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Punta Arenas

(3.9/5 based on 2,600+ reviews for top 30 attractions)
Things to do: nature, wildlife areas, fun & games
Puntarenas is the capital and largest city in the Province of Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The eponymous and oddly shaped province has its largest section in the South, far from the capital.OverviewSome 100,000 live in the city and close towns. With beaches on the Pacific Ocean, it also attracts many tourists, especially surfers. It is also a possible stopover point for the tourist destination Monteverde, to the northwest.Its port, Caldera, is one of the main ports in the country. Also, regularly scheduled ferries carry vehicles from Puntarenas to the Nicoya Peninsula.HistoryFirst known as Villa Bruselas in colonial times, Puntarenas was discovered by Hernán Ponce de León in 1519. Despite the use of the Gulf of Nicoya as an entryway to Costa Rica's inland territory, the port of Puntarenas was not developed until 1840 when coffee production in the highlands reached exportable volumes. In 1845 the Congress of the Republic declared Puntarenas a duty-free port (with the exception of Cognac and hard liquor). Originally, the coffee was brought to port in oxcarts via a trail through the mountains. In 1879, a stretch of railroad track was completed which connected Puntarenas with the town of Esparza (one of the country's earliest Spanish settlements, founded in 1554, a decade before the Central Valley began to be colonized) where the oxcart trail came out of the mountains. Eventually, the railroad was built all the way through to San José and service was inaugurated in 1910.
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