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Puntarenas,

silversea caribbean cruise puntarenas costa ricaA launching pad for ferries heading southeast to the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, Puntarenas could easily be relegated to what you see from your car as you roll through town. Unless you're waiting to catch the ferry, there's really no reason to stay in Puntarenas. Parts of its urban beach look almost like a Dumpster, although residents are making a valiant effort to clean things up. Nonetheless, it's a city with a past as an affluent port town and principal vacation spot for San José's wealthy, who arrived by train in the last century. Once the port was moved and roads opened to other beaches, Puntarenas's economy crashed. Recent attempts by politicians and hotel owners to create tourism-boosting diversions have been only marginally successful thus far. But if you have some downtime here, head for the Paseo de los Turistas, a beachfront promenade lined with concrete benches. From this narrow spit of sand—punta de arenas literally means "point of sand"—which protrudes into the Gulf of Nicoya, you get impressive sunsets and vistas of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Dining

Steakhouse La Yunta


In a 1928 wooden building painted peach, originally a vacation home for San José's upper class, this old-fashioned steak house is presided over by mounted ox heads (yunta means "a yoked pair of oxen"). Seating is on a large veranda with views of the ocean and passersby strolling down the Paseo de los Turistas. The specialty is churrasco (tenderloin), but the diverse menu includes seafood dishes such as lobster and sea bass cooked 10 different ways. The liquor list is impressively long. If you order lobster, ask for it to be cooked lightly; the kitchen has a tendency to overcook crustaceans.

Gugas

In a quiet rancho, surrounded by huge tabacón plants and cooled by ceiling fans, Gugas receives high praise from locals for its alfresco fine dining. "Chicken of the Sea" (fish stuffed with shrimp and spices), pasta dishes, vegetarian options, seafood, and meat plates are all on the menu of this German-owned restaurant. There’s a long bar to perch at and tables sport red and white napery. It’s just one block north of the bustle of the Paseo de los Turistas.

Sights

Paquera


If you take the ferry from Puntarenas to the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, you'll arrive at a ferry dock 5 km (3 mi) north of the small community of Paquera. You can pick up supplies at the supermarkets, fill up your tank on the way to the beach, and grab a quick bite to eat at a pizza joint en route.
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Puntarenas,