Why go to Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)?
The wildlife in Puntarenas is diverse, housing 5 percent of the world's plant and animal species
It rains frequently in this rain forest destination
This is a great port for outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking and ziplining
Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Cruise Port Facilities?
Puerto Caldera offers very few facilities for cruise passengers, and there's nothing within walking distance; again, the village of Puntarenas is a 20-minute cab ride from this port. Ships dock opposite a terminal building, at the far end of which are a few souvenir shops and a sitting area with restrooms. You'll be able to pick up gifts -- jewelry, wooden crafts, Costa Rican coffee -- from local vendors but no food or drinks; spring for the bottled water for sale onboard your ship if you'd like to carry something with you.
If your ship docks right in Puntarenas, however, you are steps away from the base of the main tourist drag -- Paseo de los Turistas, which is a wide walkway replete with shopping and dining options that runs parallel to the beach. There's also a cruise terminal across the street from the dock perimeter with restrooms and other facilities, including phone stations. The port offers complimentary shuttle service from the gangway to the main exit if you don't want to walk; it's about 250 yards.
Good to Know?
Petty theft can be a problem; use the same common sense precautions as you would anywhere else in the world. Leave whatever cash and valuables you don't need behind, or conceal them appropriately.
From Puerto Caldera: The nearest town of interest, Puntarenas, is a 20-minute taxi ride away. The cost at press time was $25 one way for two passengers ($15 for one) or $50 roundtrip -- and the driver will either wait for you or come back for you, collecting payment back at the pier. We recommend taking only "official" taxis, which are always red with a yellow triangle on the door. There's also a colorful bus that offers a two-hour roundtrip guided tour into Puntarenas for $20 per person. The tour offers quick visits to the fish market and local cathedral.
If you aren't interested in going into town, we recommend booking a tour, either on the ship or from an independent operator. Tour operators also show up on the pier to sell to those folks who want to see Puntarenas with a guide or experience eco-tours -- zip-lining, rafting, etc. -- independently from their cruise line's shore excursions department.
From Puntarenas: Ships deposit passengers onto the Paseo de los Turistas, where taxis line up.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The local currency is the Costa Rican colon; on our trip, approximately 540 equaled $1 U.S. Check a Web site like XE.com for the latest exchange rates. However, whether you are visiting for a day or for a few before a cruise, you don't necessarily have to change money; vendors and taxi drivers are happy to accept U.S. dollars. Just note that you'll likely get change in colones -- so you may not want to break big bills. Banks are generally open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Spanish is the official language, though taxi drivers and other ticos (locals) working in the tourist areas speak at least some English.
Where You're Docked?
Some ships stop in Puntarenas proper, while others call in Puerto Caldera, a commercial port that's about a 20-minute cab ride away from the town. Both sit on the Pacific Ocean, on the west coast of Costa Rica. Some lines will use Puerto Caldera because it is protected by a windbreak, but both ports offer access to the same attractions and shore tours.