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Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

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Puntarenas is Costa Rica’s largest province, stretching clockwise from the northwest across  two thirds of the country’s Pacific coast, bordering the provinces of Guanacaste, Alajuela, San José and Limon; inclusive, the neighboring country of Panama to the north.

The province’s capital city is Puntarenas. It is situated on a long, narrow peninsula in the Gulf of Nicoya. Though the beach may seem a bit urban, many visitors enjoy the liveliness that is Puntarenas, which is replete with waterfront restaurants bars, and cafes.

Puntarenas was Costa Rica's main port until Caldera Port, located 16 km to the south, became the most important port of call for many of the major cruise liners, as well as commercial ships. Caldera is now an industrial port complex for both cruise ships and cargo vessels. Its opening brought new industries, more tourists and helped to spur on further developments of the nation. Further, it also serves as the primary access point from the Pacific coast to the historic capital city of San Jose.

The province of Puntarenas has become one of the most important tourist destinations in the country. Many of Costa Rica’s most popular beach resorts are found in this province, as well as 14 national parks and reserves – more than in any other province.

Cocos Island, also  known as Isla del Coco, is 500 kilometers off the Pacific coast, and is considered a part of the province of Puntarenas. It is one of Costa Rica’s national parks, and is home to dense and exuberant tropical moist rain forests. Cocos Island is the only oceanic island in the eastern Pacific region with lush rainforests, and robust flora and fauna; as well as the cloud forests at higher elevations.

Manuel Antonio National Park, is one of the most visited national parks in the country, and is only a 2 1-2 hour drive from the Juan Santamaria International Airport, located near San Jose, as a new highway was recently built by a Spanish Firm. It is a small slice of heaven nestled in the Pacific coast, with a charming combination of rain forest, coral reefs and beaches. To that end, Mantual Antonio is considered by many the most beautiful national park in the entire country, however, those in Guanacaste might argue the point.

Other important national parks located in the Puntarenas province include the following:

  • Peñas Blancas National Wildlife Refuge
  • Guayabo, Negritos and Pájaros Islands Biological Reserves
  • Curú National Wildlife Refuge
  • Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve
  • Carara Biological Reserve
  • Ballena Marine National Park
  • La Amistad International Park
  • Corcovado National Park
  • Caño Island Biological Reserve
  • Golfito National Wildlife Refuge

Other points of interest in the province of Puntarenas

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Monteverde is a misty and cloudy small town in Puntarenas and is considered a major tourist destination due to its numerous nature reserves and impressive rain and cloud forests.

Around 250,000 tourists visit Monteverde each year. And, it was voted as one of Costa Rica’s Seven Wonders, along with Isla del Coco, Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano, Cerro Chirripó, Río Celeste and Poás Volcano.

Santa Elena Reserve: This reserve was created in the early 1990's, just a few kilometers to the northwest of Monteverde. The cloud forest habitat that it protects is quite similar to that found at the neighboring reserve, as is the associated wildlife.

Gulf of Nicoya: This gulf is the result of a geological fault that has caused the land to submerge; leaving exposed only the tops of what were formerly low hills. It contains now several small islands such as Chira Island (the country's largest which encompasses a 52 sq. km. area), San Lucas Island (formerly a prison island), and the biological reserves of Guayabo, Negritos and Pájaros Islands.

Jacó Beach: Jacó is Costa Rica’s most visited beach. It is a wild party beach, especially during the weekend, and a top destination for surfers, backpackers, and land-loving resort travelers alike. Jacó has a long list of good accommodations and is easily accessible, as it is only 2 hours from the airport or San José.

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