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.
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.
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.
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