Mid Pacific

Its central location on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast invites visitors to travel the Central Pacific’s beautiful beaches, national parks, and refuges – all just a few hours’ easy drive from the capital of San Jose. Recently, the completion of the San José-Caldera highway (80 kilometers/50 miles), as well as the Coastal Highway, has further favored the region and improved drive times.

The Central Pacific, given its wet and rainy tropical climate, boasts a wide variety of vegetation along its beaches and hillsides. Therefore, areas closest to the coastline feature intense biodiversity, with habitats ranging from tropical dry forest to tropical rainforest. The region is home to many ecosystems that serve as habitat for numerous plant and animal species, many of which reside protected within wildlife reserves.normal image

According to the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism, this region, also known as the Middle Pacific, includes the cantons of Garabito, Parrito and Aguirre. Its coastline spans from the Grande River in Tárcoles south to the Barú River mouth. It combines long stretches of beach with open sea and small bays, running for 130 kilometers (almost 81 miles) from north to south.

To its interior, this region includes the Carara Mountains and the Chonta Mountains, as well as the middle and lower basins of the Tusubres River, Parrita River, Naranjo River, and Savegre River.

Its beaches, such as Manuel Antonio and Jacó, are among the most visited in Costa Rica – both by international and Costa Rican tourists. Among its biggest advantages is that several of its beaches, for example Jacó, are located less than two hours from the capital city of San José.

Products and Services

Given its characteristics, the Central Pacific’s main tourism offerings are those related to the sun and sand, nature, adventure, honeymoons, relaxation, and aquatic sports, as well as excursions to visit and interact with rural communities.

The region is ideal for many activities such as hiking, wildlife watching, nature tours, photography, farming tours, swimming, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, tours of local protected areas (both private reserves and national parks), canopy tours, and sport fishing for marlin, sailfish, mahi mahi, and rooster fish. Additionally, ATV tours, horseback riding, and jet ski jaunts are popular activities in the Central Pacific.

The region’s primary destinations developed for tourism are Punta Leona-Herradura, Jacó-Hermosa, Quepos-Silencio-Londres, and Matapalo-Barú. The Central Pacific is known for its intense natural beauty.

Characteristics

The Central Pacific boasts both tropical wet and tropical rainforest climates. It is for this reason that the area’s beaches and inland zones offer a wide variety of ecosystems and biodiversity.

The region is covered primarily in tropical forest that transitions from dry forest into rainforest. There are numerous plant and animal species living in the Central Pacific; many are protected within conservation areas.

Protected Areas

Hermosa Beach Wildlife Refuge
 This refuge covers a strip of coastline that is home to a mangrove forest. There, visitors are welcome to go bird watching and observe olive ridley turtles nest and lay eggs on the beach.
Barú Estate National Wildlife Refuge of the Pacific
This wildlife refuge is owned by private landholders and is located two kilometers (one mile) from Dominical. Its mangrove forest is home to crocodiles and caimans, as well as numerous bird species of which green herons, blue herons, and brown pelicans are common sightings. Olive ridley and Pacific ridley turtles nest on the beach.

Kayaking tours and horseback rides are organized on a regular basis for the enjoyment of all visitors to the refuge.

Manuel Antonio National Park
Located 157 kilometers (97 miles) from San José and 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the city of Quepos, Manuel Antonio National Park measures 683 land hectares (1,707 acres) and 55,000 marine hectares (137,500 acres). It was established as a national park in 1972.

Due to its exceptional natural beauty, this park is considered one of the most impressive landscapes in Costa Rica. Its beaches’ whites sands combine in perfect harmony with the area’s lush foliage and towering mountains.

Manuel Antonio National Park is surrounded by abundant wet forest. A hike along its trails is the best way to observe local wildlife, including many species of birds, sloths, coatimundis, raccoons, iguanas, white-faced monkeys, and squirrel monkeys – a species endemic to Manuel Antonio and only found in this part of the world.

The park also protects 12 islands that represent important refuges for several species of marine bird. The islands are home to magnificent beaches: Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, and Puerto Escondido. There is also a 14-hectare (35-acre) lagoon and a mangrove swamp. Cathedral Point, which joins the beaches of Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Sur, is known for its spectacular natural beauty.

Regarding local services, visitor amenities include tourism information, park ranger station, trails, restrooms, potable water, signage and several natural lookout points.

The mangrove swamp, which spans approximately 18 hectares (45 acres), is home to three species: tea mangrove, white mangrove, and black mangrove.

