For most full transit or Pacific coast Panama Canal cruises, a popular port of call is Puntarenas, Costa Rica. This is a great port for those looking to reconnect with nature and see wonders that aren’t available anywhere else in the world. There’s also plenty to do for a shopaholic along the Paseo de los Turistas. Below are the best seven things you should do while in Puntarenas and one that you should definitely not do.
Villa Lapas is perfectly situated between the tropical and dry eco-systems of Costa Rica. Here you’ll have a chance to see the rain forest at the tree top level as you traverse the Skyway Bridge System. Keep a look out for wildlife such as monkeys, anteaters, lizards, dart frogs, Black-billed Whistling Duck, the Wood Stork, pelicans, terns, sandpipers and multiple species of herons and egrets. Oh, and not to mention, you’ll also get some spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
2. Climb a tropical waterfall near Jaco Beach
With fresh water cascading over you as you climb, you will not soon forget the thrill and rush of adrenaline as you reach the top. The tropical rain forests in the area have numerous waterfalls ready for you to scale. However, Rain forest Adventures Pacific, a private reserve near Jaco Beach, has the best in my opinion.
3. Help save endangered species at the Natuwa Sanctuary
The sanctuary houses some of the most endangered birds in Central America and is working with the help from local Costa Ricans and travelers to release birds like the Scarlet macaw and the Great Green macaw back into the wild. Additionally, there are three resident jaguars who were brought to the sanctuary in 2014 as cubs who serve as ambassadors to conservation education. The jaguars were rescued as orphans and never learned the skills required to survive in the wild.
4. Handicraft hunting along Paseo de los Turistas
This is a very popular area for shopping and dining on local cuisine. The area is designed to be very pedestrian friendly which lends to great people watching while enjoying a cold beverage and relaxing at a local eatery. You’ll find a great variety of handicrafts at the various souvenir shops.
5. Feel the rush of ziplining through the tree tops
Adventure seekers will love the thrill of zooming through the rain forest and feeling the wind whip across your faces. It’s normal to feel like Tarzan (or Jane) as the jungle flies by. This is the best way to experience Costa Rica, in my opinion, as the appreciation for the natural beauty and the rush of adrenaline make this the trip you never forget.
6. Catch a fish or two…
Costa Rica is known for its fishing. However, due to the traffic at the cruise ship pier, the fishing charters in Puntarenas are a bit more limited. There are a few charters available that can be arranged for a cruise visit though. Contact us for more info.
7. Catch a wave at Playa Hermosa
Just about an hour or so south of Puntarenas is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. If you need some brushing up on your wave riding skills, there are plenty of surf schools available for surfers of all skill levels. Most of them guarantee you to ride at least one wave by the end of your session.
"Surfer at sunset" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by f514nc0
One thing you should definitely NOT do while in Costa Rica:
Don’t feed the monkeys. These cute little critters can lose their survival instincts if they come to rely on humans giving them food. Not to mention, monkeys can carry diseases and pass them on to humans (think the movie Outbreak). The reverse is also true, you wouldn’t want to be responsible for unwittingly unleashing the great monkey plague and wiping out a species because you had to get a picture with and feed a monkey. Lastly, monkeys can be pretty aggressive and are deceptively strong. They’ve been known to take swipes, snatch bags and even purposely pee on people standing under them. It’s also against the law, so forget the tempting photo-op and just don’t do it.
If you’re interested in planning your Panama Canal cruise or visiting Central America, please contact us and we will make sure you have everything taken care of by a true travel professional. Want to share your memories or experiences from Costa Rica or your Panama Canal cruise? Post your comments below.