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Puntarenas

Located in Costa Rica’s largest province Puntarenas, Puntarenas city is the largest city in the Central Pacific. Some 120 kilometers west of the capital San Jose, Puntarenas means ‘sandy point’ in Spanish, and used to be one of the country’s principal seaports. Situated in the Gulf of Nicoya, Puntarenas has played a huge role in the history of Costa Rica. For years this city was a major sea port. However, now it is mostly used as a stopover port for many cruise ships that sail the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Still used as an important commercial fishing port, Puntarenas offers visitors and locals alike, a variety of tantalizing fresh sea foods such as shrimp, lobsters, fish, etc.

This city by the sea attracts thousands of tourists yearly, mainly because Puntarenas is frequently used as a central point when exploring the many beautiful beaches and islands in the surrounding areas, such as Playa Naranjo, Playa Mal país, San Lucas, Cedros and Jesuita. Many national parks and nature reserves are also close at hand, like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Forest Reserve, the Cabo Blanco Reserve, the Parque Nacional Corcovado, the Parque Nacional Carara and the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. Visiting Puntarenas on the weekend or during local holidays is also an old tradition among Costa Ricans themselves.

A lively and attractive city, perhaps one of Puntarenas’s most interesting features is the Paseo de los Turistas. This is a tree-lined promenade adjacent to the beach. This area turns into a colorful street on weekends, as people from all over flock the popular restaurants, discos, cafes, bars and hotels that are found here. While the beach here is not safe for swimming because the water tends to be pretty murky, it is still a great place to hang out and relax with the local Ticos.

It is definitely worth exploring this city, as there are many beautiful old unusual buildings found all over the place, as well as several fabulous restaurants and hotels. Puntarenas also has a lovely old church, which is a must see as well. During peak tourist seasons, visit the Casa de la Cultura for some excellent plays and concerts. Home to a number of festivals and carnivals, a good time to visit the city is during the Festejos Populares in November, and the Fiesta del Virgin del Mar in July. During February and March, the city comes alive with annual carnival celebrations as well.

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