--- Advertisement ---
facebook share
twitter share
pinterest share
flipboard share

Follow


11 Gems on Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast

11 Gems on Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 07/15/2019
Posted On 04/18/2020 14:30:00

Destinations | Costa Rica | Pacific Coast | Puntarenas | Monteverde | Tarcoles | Jaco | Carara National Park | Manuel Antonio National Park | Tours | Beaches | Dining



Beautiful beaches, unique dining experiences and fascinating National Parks all make for an unforgettable getaway to Costa Rica. Whether your preference is a restful and relaxing vacation or more excitement, you'll find plenty of options on the country's central Pacific Coast.

From adventure activities in the cities of Monteverde and Puntarenas in the north to trails flanked by rainforest and beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park in the south, the diversity of this area makes it a dream vacation destination. More centrally located along the coastline, visitors will find an amazing display of flora and fauna in Carara National Park and the Tarcoles River. Those who prefer nightlife will be pleased to know that the central city of Jaco has them covered.

After a brief introduction to vacationing in Costa Rica, we'll share 11 of the diverse experiences from which visitors to the Pacific Coast may choose. In this article you'll find tours and do-it-yourself options, both tame and adventurous activities and plenty of pictures to whet your appetitive as you plan your dream holiday!

--- Advertisement ---


Know Before You Go to Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast

The small Central American country of Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua and Panama on the north and south respectively. With its tropical location, temperatures are warm throughout most of the year. The dry season, between mid-December and the end of April, is the peak tourist season. Because of the popularity, the dry season is, of course, the most expensive time to visit as well.

The country's official currency is the Costa Rica Colon and, although English is widely spoken, the official language is Spanish. It's interesting to know that a core principal of the country is peace. As of the latter part of 1948, the Costa Rican army was even disbanded!

The vast majority of the Pacific coastline falls within Puntarenas, one of the country's seven provinces. Known as the Pacific Pearl, Puntarenas is home to popular national parks as well as coastal waters. There is an incredible variety of wildlife both flying overhead and scurrying across the ground throughout the province. Because it is longer than it is wide, Puntarenas offers visitors access to rain forests, dry forests, cloud forests and, of course, beaches.


Our Daily Villa Guest, a Scarlet Macaw

Our Daily Villa Guest, a Scarlet Macaw

Green Lizard, one of Costa Rica's Many Lizard Varieties

Green Lizard, one of Costa Rica's Many Lizard Varieties

From the northern part of the coastline to the south, the flora on display in all three forest types is both amazing and diverse. While there are plenty of places to enjoy the beauty of the island and to get some much needed rest and relaxation, there is also significant appeal for the adventure traveler. From just about any water sport imaginable to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, zip lining and ATV riding, there's lots of variety!

--- Advertisement ---


Now that you have some background information on Costa Rica, our recommendations for 11 great ways to spend your time on the country's central Pacific coast starts now!

1. Rejuvenate by Walking in the Sand or Relaxing on a Beach

The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica has over 600 miles of coastline, over four times more than on the Caribbean coast. After a long flight followed by transportation to your lodging, it's a great idea to relax and rejuvenate on your first full day. Whether your preference is golden sand or powdery white sand, the temperatures are tropical, the water is warm and there are lots of stunning sunsets! Just find a nearby beach to get your vacation off to a great start!


Costa Rica's Pacific Coastline

Costa Rica's Pacific Coastline

Beautiful Sunset in Costa Rica

Beautiful Sunset in Costa Rica

2. Learn all about Coffee, Chocolate & Sugar Cane Production

There's so much to see, learn (and sample!) on the 3-in-1 Combo Tour at Don Juan. Located in Monteverde, the tour takes guests on an easy walk through a coffee farm.

--- Advertisement ---


The first hour is dedicated to Costa Rica's long coffee growing tradition. It wasn't until the last twenty years that coffee was outranked (by tourism) as the largest contributor to the country's economy. Even those who are not big coffee drinkers will find both the history and steps for a successful coffee growing operation quite interesting.


Filtering Coffee for our Taste Test!

Filtering Coffee for our Taste Test!

Chocolate lovers (that's everyone, isn't it?) will enjoy the next 30 minute segment of the tour. Learning, tasting, helping and more tasting sums up this part of the tour. Although tasting both the cacao fruit and the finished product will probably be your favorite parts of the tour, the entire process is intriguing.


Chocolate Tasting ... Yum!

Chocolate Tasting ... Yum!

