Friday, December 03, 2010

Puntarenas, Costa Rica (a Travel Tip Thursday post)

Travel Tip Thursday is a writing prompt by Winds of Change in which you tell about places you’ve traveled and offer tips to those who may find themselves traveling there (or traveling there via your posts). I haven’t made one of these posts in a while, but here is another of my Costa Rica posts…
After church on Sunday, a group of us decided to check out the beach at Puntarenas, about 15 miles west of Esparza. We were warned that the beach and the town wasn’t that nice, something we soon found out. At this point I was enthralled with Costa Rica (I didn’t go to La Caprio until my next to last day). My only complaint had been the clouds hiding the mountains. Perhaps I’d let myself be overwhelmed by the beauty of the country that I wasn’t in the mindset as to what we were getting ourselves into. A group of us got together to go down to the beach. Puntarenas is at the end of a peninsula, between a river and the Pacific Ocean. As we drove out on the narrow strip of land, I could see the remnant of the old San Jose to Puntarenas Railroad. Seeing the missing rails and paved over crossings wasn’t a good sign. Although there were a few old ships in the harbor (along with a new cruise ship that called on the port), the port seemed pretty empty. There was a huge warehouse that had been boarded up and the custom building as empty. The days of hauling trains of bananas and coffee to the port had long past. Much of the produce these days departs on airplanes.

The beach was a mess. It didn’t help that instead of the sand being white, it was nearly black (volcanic sand, I presume). There was a line of trash at the high tide mark. We didn’t feel like going into the water, so we walked around. There were plenty of merchants out and I brought a couple of cigars to try (I didn’t have much money with me, or I’d brought a box of them as the price was right. They were J&T’s, a locally made cigar with tobacco grown in Costa Rica’s highlands. The proprietor admitted that the leaf he used as a wrapper came from Nicaragua, which he thought produced a better quality leaf for wrapping. I also brought a few more gifts to give away. After shopping, we headed to a restaurant where we enjoyed a few beers. Then we went back out to the beach one more time and since there were folks swimming, I decided to try out the water. It felt good on a hot day, but there was a line of trash just beyond the breakers, so after riding a couple of waves, I called it quit.

But there is some good news in all this. On the day we left, after I got tired of watching the only English news channel (Fox or Faux News) as I was packing, which kept talking about the elections, I tuned in to a local station and there was a report from Puntarenas, a camera crew on the beach showing people picking up trash. There were fires burning sticks and lumber, a large front end loader collecting trash and dumping it into trucks and hauling it away. It seems that they have been waiting till the end of the rainy season to clean the beaches up. Since there are several rivers that come out into the sea around Puntarenas, most of the trash is washed out by the rivers and, until the rainy season is over, there is no need to clean it up. That said, they may have started a little too soon as it rained the last two days we were in Costa Rica and the rivers were boiling with muddy water as we drove back to San Jose.

As for my travel trip tip, if you’re in Costa Rica and want to go to the beaches, go to the Eastern Side! There, white sand is the norm! Also, go after the rainy season to make sure the beaches are clean.


  1. good tip...odd that they would wait...does tourism not play a big part in their economy?

  2. For a country with a seemingly good eco-reputation, the trash is disturbing. I suppose, though, when you find a really good, beautiful beach, everyone else knows about it, too.


  3. Did you see the Marriott Los Suenos when you were in Puntarenas? That's where my daughter and I stayed. We were not impressed by the beaches there either.

    To answer your question: Yes, we did the Mansion for 2 1/2 days and today and tomorrow - the State Capitol building. The Governor has already complimented us and said she can't wait to see what we do next year!

  4. I keep on hearing that Costa Rica is the promised land. Interesting and nice to hear about a not so nice part

  5. Brian, there are several rivers that open into the bay where the beach is located-I think they get just too much trash to keep up with it till the end of the rainy season

    Randall, the best beaches (so I'm told) are on the east coast

    Kenju, I vaguely recall the Merriott there, but I was only at the beach for an afternoon. I'll have to search your site for phots of the governor's mansion and look forward to ones of the capitol

    Pia, the promised land only exist as an image or a metaphor. There is some truth in Genesis about the way back to Eden being blocked. Even the Promised Land has flaws.

  6. Is that YOUR BOAT? Dude--can you troll from it?


  7. Wow it sure must have been disappointing to see the beaches in such a state. I'm glad they do get around to cleaning them after the rains.