Friday, July 22, 2011

Exploring Puntarenas Central Town Area

I've been down to the Puntarenas beach area quite often, but I have never stopped to explore the actual Puntarenas City town center.  Having read about a lovely old Catholic church that sits in the town's central plaza, I asked my boyfriend if we could make a stop there before heading to the Puntarenas beach area.

Puntarenas City is the capital of the similarly named Puntarenas Province.  For years the city was a major sea port, but now it is just a docking area for a few cruise ships sailing the Pacific Ocean, and locals who come out to enjoy the beach area.  Puntarenas City is also a good stopover point if you are heading to one of the prettier beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula - such as Montezuma and Mal Pais.  The reason for this is that there's a ferry out of Puntarenas that puts you on the Peninsula much easier and faster than trying to drive to the Peninsula over land.

As we approached Puntarenas City's central plaza in our car, I was quite impressed with the large Catholic church dominating it (pictures below).  Interestingly, the stone church which was built in 1902 has some windows that resemble portholes, reflecting the city's maritime tradition. It's also one of the few churches in the country with a front entry facing east (most face west).

On the same plaza with the church you'll find the city's cultural center, La Casa de la Cultura (pic below). This building was once the Puntarena's jailhouse, but now it serves as the center for local cultural exhibitions and live performances. There is also a Museo Histórico Marino (Historical Marine Museum), a small museum recounting Puntarena's seafaring history, with exhibits in both English and Spanish.

We explored the entire plaza in about 15 minutes, including the time we sat on the benches in the shady church courtyard.  The streets surrounding the town's plaza are really not that interesting to explore, so I would recommend combining a visit to Puntarena's town plaza with a visit to the Puntarenas beach area, where you can swim, stroll along the promenade, or just get some good eats.

Me in front of the Catholic Church

Side view of church where you can see the porthole windows at the top

Benches and statues in the Puntarenas town plaza square

Casa de la Cultura building in the square

View of a typical Puntarenas street adjacent to the square

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