Before ending at a coffee / souvenir shop, the tour wraps up with a demonstration on how sugar cane is produced. As with both the coffee and chocolate segments of the combo tour, the final segment is interactive and includes a taste test as well!


Helping with Sugar Cane Production

Helping with Sugar Cane Production

The two hour combo tour is priced at $35.00 USD per adult. Listen carefully for the offer to ride in a historical ox-drawn cart. If you are interested in taking a short ride, volunteer quickly! During our visit, only the first six people who expressed an interest got an opportunity for a ride.


Ox-Drawn Cart - Any Riders?

Ox-Drawn Cart - Any Riders?

3. Walk through the Cloud Forest of Monteverde

Whether nature or adventure are more appealing, Selvatura Park in Monteverde offers something for everyone. Totaling almost two miles in length, the treetop walkway is the longest in the country. Eight bridges suspended from treetop to treetop allow walkers to see the flora and fauna of the cloud forest.

--- Advertisement ---


Why is this walk along the bridges referred to as a walk through the cloud forest? More often than not, fog and low hanging clouds block the sun from penetrating the forest. Visitors feel as if they are walking through the clouds! With the lack of sunshine, condensation does not evaporate and therefore keeps excess moisture in the forest. A walk through the forest provides an opportunity to see unique flora that best survive in these moist conditions.


Treetop Walkway at Selvatura Park

Treetop Walkway at Selvatura Park

Memories can be made while walking through the cloud forest on your own or with a guide. A self-guided walk is priced at $39.00 USD while the Natural History Walk with a guide comes at a price of $55.00 USD per person.

There's much more to Selvatura Park than a walk through the cloud forest. Those wishing to stay closer to the ground can choose to walk through the butterfly or hummingbird gardens or to visit the insect museum or reptile and amphibian exhibit. Looking for more adventure? There's also a zip line canopy tour with an optional Tarzan swing! Prices range from $6.00 to $55.00 USD per person, with combination packages available as well.

--- Advertisement ---


4. Zip Through the Costa Rican Rain Forest

Of all of the zip line adventure tours that we have experienced in cities within the Caribbean and Mexico, our favorite was at Adventure Park Costa Rica. Located in the city of Puntarenas, the Mega Zip Line Over 11 Waterfalls Tour begins after check-in with a 30 minute ride in an off-road vehicle.

One by one, guides attach harnesses to the horizontal traverse cable, provide zip liners with instructions on when (or if) they should brake, and off they go. The first seven cables are for zip lining followed by cables 8 and 9 to rappel and zip line respectively.


Getting Ready for Zip Lining On Cable 1

Getting Ready for Zip Lining On Cable 1

After zipping along cable 9, there's a short break with an option to swim in a natural waterfall pool. Cables 10 - 14 are zip lines plus one hanging bridge to cross.


Break Time at the Natural Waterfall Pool

Break Time at the Natural Waterfall Pool

Crossing the Hanging Bridge

Crossing the Hanging Bridge

The last of the rappels is cable 15 which is followed immediately by the final zips. Including the longest zip of the day, the final ten also include three middle of the road length zips and the last six zips which are all relatively short and quick.


Final Rappel of the Day

Final Rappel of the Day

The views throughout the entire Costa Rican rainforest course are stunning. The lines are surrounded by mountains and pass over river canyons, valleys and waterfalls. There is a nice variety of cable lengths and a good combination of zip lines and rappels plus the hanging bridge. Occasional hikes from platform to platform are fairly easy with just a few tricky maneuvers required to maintain balance or find a good landing place.

--- Advertisement ---


5. Experience Nature at Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls

What started as a backyard garden almost twenty years ago has grown to nearly 60 acres of untold beauty known as Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls. Neatly manicured walkways lead visitors through the gardens blooming in a myriad of bright colors.

Almost everyone will love taking photos as they hike the grounds. A complete tour of Pura Vida takes walkers along nature trails, over ridges and across valley streams. For the wildlife enthusiast, the almost 400 species of plants, many exotic, also attract a variety of birds. Situated on a mountain top, the views of the coastline are spectacular. During rainy season (May - October), the scenic point facing the Bijagual Waterfall (the country's tallest) is a must see!


Admiring the Beauty at Pura Vida Gardens

Admiring the Beauty at Pura Vida Gardens

Look Carefully so as Not to Miss Anything!

Look Carefully so as Not to Miss Anything!

The approximate $20.00 USD per person entrance fee is for a self-guided walk through the gardens. There is a Garden Gift Shop offering souvenirs and sunset dining is available with advance reservations.

