Puntare­nas to Ni­coya Penin­sula

If you truly want to ex­pe­ri­ence lo­cal life in Costa Rica, spend­ing a day in Puntare­nas is one way to ac­com­plish that.

Howler Magazine - - Coverstory - by Jenn Parker

Puntare­nas, a name shared be­tween Costa Rica's largest province and what once was the largest fish­ing port in the coun­try, is a des­ti­na­tion that has a wealth of cul­ture, his­tory and ac­tiv­i­ties to of­fer cu­ri­ous and ad­ven­tur­ous trav­el­ers. The Gulf of Ni­coya di­vides Puntare­nas from the south­ern part of the Ni­coya Penin­sula. Spend­ing time in this part of Costa

Rica is sure to be an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially if you plan to ex­plore and en­gage in the fol­low­ing highly rec­om­mended places, tours and ac­tiv­i­ties.

Lo­cal fla­vor

The town of Puntare­nas is one of the very few beach towns that is ac­tu­ally not heav­ily pop­u­lated by in­ter­na­tional tourists. In fact, Puntare­nas, lo­cally re­ferred to as El Puerto, is a pop­u­lar lo­cal tourist des­ti­na­tion, as well as be­ing a quaint fish­ing vil­lage. If you truly want to ex­pe­ri­ence lo­cal life in Costa Rica, spend­ing a day in Puntare­nas is one way to ac­com­plish that.

The main road, which is called Paseo de los Turis­tas, hugs the coast­line and is lined with tra­di­tional Costa Ri­can restaurants, bars and street ven­dors. There are park benches be­neath palm trees, swing sets and

play­grounds, and plenty of spots to post up and drink an icy cold beer and have a ce­viche for non-tourist prices. The peo­ple of Puntare­nas are friendly, happy go-lucky and wel­com­ing to vis­i­tors.

Puntare­nas is only an hour and a half from San José, which makes it very de­sir­able to lo­cals look­ing for a quick week­end get­away. The sec­ond and third week of Fe­bru­ary, in par­tic­u­lar, is an ex­cit­ing time to be in Puntare­nas, as that's when the Puntare­nas Car­ni­vals takes place. Car­ni­vals in Puntare­nas are com­plete with a tra­di­tional tope, live mu­sic, car­ni­val rides and games, fire­works, plenty of danc­ing, a seem­ingly end­less sup­ply of beer and Cacique, and of course, Costa Ri­can-style bull­fight­ing.

From Puntare­nas, you can catch the ferry across the Gulf of Ni­coya to Pa­quera. The ferry runs sev­eral times through­out the day and takes about 70 min­utes to get from one side to the other. This is the eas­i­est and fastest mode of trans­porta­tion from Puntare­nas to the Ni­coya Penin­sula, where you can take a boat tour to Isla Tor­tuga or Isla San Lucas, plus ex­plore the beach towns of Mon­tezuma, Mal País and Santa Teresa.

Prison is­land

Isla San Lucas was an in­fer­nal is­land prison, and now it's a his­tor­i­cal land­mark and pro­tected wildlife refuge. To say that this is­land has been to hell and back is an un­der­state­ment. The is­land is home to howler mon­keys, deer and a num­ber of other Costa Ri­can na­tive an­i­mals. A half day guided tour of the is­land is an eye-open­ing, ed­u­ca­tional and en­thralling ex­pe­ri­ence. Boat tours typ­i­cally leave from Pa­quera, from the area around Pa­quera, where the ferry docks.

A dif­fer­ent kind of is­land ex­pe­ri­ence

There are mul­ti­ple is­lands in the Gulf of Ni­coya. An amaz­ing way to spend a day while stay­ing on the Ni­coya Penin­sula is by tak­ing a cata­ma­ran cruise to the post­card pic­ture-wor­thy Isla Tor­tuga. This day ad­ven­ture is com­plete with op­por­tu­ni­ties to snorkel, kayak, soak in the crys­tal-clear sea, lie on the white sand beaches, en­joy a de­li­cious lunch and cock­tails (al­co­holic or non-al­co­holic), and ex­pe­ri­ence part of Costa Rica's ma­rine ter­ri­tory.

Ferry from Puntare­nas to Ni­coya Penin­sula

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