Tigger Travels - Journal of Adventures. (not a travel agent)
Photos From Tigger`s Travels and MORE!
Day Nine in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Panama Cruise January 2011 - Last Trans-canal trip planned for the Disney Wonder at this time.
Having heard of Costa Rica and the tropical rain forests there for many years from friends, our stop in Puntarenas was highly anticipated. Arriving at the port was a bit tricky according to the captain as we had to arrive with high tide about 3:30 in the morning. The Disney Wonder was scheduled to dock nearly four hours before the passengers would be allowed to leave ashore.
Also, for the first time in my own experience, we walked the gangway from the ship at deck three mid-ship; the main entrance that we board through. When we first walked off the ship at about 9:00 am we were an hour away from high tide and the ramp was very steep to climb up and down. Captain Tom was there and told us that the water would only drop about three feet before we left.
From the Puntarenas map in the cabin: An Overview of Punteranas
Tucked on a peninsula overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya, the city of Puntarenus has long served as the prime port of Coast Rica as well as the country's most important fishing harbor. The Pacific coastal community is the largest city in the province also named Puntarenas; it is the country's biggest province and extends all the way to the Panama border. With its important seaside location, the city of Puntarenas bustles with activity on weekdays as fishing boats ply their trade and also on weekends when residents of the capital of San Jose come to Puntarenas to enjoy its beaches.
Discovered by Hernan Ponce de Leon in 1519, Puntarenas (which means "Sandy Point" in Spanish) was first called Villa Bruselas. In spite of its excellent location on the Gulf of Nicoya, development of the city was slow until 1840. At that time, coffee plantations in the interior highlands of Costa Rica began to produce enough beans to export, slowly transporting their product on oxcarts down the steep mountain roads to port. Later that decade, the port gained duty free status and just a few years later a railroad was constructed to ease the transfer of the beans to the coast. By early the next century, the railroad was extended all the way to the capital city of San Jose and Puntarenas's role as a major port city was set.
Today the long history of fishing in Puntarenas is evident in its cuisine; visitors can find fresh seafood throughout the city. Corvina (sea bass), parge (red snapper), dorado (mahimahi), and tuna fill most local menus. For dessert, many travelers opt for an ice cream or fruit drink along the Paseo de los Turistas, a pedestrian walkway along the beachfront lined with small shops and open-air stands that overlook the beach.
Costa Rica offers a large variety of excursions and is rich in eco-tourism. The rain forest provides a close up experience with many of their natural residents that are in high abundance.
We opted for a quiet day at the market and drinks along the Paseo de los Turistas. I had a papaya drink and Jennifer ordered he ice tea. The papaya drink was as fresh as it could have been, juice freshly extracted moments before. The iced tea was not what Jennifer expected, though. It was tea, but there was a lot more lemon to it than we normally make in the southern US. Delicious and rich both drinks were a cooling refreshment from a morning of the bustling market.
The market itself was comprised of many of the normal made-in-China products, but there was a higher number of locally created items than normal at such markets. Carvings and other wood crafts were common and priced very affordably. We saw a number of model carts used to transport the coffee painted in the common bright colored designs found in the area. Carved iguana and other animals and small wooden boxes designed with paintings of local scenes were readily available.
Immediately outside the gate of the dock entrance is a permanent building that houses the seldom open tourist office and a great Internet cafe. We enjoyed a couple mocha frappe that stood nearly a foot high and were just as good! English is not spoken by everyone but my broken Spanish was just enough to be sociable.
We went in search of a post office to mail some cards to our sons back home, but our first search fell short. After delivering Jennifer back a the ship I went on a short walk-a-bout and found it. From the ship dock, walking straight inland for four blocks you will find all the typical local shopping locations. These are no tourist shops, these are pet and office supply, groceries and the likes. There are a number of restaurants and clubs offering local seafood and more. At the forth or fifth cross street yo will see that if you continue any farther you will end up in a little more than an ally. In fact, around that final corner of the ally it looked like a police station or maybe the place they get their cars fixed, not sure which.
Turning left on that last commercial road (it is pretty obvious) on the left in about 1/2 a block you will see a post office on the left. It is set back a bit and behind a large security gate but the sign is clear.
Click to enlarge image
More of the market. To the left is the large pavilion we had fruit drinks and iced tea... sorta
In side, the clerk did not speak English, but I simply help up a post card, two fingers and said, "Two post cards for the USA". She said, "Two dollars." and gave me two stamps. She also pointed to the international mail box for me. It was pretty intuitive and easy.
Across from the post office there is a bank. We were warned early that if we wanted to change money, do so at the banks. Dealing with people in the streets is discouraged.
The Gulf of Nicoya is a small beautiful area. From the ship you can see most of the way around. Mountains surround the gulf with some flatter land in the foreground. The tropical growth on the higher elevations is obvious even from aboard the ship.
Also, I observed a couple instances of people preparing to pick a pocket or two as they hovered too close to groups of guests from the ship.
In the next segment, I would like to share a little bit of warnings for traveling to foreign ports.
2011 Disney Wonder Panama Canal Cruise Index
Daily Navigator/Iwa Published Schedule