Central Pacific

The Central Pacific Region begins in the north, with Punteranas and heads south to Dominical.  The region offers the closest beaches to San Jose and is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Costa Rica. In early years, the Central Pacific was used as a weekend getaway for the people of San Jose; with drive times of 1 to 2 hours the local Ticos were able to reach some of the finest beaches and vacation getaways. Over the past decade, North American tourists have found the area to be a quick destination experience while still being able to get a taste of all Costa Rica has to offer.

Central Pacific Coast Line Costa RicaPuntarenas to the north, once a thriving port town for world exportation, is still used today as a local vacation spot for Costa Ricans.  Several cruise ships a month make Puntarenas a port of call.  The town has become a more transient point for the non-local tourists. Ferry boats to the Nicoya Peninsula provide a quick and easy way to access the southern portion of the peninsula.
Traveling further south along the Central Pacific one will find Playa Herradura, one of the closest beaches to the capital, San Jose, Herradura is also home to one of the largest and finest marinas, Los Suenos Marriott. Farther along the coast is Jaco, with some of the best surfing in all of Costa Rica.  The town has become a “must” experience destination for the surfer looking for constant waves year round.  Plenty of restaurants, affordable hotel accommodations and sun filled beaches make this a fun and easy to get to destination.

Continuing farther south along the Central Pacific the coastal road leads you through small villages, banana plantations and palm farms, with unbelievable mountain backdrops and spectacular ocean views. Arriving next into the Costa Rican town of Quepos, a small fishing village, which tends to cater to the locals and the fishing industry. Local restaurants, small hotels and shops make this a great place to spend the day.  Quepos is also located just 5 miles north of the city Manuel Antonio and Manuel Antonio National Park.

The sea side village of Manuel Antonio offers a wide range of sleeping accommodations, throughout the winding road leading in from Quepos one will find numerous hotels, inns and a variety or restaurants lining the hills leading into Manuel Antonio.  The spectacular ocean views have contributed to this area becoming one of the top tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio National Park is a must see destination, picture perfect  white sand beaches surrounded by tropical jungles teaming with Howler monkeys and other wildlife make this a must see national park.

Leaving the Quepos area south along Highway 34, one will travel over bone rattling, pothole dirt roads that depending on the season can make the road unmanageable at times.  The ride south to Dominical takes on average of 1 ½ to 2 hours and will take you through large banana plantations and palm oil tree farms.  Dominical, a quiet laid-back surfing village has become a destination for the hardcore surfer, with drive times from San Jose of about 5 hours. Dominical has been spared the influx of tourists, offering unbelievable waves, long uninhabited stretches of gray white sand beaches the area caters to the surfer, backpacker and people just wanting to “chill out”.

The Central Pacific, with its influx of North American tourists is experiencing the fastest growth in all of Costa Rica. As the influx of tourist increase, so does the amenities they are looking for; chain restaurants, hotels and strip malls. Not to mention the people.

Playa Ventana

If you want a vacation to be a real getaway, you might want to check out Playa Ventana. This picturesque beach does not receive a lot of visitors and the area is not highly developed.

Playa Ventana, or Playa Ventanas, is located on the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The name means “window beach” and it was so named because of two large rock formations there providing windows to the sea. It is a lovely beach where the beautiful lush forest comes right down to the coast, which is covered with golden sand. It is one of the best beaches in all of Costa Ricaand has a reputation of being the best family beach in the area.

Playa Ventanas, "Window to the Sea" Costa RicaWhen you visit Playa Ventana, you will definitely not have to fight the crowds. It is a great beach for snorkeling in the clear southern Pacific waters. You can also fish, surf, kayak, go horseback riding, walk and enjoy the scenery, or just take it easy.

Playa Ventana is not too far from civilization as the small town of Ojochal is nearby. Since this quaint town has not yet seen a lot of tourism, it retains its charm, but had certain amenities.

