping ports but with very limited passenger amenities. Puntarenas Pier is not much more than a long dock and small terminal but is located within easy walking distance of the city centre.

Tel: +1 (866) 267-8274
The tourist office can be found in the terminal building

Transport: Puntarenas attractions can easily be walked from the pier, but most passengers take organized shore excursions from waiting vans at the pier's end.
Attractions: From Puntarenas, most worthwhile attractions are a few hours away, but when spending time in the port city, the Parque del Pacifico offers some interesting saltwater aquarium exhibits. The Paseo de los Turistas is a pleasant stroll past cafés and souvenir stands. There is a beach in Puntarenas popular with locals but you can always discover new ones outside the city. A small museum and church round out the port's attractions.
  • Jardin Cervecero - good seafood in an upmarket atmosphere
  • La Yunta Steakhouse - good steak and seafood, with ocean views from the veranda

Best dish: Ceviche

Shopping: The only shopping area in Puntarenas popular with tourists is the Paseo de Los Turistas, a short walkway which has sea side cafés and souvenir stands. There are also a few small souvenir stands next to the cruise terminal. The city centre has mostly shops for local trade.

Best buy: Coconut crafts

  • Explore the Biological Reserve of Carara
  • Visit San Jose with its many attractions
  • See crocodiles in Corcovado National Park
  • Sail out to Cocos Island
  • Sun tan on Jaco Beach