Encompassing a long stretch of land on the western side of Costa Rica is Puntarenas, also known as Punta Arenas. This coastal city is the capital of the province of Puntarenas, and across the Gulf of Nicoya lies the western end of the province. There are approximately 34,000 people living within the 13.26 square miles of the city and over 410,000 in the entire Puntarenas province.
As the closest coastal city to San Jose, Puntarenas enjoys being a tourist destination for Costa Ricans looking to spend time along the pristine beaches on the Pacific Coast. Although Puntarenas is not a major tourist destination, it is not uncommon for folks to use this town as a jumping off point to other locations or as an excursion stop for cruise ships. There are a few colleges and universities located in the city of Puntarenas including Castro Carazo University, the University of Costa Rica and the Universidad Técnica Nacional.
The culture of Puntarenas is a little laid back due to its tourism vibe. Although slower during the week, when the Costa Ricans make their weekend getaway or tourists arrive for a vacation, the oceanfront promenade and markets become livelier. The population of this area was made up originally of descendants from Indians and colonial-era slaves and it features prominent Hispanic cultures and languages. 90% of Costa Rica’s residents identify as either Catholic or Evangelical Christian making religion an important aspect of daily life in Puntarenas.
Although first discovered in 1522, Puntarenas did not see any considerable development for over 300 years. Coffee was the main export in the mid-1800’s with the stretch of land being used as a port. A railway, built in 1910, allowed for access to the Central Valley promoting more economic vibrancy.
You’ll find the Puntarenas Fish Market, Puntarenas Cultural Amphitheater, as well as the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral – a Roman Catholic church built in 1902.
Puntarenas stretches out into the Gulf of Nicoya and is subjected to warmer temperatures than the inland areas of Costa Rica. Average highs throughout most of the year stretch into the low-90s. Even the cooler months of September through December have average highs around 89 degrees. Average low temperatures during the year dip into the low-to-mid 70s. September and October are the wettest months of the year with one-third of the annual rainfall occurring during these two months. Total average annual rainfall is 62 inches.
Real estate and rental prices are generally affordable when compared to other parts of Costa Rica. While development continues throughout the Puntarenas province, the region is more expensive than other resort and coastal destinations like Cancun, Mexico.
While not nearly as famous as other coastal regions, there is a lot of possibility and opportunity in Puntarenas. Its proximity to other cities and year-round warm weather makes it ideal for both tourists and snowbirds alike.