Attractions

Savegre River
The pure waters and rushing, class III rapids of the Savegre River make it an ideal destination for both whitewater rafting and swimming. Along the way, tourists enjoy the incredible scenery, which features lush vegetation lining the riverbanks.
Naranjo River
This river is home to class III and IV rapids, making it a challenging and very enjoyable run for whitewater rafting. It is also an ideal spot for enjoying nature’s diversity and the surrounding scenery, which ranges from forested areas to African palm plantations.
Quepos Point
Featuring a rocky outcropping, forested areas, and white sand beaches, Quepos Point boasts scenic viewpoints from which visitors can sit back to contemplate the beauty of the peaceful, blue ocean. At the point’s highest altitudes, several hotels enjoy extensive and beautiful views of Manuel Antonio National Park and the entire coastal zone, from Quepos north to Esterillos Oeste.
Rainmaker Hanging Bridges in the Forest Canopy
Located in a private reserve in the Chonta Mountains, these hanging bridges are an exceptional attraction due to the spectacular scenery observed from their canopy-top vantage point.
Mangrove Swamps and Caverns of Damas
The Damas mangrove swamps, which can be visited in boat or kayak, are also found in this region of Costa Rica. During a trip to the area, trained guides often point out some of the swamps’ most attractive and unique flora and fauna, some of which are unique to this ecosystem.

The Damas Caverns, another popular destination in the Central Pacific, are part of 500 hectares (1,250 acres) dedicated to protecting pre-montane forest. They boast caverns of different sizes, featuring both stalactite and stalagmite rock formations.

Herradura Island
It is also important to mention another point of interest: Herradura Island. An old lighthouse, which is located on the highest crest of the tropical forest that covers the ocean rock, watches over on the island. It is an ideal destination for scuba divers, as its deep-sea depths are home to a wide variety of marine wildlife.

Beaches

Tárcoles Beach
The main attraction of this beach is to serve as a wharf for fishing boats. It is only appropriate for walking, nature observation, and interaction with the local community.
The Beaches at Punta Leona
[accordion title="Savegre Beach"]

Extending straight down 11 kilometers (almost 7 miles) of coastline, between the estuaries of the Naranjo and Savegre Rivers, Savegre Beach is ideal for surfing and other beach activities: sunbathing, walking, and relaxing. The Negro Estuary is a part of the Naranjo River estuary. Isla Mogote, an offshore island, is visible from Savegre Beach.

Hermosa Beach
This is a long beach, measuring approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) and boasting open ocean that offers strong and continuous waves – making this one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica. In fact, several national surf competitions have been held at Playa Hermosa. The area offers a wide range of services.
Other Beaches
Other beaches offering a range of activities and attractions for tourists include Palo Seco, Palma, Herradura, Matapalo, Esterillos, Espadilla Norte, Boca Vieja, Bejuco and Barú.

Cities

San Mateo
This picturesque city, located 254 meters (833 feet) above sea level, retains the charm of a traditional rural community. It boasts distinct facets of Costa Rican history, as it is remembered as the resting place for the Mora and Cañas troops on their way to confront William Walker. San Mateo has also served as a resting place for hundreds of oxcarts: those loaded with coffee, en route to Puntarenas, as well as others packed with products returning to San José from the Pacific port.

Currently, this is an alternate day trip for tourists visiting Garabito and Aguirre Beaches.

Quepos
Quepos is the political seat of Aguirre canton (similar to a county). It retains a strong relationship with the development of the banana industry in this part of the country, for which reason the town still conserves old structures of the company that once operated in the region.

Quepos offers tourists a wide variety of services including lodging, restaurants, and tour operators. The town also boasts spectacular scenery along its coastline. Its pier serves as a departure point for tours such as sport fishing and other recreation boat rides.

Jacó
The coastal city of Jacó (pronounced “Hah-ko”) has a long coastline, allowing visitors plenty of enjoyment in the sun and sand. The city’s proximity to San José makes it one of the country’s most visited beaches; it is popular among both international and Costa Rican tourists. Jacó has one of the largest and most diverse tourism service offerings in Costa Rica.

Swimming should be done with caution, as Jacó’s strong currents may create riptides. Surfing is a very popular activity at this beach. On land, visitors are invited to go horseback riding, rent mountain bikes, and enjoy the go-cart and scooter track. From Jacó, it is easy to take a boat to Escondida (Hidden) Beach, a place well known in the surfing community.

Schedule of Cultural Events

Throughout the year, several events, most linked to certain communities, celebrate the historical, religious, sport, civic, and artistic aspects of life in the Central Pacific. Other events are held to raise funds for local communities

February
Last week. Puntarenas Festival.
April
After Holy Week. National Fair of Fruits. Orotina.
May
1. Labor Day
July
3-16. Fiestas Honoring the Virgin of the Sea (Virgin of Carmen)
August
24. National Parks Day
September
14. Lanterns Parade

15. Costa Rican Independence Day

30. Commemoration of the deaths of Mora and Cañas. Elementary and high school parades. City of Puntarenas.

December
8. Festival of the Immaculate Conception. Quepos.

25. Christmas