Port cities the world over have a reputation for polluted waters, seedy streets and slow decay, which might be a traveler's first impression of little Puntarenas, Costa Rica’s gateway to the Pacific. But just under the surface are some down-to-earth charms – ones largely absent in Costa Rica's most heavily traveled regions.
The road heading south from Puntarenas skirts along the coastline, and a few kilometers out of town you’ll start to see the forested peaks of the Cordillera de Tilarán in the distance. Just as the port city fades into the distance, the water gets cleaner, the air crisper and the vegetation more lush.
While newbies struggle to stand up on their boards in Jacó, a few kilometers south in Playa Hermosa seasoned veterans are thrashing their way across the faces of some truly monster waves. Regarded as one of the most consistent and powerful breaks in the whole country, Hermosa serves up serious surf that commands the utmost respect.
Parque Nacional Carara
Straddling the transition between the dry forests of Costa Rica’s northwest and the sodden rainforests of the southern Pacific lowlands, this national park is a biological melting pot of the two. Acacias intermingle with strangler figs, and cacti with deciduous kapok trees, creating heterogeneity of habitats with a blend of wildlife to match.
Playa Herradura area
Until the mid-1990s, Playa Herradura was a rural, palm-sheltered beach of grayish-black sand that was popular mainly with campers and local fishermen. In the late 1990s, however, Herradura was thrown into the spotlight when it was used as the stage for the movie 1492.
If it’s possible for you to stretch your budget for a night or two, try the Alma De Pacifico, a visually stunning resort that is aiming to put Playa Esterillos on the map. There is no shortage of attractive resorts along this stretch of the Pacific, but what makes this one so unique is the incredible architectural scheme.