--- Advertisement ---


You'll frequently hear (and see) the phrase "Pura Vida" during any visit to Costa Rica. "Pura Vida" translates to "pure life" or "simple life", but in reality it is much more. Locals (referred to as "Ticos") often use "Pura Vida" to mean "hello", "goodbye" or to express happiness in place of a phrase such as "everything is great"! True Ticos strive not to focus on negatives and instead to be happy and thankful for all that they have.

6. See Crocodiles in the Wild

Often referred to by its nicknames Crocodile Bridge or Gringo Bridge, a stop at the Tarcoles River Bridge is an adrenaline rush for many. During most daylight hours, the bridge is easy to spot due to the crowds of people gazing down into the water. Both sunning on the sand and swimming in the river are plenty of Costa Rica crocodiles - some as big as 20 feet in length from snout to tail!


View from Crocodile Bridge

View from Crocodile Bridge

During the first half of 2020, seeing the crocodiles is expected to get a little easier albeit less adventurous. The narrow bridge that tourists have crossed for years by carefully placing one foot in front of the other (to avoid meeting head on with a car) is being replaced. At about four feet across, the new sidewalk will even be wide enough for a wheel chair to cross!

For those wanting to get even closer to these wild animals, there are several river boat tours available. Either way, make sure to check out the nearby vendors offering souvenirs.

--- Advertisement ---


7. Hike in Carara National Park

Immediately to the south of the Tarcoles River is Carara National Park. Because the park is the home of species native to both dry forests and tropical rain forests, it is known as a transitional forest. The three hiking loops are each surrounded by towering trees of many varieties including the Guanacaste, Costa Rica's national tree.


Huge Trees Within the Rainforest

Huge Trees Within the Rainforest

It's not just the flora that visitors to the park come to see. The park is known for being an excellent location for bird watching. Flocks of scarlet macaws along with nearly 400 other species can be seen flying about. But that's still not all! howler, spider and white-faced monkeys swing from branch to branch. Sloths, snakes, coatis, lizards, frogs and many, many more species call the park their home.


Poison Dart Frog

Poison Dart Frog

Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around!

Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around!

The entrance fee during our visit was $10.00 USD per person for self-guided hiking through the national park. If you have your sights set on seeing specific animal species during your visit, it's worth considering the expertise of a local guide. There were plenty available upon our late morning arrival, each trying to beat the price of the other for our group of five!

--- Advertisement ---


8. Soak in the Atmosphere of Jaco

Known for its nightlife and party atmosphere, there is so much more to the city of Jaco. Whether you hope to learn to surf, enjoy an awesome meal or dessert, find your favorite mural, shop or just do some people watching, Jaco is a must visit for anyone planning to spend time on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast!


Artify Jaco!

Artify Jaco!

Samples of Our Favorite Jaco Street Art

Samples of Our Favorite Jaco Street Art

If it's not for the evening excitement, the pristine beaches will lure nearly every visitor to the city. From Playa Jaco right in the city to Playa Herradura and Playa Hermosa (north and south of Jaco, respectively), there's something for every water lover. Head north to enjoy a more relaxing day in the water, south to surf or surf- watch or stay in the city to people watch!


Peering Up at Jaco's Palm Trees

Peering Up at Jaco's Palm Trees

Playa Jaco

Playa Jaco

While you'll need to find and pay for a parking place, depending on how you decide to spend your time, you might not need another dime! If you are, however, in search of some adventure sports, you can find zip lining, ATV tours and much more to occupy your time in Jaco.

--- Advertisement ---


9. Take a Guided Tour of Manuel Antonio National Park

Although Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica's smallest national park, its natural beauty and diversity rivals almost any park in the world. Where have you found a rain forest, beach and coral reef all within the confines of the same national park?

While hiking through the rainforest, the luckiest of visitors will spot crabs, iguanas, sloths, toucans, monkeys and so much more! The trail is easy to follow and there are numerous places with unbeatable views. On a clear day, the beaches are said to be some of Costa Rica's most beautiful . . . and with good snorkeling as well.


Entering Manuel Antonio National Park

Entering Manuel Antonio National Park

One of Many Beautiful Views Within the National Park

One of Many Beautiful Views Within the National Park

The standard admission fee is $16.00 USD per person age 12 and over (free admission for those under 12). A 2 1/2 to 3 hour guided tour of the national park is worth every cent! Priced at $51.00 USD ($35.00 USD for those under 12), a guided tour includes the entrance fee to the park and a guide certified by the Costa Rican Tourism Board along with his/her high-tech, high powered telescope.

