Central Pacific Coast, Costa Rica - Stein Travel

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Welcome to Central Pacific Coast

The Pacific is more developed for tourism than the Caribbean, but it still holds a good mixture of luxury resorts and deserted beaches. Some of the Costa Rica's best beaches are in this region. Costa Ricans use the perfectly suited phrase ' pura vida', meaning 'pure life', to describe the country and examples of this are evident everywhere along the Pacific coastline.

Strung along the coast are scores of seaside villages and picturesque towns, exotic beaches and several protected reserves or national parks. Visitors will find an abundance of accommodation, seafood and local souvenirs. Puntarenas is the largest town and was the main port, but is now mainly used for a base to catch ferries to the Nicoya Peninsula. Further south, the Tarcoles bridge is a renowned spot for watching the alligators in the river below. Package-holiday tourists stream to the beach resort town of Jacó, one of the best places to surf and with a reputation for being a party town. There is plenty of accommodation and restaurants as well as a lively night scene after a relaxing day on the beach.

There are many activities in the area including surfing, kayaking and swimming in the azure waters of the pacific. There is also hiking, birding and wildlife-spotting in the forests of the national parks as well as beach walks, volleyball and horseriding. Beautiful parks like Manuel Antonio National Park and Absoluta Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve have pristine white beaches as well as birds and animal life. The tiny fishing hamlet of Montezuma near the entrance to Cabo Blanco is surrounded by pretty coves and is a relaxed place to hang out for a few days.

Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken.

The Costa Rican Colón (CRC) is divided into 100 céntimos and is the official currency, although US Dollars are also widely accepted. US Dollars and travellers cheques can be exchanged in banks and many hotels. Banks charge a service fee for cashing travellers cheques and currency other than US$ is difficult to exchange. Using black market exchange options is risky as they have been known to pass on counterfeit bills printed in Colombia. Banks close anywhere from 3pm to 6pm. Major credit cards are widely accepted, although American Express and Diners Club might be more limited. ATMs are available in major towns throughout the country, but it is advisable to always have some local cash handy.

Local time is GMT -6.

Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica but also one of the more popular ones. With beautiful white beaches and rocky headlands, backed by tropical rainforest, mangroves and estuaries, it is easy to see why. Among this varied landscape are typical Costa Rican animals like sloths, agoutis, monkeys and iguanas. It has a well-developed trail system to facilitate independent exploration, but knowledgeable local guides are also available at the park entrance. Picnic areas are situated along the coastal trails, and from cliff top lookouts visitors can admire the stunning coastal views. Quepos is the nearest town to the park, a pleasant and friendly place, and it is also the sport-fishing centre in the region. Sailfish and marlin are the sought after deep-sea prizes.

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