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Cruises to Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)

2 Awards
Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) (Photo:Galina Savina/Shutterstock)

About Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)

Costa Rica is a small country, about the size of West Virginia, but it's got massive appeal as one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth. Even though Costa Rica covers less than .03 percent of the earth's total surface, you can find nearly five percent of the planet's plant and animal species there. Its location -- between Nicaragua and Panama on the isthmus connecting North and South America, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east -- has enabled flora and fauna from both continents to thrive there.



Cruise passengers visiting Costa Rica's Pacific Coast will come ashore in one of two places -- Puerto Caldera, a commercial port serving the nearby seaside town of Puntarenas, and Puntarenas itself. Puntarenas is a lively town that hosts josefinos (residents of the capital city of San Jose) on holiday, as well as international tourists. The main drag, a wide walkway fronting the beach that's jam-packed with places to shop and eat, is even called Paseo de los Turistas -- loosely, "stroll of the tourists."



However, Costa Rica's real draw is its lush, natural beauty and biodiversity -- the "rich coast" after which it is named. Most cruise travelers use Puntarenas as a kickoff point for eco-adventures on the ground (horseback riding or hiking in the rainforest), in the water (kayaking, white-water rafting) and even in the air (zip-lining, an activity which originated here and is now popular throughout the Americas and the Caribbean).

  • Why go to Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)?

  • Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Cruise Port Facilities?

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Norwegian Sun
Norwegian Sun

20 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,085 Reviews
Leaving:Seattle
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Oct 11, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Joy
Norwegian Joy (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

15 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

328 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Insignia
Insignia

20 Night
Panama Canal CruiseDetails

204 Reviews
Cruise Line:Oceania Cruises
Jul 13, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Encore
Norwegian Encore (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

15 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

274 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 16, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Virgin Voyages

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137 Night
137 Night Viking World CruiseDetails

1,056 Reviews
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Dec 20, 2023
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20 Night
Panama CanalDetails

1,137 Reviews
Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 9, 2022
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Cruise Critic Favorite

16 Night
South America Repo CruiseDetails

1,861 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Dec 7, 2023
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12 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,295 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 14, 2023
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12 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,295 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 12, 2022
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15 Night
Panama Canal Eastbound CruiseDetails

1,680 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Sep 30, 2022
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12 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,295 Reviews
Leaving:Colon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
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14 Night
Panama CanalDetails

528 Reviews
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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14 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

328 Reviews
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Dec 4, 2022
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21 Night
Panama CanalDetails

561 Reviews
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Apr 15, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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32 Night
South America CruiseDetails

976 Reviews
Leaving:Buenos Aires
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Why go to Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)?

Pros:

The wildlife in Puntarenas is diverse, housing 5 percent of the world's plant and animal species

Cons:

It rains frequently in this rain forest destination

Bottom Line:

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.

Getting Around?

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.

Language?

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.


Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Cruise Reviews
Went to the animal sanctuary - lovely day- highly recommend - must go inland away from the port to appreciate the natural beautyRead More
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ThelmLou
Costa Rica was amazing! We rode an aerial team over the rain forest and visited the sloth sanctuary both were great stops and I highly recommend . We had the most amazing knowledgeable tour guide on our tour we lRead More
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Kfromvalencia
Wanted to experience the exotic animals and birds of Costa Rica so were fortunate to travel a river with an excellent guide and witnessed birds and other animals in their natural habitat.Read More
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mystery solved
The tour of the Atlantic locks was a long day but the tour guide was entertaining and very informative. Great views of the ships transiting the locks, even better than doing the transit onboard ship.Read More
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Protseq

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