Both the guide and their scope will enhance your visit. The guide's experience at spotting amazing wildlife coupled with their knowledge of the flora and fauna native to the park will allow you to learn so much more than hiking on your own. Their expertise at recognizing birds, monkeys or sloths flying, swinging or hanging high up in the trees to pointing out snakes, iguanas and frogs hidden on the ground amongst the plants and tree roots, you'll encounter many more species with them leading the way. (I'm sure that, without our guide, we would never have noticed the deadly Fer-de-Lance Snake curled up under a tree as we passed by.)


Sloth, Hidden in the Tree

Sloth, Hidden in the Tree

Just Hanging ... Look at the Nails on that Sloth!

Just Hanging ... Look at the Nails on that Sloth!

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey

Fer-de-Lance Snake

Fer-de-Lance Snake

The "icing on the tour cake" is that your guide will share their telescope with all tour participants. This becomes invaluable with both seeing the impressive wildlife as well as shooting some up-close photos.


So Much Wildlife, So Little Time

So Much Wildlife, So Little Time

Tours include a short break with tropical fruits and drinks. Those who wish can spend additional time exploring more of the rainforest (or beach and coral reef) on their own following their tour.


Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach

By arranging a guided tour in advance, you'll avoid the crowd of non-sanctioned "guides" attempting to sell parking along with their services - often at inflated prices.

--- Advertisement ---


10. Experience the Local Cuisine

If you talk to anyone who has previously visited Costa Rica, you will probably hear about the food. The tasty, traditional fare is unique, typically cooked from scratch and is actually rather mild and not spicy as some might expect. Healthy and fresh tropical fruits and vegetables frequently accompany main courses. To top it off, there are many restaurants where you can dine with a view!


View from La Cocina de Dona Marta

View from La Cocina de Dona Marta

Dishes such as Arroz con Pollo, Gallo Pinto and Casado are quite famous and each incorporate the country's staples of rice, beans or both. Other must tries during a visit include plantains, meat pies and ceviche. Fresh fruit drinks known locally as refrescos come in a variety of locally grown flavors and are great to accompany a meal or just to cool off on a warm day!

In addition to traditional restaurants, the country is filled with small family owned restaurants known locally as sodas. Although definitely off the beaten path, La Cocina de Dona Marta came highly recommended to us, and for good reason!


Ready for Lunch at La Cocina de Dona Marta

Ready for Lunch at La Cocina de Dona Marta

Marta Cooking (Top), Refrescos and Lunch Plate

Marta Cooking (Top), Refrescos and Lunch Plate

Three other restaurants that we highly recommend include:

  • La Ostra Steak House & Seafood;
  • Steven Lisa's Seafood & Steak House; and
  • Ti-Ko Restaurante Mirador Surf & Turf.


Ceviche at Ti-Ko Restaurante  Mirador Surf & Turf

Ceviche at Ti-Ko Restaurante Mirador Surf & Turf

If you are looking for a cold dessert, make sure to try POPS. What started as a single location in San Jose, Costa Rica has expanded throughout the country, to other Central American countries and even into the United States!


Canasta Sundae at POPS

Canasta Sundae at POPS

11. Enjoy Chillaxin' at a Costa Rican Hotel or Villa

If you are lucky enough to be staying at a villa, resort or hotel during your stay in Costa Rica, make sure to save some time for "chillaxin"! So often when people (us included!) visit a unique destination, they don't take advantage of all that is available at their place of lodging.

--- Advertisement ---


Try to plan for at least one day when you will spend time "relaxin'" by the pool and "chillin'" with an ice cold drink in your hands!


Casa Tica Linda

Casa Tica Linda

San Jose, Costa Rica

Many people visit Costa Rica for the beautiful beaches, but there is so much more to the country. You've already read about what to see and do on the central Pacific Coast, so come back soon to see the amazing sites of San Jose near the country's main international airport. 19 Sites to See in One Day in San Jose, Costa Rica will give you plenty of ideas for what to see and do upon your arrival into the country, or just before you depart!

Costa Rica

What are your favorite places to visit that you consider "not to be missed" for anyone planning a holiday in Costa Rica?




Weather:79F Possible Light Rain and Humid
11 Gems on Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast







--- Advertisement ---

Booking.com





Related Posts  


Other Recent Posts  


--- Advertisement ---



Comments    



--- Advertisement ---


--- Advertisement ---