Things to Do

North of Playa Ventana is Marino Ballenas National Park which can be accessed from the town of Uvita. This park is known for its biodiversity in animals and plant life. At this park you can watch the humpback whale migration if you are there at the right time between December and April. You can snorkel, join a snorkeling tour, of take the boat tour to Ballena Island.

Not far from Playa Ventana are the Nauyaca Waterfalls which have been called the best falls in Costa Rica. You will probably be bird watching as this area has hundreds of species of birds.

Boat tours on the Río Terraba are available that take you through the mangrove trees. This will allow you to get a good view of animals and plant life. Some boat tours on the Pacific include snorkeling along with viewing wildlife.

On a fishing tour, you can fish for either a half a day or a full day. Some of the offerings of the Pacific Ocean are mahi-mahi, marlin, sailfish, and yellow fin tuna. While you are fishing, you may be able to spot many kinds of sea animals, like whales, birds, dolphins, or turtles.

Playa Herradura

Verdant nature comes to mind when one thinks of Costa Rica, and the area of Playa Herradura on the Central Pacific Coast is beautiful and has an abundance of natural attractions, as well as a tranquil beach for swimming and snorkeling. Playa Herradura is located about 6 km north of Jaco. The bay, shaped like a horseshoe, gave rise to the name, which means horseshoe in Spanish. Sport fishing, golf, and visits to nearby Carara National Park are just a few of the attractions in Playa Herradura.

Playa Herradura was featured in the film as the set for the movie, 1492 Conquest of Paradise, and it became more popular after that time. Once a sleeping quiet beach town, it is now visited by more tourists but still has a tranquil beach. With black sand and a shore lined with palms, it appears like paradise.

Los Suenos Marina, Central Pacific, Costa RicaWith Jaco as your destination, the nearby rainforest provides an abundance of tours and excursions, with awesome views and adventure. Zip line can move you through the diverse and spectacular canopy of the forest and an aerial tram is also part of a tour designed to enable visitors to more slowly move through the tropical forest and lush landscape, high above the forest floor. There is also a tour for families and children, which explains and teaches about bio-diversity and the sites within the rainforest. Given the task of designing a tropical shirt or painting a fossil, this tour will inspire curiosity about nature in children. Bird species abound, and a visit to a heliconia garden and snake exhibit is on one of the tours. A 40 foot waterfall and views of the Pacific are all part of the aerial tram experience.

The Carara Biological Reserve, north of Jaco, offers horseback riding and hiking, as well as an abundance of scarlet macaws. The birds are most active at sunrise and sunset, which makes that the best time for hiking the hour-long trail at the reserve.

Golf is a favorite sport of some vacationers. The 18 hole golf course at Las Suenos Resort is La Iguana, and boasts three-toed sloths, monkeys, and toucans as inhabitants who watch the players. Guides here give tours about the surrounding nature, as they go through the course. Alongside a rainforest, with spectacular ocean views, this golf course is challenging and a golf experience to remember.

Surfing is a popular sport at some of the beach area around Playa Herradura. Jaco is a popular surfing spot, and Playa Herradura is rapidly becoming popular with surfers as well.

A visit to Playa Herradura is an amazing holiday in nature, with beaches, rainforests, and wildlife, as well as perhaps, an occasional game of golf.

Playa Hermosa

Nestled along the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in Puntarenas Province is the lovely Pacific haven of Playa Hermosa. Unlike many of its neighbors, Playa Hermosa is not overcrowded with tourists or the subsequent commercialism found in most resort towns. It is a lovely escape for those seeking to enjoy some quiet relaxation although there are several good restaurants to choose from with live entertainment at some of the hotels.

Though Costa Rica was first visited by Christopher Columbus on his final voyage to the New World in September 1502, evidence of Costa Rican civilization has been found dating as far back as 8000 BC. The name Costa Rica comes from the golden jewelry worn by the indigenous people of the region and means Rich Coast. It was given to this beautiful land by Gil Gonzalez Davila.

