Most people’s ingrained perceptions of Puntarenas in the past were negative. I must admit when I was heading on the bus from San Jose to this Central Pacific port town I was prepared for the worst. I was told in the past by people that had travelled there it was a long bus trip and that I might as well go to Playa Jaco, that the crime was bad, that the streets and beach was dirty, and that the water was polluted. Not exactly the image of a place that one would want to visit. I was about to have a quick wake up to the reality of the new Puntarenas.
The busses travelling to Puntarenas from San Jose leave every hour and the trip time because of the new highway has been reduced from 2.5 hours to about an hour. I departed the bus to clean painted streets, new trashcans lining the sidewalk behind the beach, and like all beaches there is trash here and there but in comparison to other beaches in Costa Rica this ranked pretty high in cleanliness. As I walked the half kilometer from the bus stop to the hotel I never felt impending danger or the feeling of being among thieves. It was just a pleasant afternoon stroll listening to the sound of the waves gently rolling in.
Puntarenas has been the beneficiary of the many infrastructural improvements thanks to its location on the new highway as well as being both the hub for the ferry that crosses across the gulf of Nicoya and the over 180 yearly cruise ships coming to dock on the Puntarenas pier. A new community center is being built with a large Olympic size swimming pool. The roads have been repaired and lined. Garbage is raked from the beach and road running next to the beach each morning. There is new construction going up around every corner and what once was a smaller town is now bustling with activity. From looking around this port seems to be the next beach town that is on the road to development and investors are taking notice.
The last connotation I had been told about Puntarenas was that the water was polluted due to sewage and the fish compost which was the estuary located on the backside of Puntarenas. This was told to float around to the beach side and intrude into the swimming space of beach goers. The Costa Rican government has stopped the business sewage polluters. The fishermen regulate themselves and they no longer pollute the waters when cleaning their daily catch. This promotes clean ocean water which by the way is perfect for swimmers as there are no big waves in the calm beach front surf.
My accommodation for the night was Michael’s Surfside Hotel located across form the beach about a half kilometer from the main bus station. Upon arrival I was greeted with a smile from the owner Michael as he pleasantly gave me a tour of the grounds and showed me a few of the vacant rooms. Although the room were vacant at 2 pm all were booked for that evening, as has been the case for all of the 8 rooms at this hotel for the past 5 months.
The most important thing for me is that the hotel room is clean and comfortable which each and every one of the rooms is at Michael’s Surfside Hotel. Each of the hotel rooms is equipped with a kitchen and all come with air conditioning, which is very important for some of the scorching hot days at the beach during high season. The rooms also come with All rooms come with cable TV, refrigerators, air conditioning, stove, microwave, ceiling fans, floor fans, private secured parking, private bathrooms, swimming pool, easy beach access, tile floors, Internet service, kitchenettes, and queen sized beds with the option to add more beds.
I got to stay in the luxury apartment on the second floor of the hotel with a balcony over the pool area and another balcony with a view of the ocean and beach. This room or apartment was incredible with a 56 inch big screen TV, teak floors and doors, separate living room, dining room, and kitchen areas, and a Jacuzzi tub and bidet. I was not expecting the comfort and amenities that were being provided for the cost.
Michael sat with me for about 45 minutes and we had a pleasant conversation about the new and improved Puntarenas and he told me about Carnival, a Madri Gras type festival in Puntarenas, Semana Santa, and some of the other activities that happen yearly in the town. He also told me about Isla San Lucas, or San Lucas Island, which is Costa Rica’s Alcatraz. After telling me information about nice eateries in town and the rundown of places to go, Michael headed out to tend to another guest that was checking in and left me to enjoy the comforts of the hotel. I headed to the balcony overlooking the beach and watched as families and couples strolled down the surf with their children and pets. I knew that this would be one of many times I ventured to this town and would always try to book with Michael as long as he had room.