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Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) (Photo:Galina Savina/Shutterstock)
2018 Top-Rated Panama Canal & Central America Destinations
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Melissa Paloti
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of 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.

About 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

Bottom Line

This is a great port for outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking and ziplining

Find a Cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America

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).

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.

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.

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.


Costa Rica is known for its smooth, balanced coffee, considered among the best in the world. Cafe Britt is a famous producer, and you'll be able to find bags of its coffee, whole-bean and ground, in most gift shops (along with locally made chocolates). However, pretty much any brand you pick up will be excellent. We like Cafe Tres Generaciones.

Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2018 Top-Rated Panama Canal & Central America Destinations