Playa Hermosa, Central Pacific, Costa RicaAlthough not highly commercial, there is plenty to see and do in Playa Hermosa! Surfing is a favorite pastime here and the coast along Playa Hermosa is famous for its amazing and consistent surf breaks. Not for the beginner to be sure due to the strong currents, but for the experienced surfer the outstanding waves offer world class surfing. For the beginner, a short trip to nearby Jaco is ideally suited for all surfing abilities. Playa Hermosa is also the home of the annual International Quicksilver Surf Championships each August that brings the best surfers from around the world to compete for the title.

The adventurous traveler will surely enjoy ziplining through the forest canopy, a fun and exciting way to spend a morning or afternoon. Imagine gliding along high above the forest floor, sailing through air along the tree tops of the lush Costa Rican forest.

For those who enjoy the challenge of ocean fishing, the waters off Playa Hermosa offer world class sport fishing. This particular region is home to some of the largest fish found in the Pacific Ocean including bill fish, marlin, tuna, sailfish and more, attracting fisherman from all over. Outstanding fresh water fishing is also widely enjoyed in Costa Rica.

The Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge offers a number of activities available for visitors to enjoy. Wildlife and bird watching are favorites due to the abundant and varied species found within its mangrove swamp and lush forest lands. Hiking trails wind through the forest presenting great opportunities for a photo safari. Scarlet macaws, herons and many colorful bird species inhabit the refuge along with snakes, crocodiles, raccoons and many other species.

The refuge is also home to a protected nesting beach of the Olive Ridley sea turtle, the smallest marine turtle in the world, as well as several different habitats that include mangrove estuaries, ocean, beach and secondary forest areas.


Puntarenas means ‘sand point,’ in Spanish. It is the capitol and the largest city of the province of the same name. It is located in Costa Rica in the Central Pacific region. It possesses beaches that are on the Pacific Ocean, thus effectively making it a touristy spot. However, there is more to Puntarenas than beaches and palm trees.Puntarenas, Costa Rica with Nicoya Peninsula in Background

The city of Puntarenas was originally called Villa Bruselas during the colonial period. In 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernan Ponce de Leon discovered the area. Although Puntarenas was an effective harbor, it was not properly used to reach Costa Rica until 1840 when the coffee production of the island began to become successful. In 1845, the government declared that the Port of Puntarenas was a duty-free port – although Cognac and hard liquor was not considered without taxation. The coffee for the ships was brought to the harbor on oxcarts. These carts were then dragged on an arduous path through the mountains. During the late 1860s, a piece of railroad was erected, one that connected some of the main towns of the province, thus making the transportation of goods somewhat less difficult. The trading port of Puntarenas lasted well into the 20th century, though due to different factors, such as aging and the slow deterioration of the port and its ships, led the province to move the port to another location. This location turned out to be Caldera, which was, interestingly enough, used to anchor ships during colonial times.

The climate of Puntarenas is somewhat hotter than the rest of the Costa Rican territory. The temperature reaches about 30 to 30 degrees Celsius in the hottest and coldest months. Because it is located right near the equator the climate is also tropical, lending a hand to the flora and fauna that grow in abundance throughout the island. It is also this same tropical climate that made Puntarenas ideal for coffee production, and it remains so to this day.

Puntarenas today is an important port of call for major cruise liners. Although it does not service trading or cargo ships any longer, it still has a hand in providing coffee.

Tourists can enjoy horseback riding, recreational hiking, adventure tours, bird watching, sun bathing, swimming, snorkeling, photography, sports-fishing and cultural activities when they visit. Through the respective year, the community celebrates historical, religious, artistic or civic events. It’s also a great place to surf. There are architectural wonders to visit while you are visiting, as well. One of these is the old Port Military Headquarters. The Central Church is also an architectural gem to view. The horseback riding can be immensely enjoyed galloping along the beautiful Puntarenas beaches. There’s not a dull moment!


Quepos is a magnificent town located in the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica. Located just 100 miles from the capital of San Jose, Quepos is still a small and traditional town. Although tourism has become a significant industry for the town, several efforts have been made to keep its small size and quiet charms, rather than letting it become another Central American resort town. Its largest attraction is its proximity to the Manuel Antonio National Park, and most visitors staying in Quepos also plan to visit the park.

