June 10th, 2008

Costa Rica Getting Around

by Don

Costa Rica is a small country, and many of its interior attractions can be accessed from both its Caribbean port of Puerto Limon and its Pacific ports of Puntarenas and nearby Puerto Caldera. Puntarenas means “sandy point” and is a traditional fishing village situated on a narrow peninsula. A friendly town, it has new pier which opened in 1998, and shuttle vans transport passengers to the end of the pier. A few craft stands are situated ashore near the pier, but there’s not a great deal to see in town, and most passengers promptly head to one of the region’s nature reserves or to the capital of San Jose, which is a two-hour drive. Red-colored taxis congregate at the pier and fares are approximately $20 to $30 per hour. Most drivers speak limited English and you should agree on a fare before setting out. Some sample, round-trip fares (per cab, 1-4 passengers) from Puntarenas: San Jose – $160; Carara Biological Reserve – $90; Sarchi – $100. The fare to Caribbean Village Fiesta Resort (where there is a swimming beach of black volcanic sand) is $7 one way. The new port of Puerto Caldera is located 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Puntarenas.

Puerto Limon, on the Caribbean coast, is the leading port of Costa Rica from which bananas, cocoa and timber are exported. Although not considered a tourist town, it does have a pleasant waterfront park (Parque Vargas) and a colorful market. The offshore island of Uvita is where Columbus landed in 1502, and Columbus Day (October 12) is celebrated in Limon with street parades and other festivities.

There are 80 national parks, protected zones, and biological and for-est reserves in Costa Rica, and several of these can be visited by ship-organized shore excursion – a recommended way to view a tropical forest, for it’s not advisable to hike into the jungle without an experienced guide who is able to spot and identify the flora and fauna as well as watch out for everyone’s safety.

Beaches – Many of Costa Rica’s beaches consist of black volcanic sand. On the Pacific side, passengers can enjoy a swimming beach and other resort facilities at the Caribbean Village Fiesta Resort, where a day pass is $38 per person. On the Caribbean side, some beautiful swimming beaches can be found at Cahuita, 27 miles south of Limon, where a long black-sand beach lies at the north end of the village and a white-sand beach lies at the other end within a national park.

Shopping
– Costa Rica is considered the Bordeaux of coffee-grow-ing countries, and its most famous brand is Cafe Britt, grown and roast-ed on a plantation near Heredia where visitors can purchase bags (or cases) of fine coffee. Wooden handicrafts include salad bowls, jewelry boxes and miniature replicas of colorfully painted oxcarts which are sold at the Chaverri Oxcart Factory in Sarchi. Costa Rica’s official cur-rency is the colon, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. The approxi-mate exchange: $1 US = 300 colones; $1 CDN = 200 colones.

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