Puntarenas province lies along a narrow peninsula on the western side of Costa Rica. The province covers most of the country’s Pacific coast and it is home to some pretty amazing surf, beautiful national parks, and quaint towns full of charm such as; Punta Arenas, Jaco, Quepos, Dominical, Uvita and Puerti Jimenez.
From Guanacaste (3 hours):
If you are coming from Guanacaste, the easiest option is to take a bus from the Liberia bus station. Here buses leave for Puntarenas almost every hour.The station is busy and confusing but just look for the bus that says PUNTARENAS on it. Be patient- I promise a bus will come! You can pay the driver directly.
- Cost: 3,000₡ (€4 / $5)
- Schedule: 5am, 7.45am, 8.30am, 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm
From San Jose (2.5 hours):
If you’re coming from San Jose, you’ll need to go to the Empresarios Unidos station. Here there are buses every hour to Puntarenas.
- Cost 2585₡ (€4 / $5).
If you want to take a bus directly to Quepos from San José, you will need to go to the Tracopa station. This a good option to transfer buses to get to Jacó, Uvita, Dominical, and more.
- Schedule: 5.30am, 7am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm.
Within Puntarenas; Jaco, Quepos, Domincal, and Uvita are all on the same bus line, just different stops, making traveling through these towns super easy. Quepos is the biggest transport hub of these towns with connections to each of the other towns.
Quepos to Manuel Antonio:
- Buses go to Manuel Antonio every 30 minutes starting at 5:45am and then every hour after 7pm. The trip takes 15 min and it only costs 350₡ (€0.53 / $0.60).
Quepos to Uvita:
- Schedule: 6am, 9:30am, 2:30pm and 5:30pm. Price: 1500₡ (€2 / $3). Trip takes about 2 hours.
Quepos to Puntarenas:
- Schedule: 4:30am, 5:30am, 6:30am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 9:30am,11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm, 3:30pm, 4:30pm, 6pm. Price: 2445₡ (€4 / $4). The trip takes about 3 hours.
Quepos to Jacó:
- Same schedule as above, just get off a couple stops earlier Price: 1325₡ (€2 / $2). The trip takes about 2 hours.
- Is a town that attracts many for its surf. There’s lots of party and restaurants, however most agree that if you don’t surf- this town can be skipped as their are other, better nightlife options in Costa Rica.
Head to Quepos:
- A less touristy option that has easy access to everything in Puntarenas. Also only a 10 minute bus ride from Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. From Quepos you can find busses to Jacó, Uvita, Domincal, Punta Arenas, San José, and Paso Canoas (the border to panama).
Explore the beach town of Dominical:
- A little hippie beach town with great surf, good vibes, and restaurants. Definitely worth a visit!
Explore Parque Nacional Marino Ballena in Uvita:
- A lush green town with beautiful waterfalls and stunning beaches and as the name suggests, the perfect place to whale watch. Humpback whales are often seen in the waters here and even though it is one of Costa Ricas youngest national parks, it is very popular with locals and tourists.
Explore Manuel Antonio, the famous National Park where you’ll be sure to spot some sloth and chill with some monkeys. The entrance is 8000₡ (€12 / $15) and the line gets long very fast, so go early! There is also a really nice beach (for free) and loads of cute shops and restaurants along the beach.
Explore the Nauyaca Waterfalls: If you head inland from the beach (driving 20 minutes), you will find the Cataratas De Nauyaca. Located in a canyon, around 80 meters wide, these waterfalls attract adventurers, as well as those seeking tranquility in nature. There are plenty of adrenaline pumping jump off points, as well as relaxing natural pools for a family day out. Check out Nauyaca Waterfalls tour agency here. There is the option to take a tour on horseback or in a 4x4 jeep.
Puntarenas is a port town based along a narrow peninsular in the gulf of Nicoya. There is only one road running through the centre (Paseo de los Turistas), which is landmarked by an impressive red and white lighthouse at the end. Whilst it is not the prettiest of towns in Costa Rica, and most use it as a launch pad to explore the Isla de Coco*, there is lots to do around here, with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants tending to your every cuisine need. There is also a large cultural centre (Casa de la Cultura) with a theatre, art gallery and aquarium.
*To get to the Isla de Coco, you can take a boat from the port of Puntarenas. This journey takes 36 hours. The Coco islands have be named as one of the top 10 diving spots in the world.
- Quepos the best to stay in to make transfers, because you can transfer to almost anywhere there and it is a bigger city. However, it’s not very pretty and the hostels are very basic.
- Manuel Antonio is super nice, a little touristy and only 10 mins away from Quepos but is otherwise pretty isolated, especially if you don’t have a car.
- Jaco has tons of hostel options and is a popular stopover spot for backpackers and tourists.
- Domincal is super small and only has 2 or 3 hostels. Though small and isolated, it’s super cute and walkable with really cool vibes. I personally would opt to stay here over neighboring Uvita
- Uvita is a little bit more like Quepos in terms of size and it is slightly less touristy than Domincal and Manuel Antonio. However, it has great access to many beaches, waterfalls, and other towns. There weren’t too many hostel options in Uvita for its size.
- Uvita: Head to Bar Resturant Los Laureles, Cindy is sure to make you feel at home. They have a great menu of Costa Rica dishes, my advice, try the patacones and Magarieta cocktails! The restaurant is tucked away from the road, so if you struggle to find it, just ask a local, they will point you in the right direction! Like them on Facebook and check out their reviews on tripadvisor.
- Manual Antonio: Check out the Falafel Bar, a beautiful Mediterranean cafe offering wraps, a well stocked salad bar, hummus plates and delicious smoothis. Gluten free and vegetarian options are plentiful. Like them on Facebook and checkout their reviews on tripadvisor.
- Jaco: If you fancy stuffing your face with pizza, head to The Pizza Shop. The pizzas are huge but they also have chicken wings, garlic bread and lots more. Check them out on tripadvisor.
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