Quepos has a fascinating history. In the colonial era, a group of native indigenous indians resided in the area we now known as Quepos. The indians were called Quepo, which is how the town received it’s name. Today, a small piece of the original city walls can be found, reminding visitors of the colonial past.

Waterfront, Quepos, Central Pacific, Costa RicaIt is without a doubt that the main attraction in the town of Quepos is the Manuel Antonio National Park, located just a few kilometers away. At 682 hectares in size, it is one of Costa Rica’s smallest National Parks. However, it is also one of the most beautiful and most popular. Hiking is a popular pastime in the area, as well as relaxing at one of the stunning beaches within the park. In an effort to protect the area and prevent overcrowding from increased tourism, the government has limited the park’s capacity to 600 people at a time, which increases to 800 on the weekends. This means that visitors who want to visit the National Park should get there early to guarantee their entry, or risk waiting for someone else to leave or simply being turned away.

Main Street, Quepos, Central Pacific, Costa RicaA prime section of the tourism industry within Qeupos revolves around the ocean, and various recreational sea activities. Surfing lessons are provided to novices, as well as equipment rental for things like rafting and kayaking. Snorkeling is a common pastime in the pristine waters, and SCUBA instructors abound to lead groups of divers deep into the stunning blue ocean. Fishing tours are advertised throughout the town, and Quepos is known for its plethora of deep sea fish, including Pacific Sailfish and Marlin. Several Americans have retired to Quepos with their boats, providing charters for groups or individuals and guaranteeing a catch.

The climate in Quepos is certainly tropical, with relatively high humidity year round. The dry season is from December to March, and the wettest time of year is in September and October. Although the weather may not be enjoyable for hiking, it is the time when the green plants are most vibrant and beautiful, and many of the mountain hikes are deserted, granting you privacy and seclusion.


Dominical is a beautiful beachfront town found in Costa Rica. Located just 45 kilometers south of the larger city Quepos, Dominical is one of the most visited cities within the Puntarenas province. There is no denying that the biggest attraction of Dominical is the ocean. Surfers from all over the world come to this beach to surf the legendary waves, and many professional surfers retire here after their careers have officially ended. While the industry was once reliant on African oil palm plantations, today the bulk of the city’s revenue is derived from tourism. Even if surfing isn’t your idea of a good time, there are plenty of fantastic ways to spend your time in Dominical.

Dominical, Central Pacific, Costa RicaFor many tourists, a trip to Dominical is a great reason to improve their surfing skills, or just stand up on a board for the first time. Luckily, there are countless surfing schools and retired professionals who make their living by giving travelers lessons. Nowhere else in the world can a complete novice receive surfing tuition from those who were once world-class competitors. As might be expected in a surfing town, the atmosphere is very laid back and relaxed, with little need for clocks.

There are also plenty on recreational activities not based around a surfboard. Dominical is one of the only places in the world where you can see whales from both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres in one location. For over 9 months of the year, a variety of whales can be spotted by the naked eye from the shoreline. For a closer look, whale watching tours take you five miles offshore to the Marino Ballena National Park, where humpback whales, along with 5 other species, can be seen. Boat trips can last for an afternoon or a whole day, and many include snacks, a lunch, or a chance to snorkel out at sea.

Head away from the coastline and is it apparent that inland Dominical also have much to offer. Several companies have set up adventure tours that give visitors a chance to try new activities like horseback riding, zip-lining, or exploring caves. The incredible mountains offer great hiking paths, and several waterfalls dot the landscape. Dominical is home to rapids up to class 4, and trained guides will lead visitors, guiding their boats over the toughest sections.

There are several accommodation options in Dominical, ranging from inexpensive guest houses on the beach for backpackers on a budget to eco-lodge resorts set atop the mountains. Restaurants dot the shoreline, and many are open until the late hours of the night, transitioning at dark into a casual seaside bar. A combination of Costa Rican specialties and international favorites are found in most restaurants, catering to all types of clientele.