How to Spend 1 Day in Puntarenas
Set on the Gulf of Nicoya between San Jose and popular beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula, Puntarenas is a favorite weekend destination for Costa Ricans and a common stop-over for travelers. With one day in the port city, you have enough time to soak in the local vibe and squeeze in a jungle adventure. Here’s how.
Morning: See the City
Start your day with a stroll along the Paseo de Los Turistas (Tourists’ Walk). The wide coastal boardwalk is lined with shops, souvenir stalls, and open-air restaurants known as kioscos, making it an ideal place to grab a local breakfast—make it gallo pinto. From there, history buffs visit the Historical Marine Museum of Puntarenas to learn about the city’s maritime heritage, natural history, and surrounding marine life. To see local art exhibits, and perhaps catch a performance or cultural event, head to Casa de la Cultura. Architecture buffs head to Casa Fait—an out-of-place 1920s Victorian mansion.
Afternoon: Explore the Jungle
While the port city doesn't have a lot of activities to offer, the surrounding mountains do. And with numerous tours departing the port city each afternoon, it’s easy to reach the nearby waterfalls, rivers, trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Thrill-seekers embark on a zipline canopy tour that soars past views of stunning waterfalls and the beautiful bay, and may include the chance to rappel down a rock face and cool off in a natural pool. Alternatively, wildlife enthusiasts embark on a crocodile- and bird-watching safari along the Tarcoles River.
Night: Sunset and Seafood
Return to the port city to spend your evening indulging in the bountiful local seafood scene. Dress up for a traditional surf and turf dining experience at an upscale restaurant or enjoy ceviche at a laid-back joint. Either way, expect top-notch fish, clams, conch, and shrimp—fresh from the Gulf of Nicoya—along with ocean views. Plus, the town’s perch on the west-facing spit makes it hard to miss a picturesque sunset.