Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Located on the Pacific Ocean side of tiny Costa Rica, this port delivers you to the heart of Puntarenas, where vendors welcome you ashore at stalls with crafts and food situated along a thin strip of beach. The region, like all of Costa Rica, is well regarded for its lush green forests and animal and plant biodiversity. Cruisers come to commune with nature on trips to the rainforest, gardens, beaches, and nearby islands.
What We Love
Tárcoles River: The 70-mile-long river empties into the Pacific Ocean and is an important watershed. The waterway generates electric power and is vital for agricultural irrigation. But you should go to see the American crocodiles that live there — the river has one of the largest populations in the world.
Best Known For
Exotic Flora and Fauna: Howlers monkeys, toucans, leaf-cutter ant colonies, wild banana plants. These are just a small sample of the numerous species on display when you slip under the canopy of a Costa Rican rainforest.
Rainforest Adventures: Costa Rica is one of the originators of zipline tours. Strap in and soar above the trees. You also can test your courage with a hanging bridges tour, during which you cross several spans that are strung between the trees and hillsides. Just don't look down. Or do, if you like that sort of thing.
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Who It's Best For
Adrenaline Junkies: Activities include ziplining above the forest canopy, trekking into the hills, and crossing chasms on hanging bridges, plus jungle hiking, whitewater rafting, and kayaking.
Animal Lovers: Costa Rica is home to a dizzying number of animals — you'll encounter exotic species of monkeys, birds, butterflies, and frogs. Spot them in their natural habitat and in sanctuaries designed to protect them.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Buzz Buzz: Insect bites are common, especially if you venture into the rainforests. Wear long sleeves, a hat, pants, and shoes (not sandals), and bring insect repellent.
John Roberts is a New Jersey-based writer for ShermansCruise who worked at The Virginian-Pilot.