Costa Rica offers two ports for cruise ships in the Pacific Ocean: Puerto Caldera and Puntarenas. The distance between the two ports is less than 20 kilometers. Puerto Caldera is Costa Rica's most important trading port on the Pacific. Cruise ships prefer to dock in Puntarenas; which does not exclude that ships dock in Puerto Caldera depending on the given tide and wind conditions or for capacity reasons.
Cruise ships in Puerto Caldera
Some information about Puerto Caldera
As early as the 16th century, Puerto Caldera served the Spanish conquistadors as a safe haven. Around 1840 the port activities switched to the neighboring one Puntarenas. From there coffee was exported after coffee growing became the main source of income for many families in the highlands of Costa Rica. Nearly 150 years later, with the port of Puntarena running down, the Costa Rican government shifted the commercial port activities back to Puerto Caldera in the 1980s. Since then, the small town has been the main port on Costa Rica's Pacific coast.
From a tourist point of view, Puerto Caldera offers nothing. The city, surrounded by lush, green mountains, is the starting point for boat trips on the Río Grande de Tarcoles, tours of the Carara National Park, zip-line adventures or trips into the highlands.
Puerto Caldera - port exit
For cruise guests without excursion packages:
Cruise lines such as Holland America Line offer regular, free shuttle buses to the touristy Puntarenas. The journey time is 20 to 25 minutes.
Puerto Caldera - in the highlands of Costa Rica
Approximately 65 kilometers northeast of Puerto Caldera is 1.000 meters above sea level Naranjo de Alajuela. For the drive into the highlands from Puerto Caldera 1½ hours drive. The district town with almost 20.000 inhabitants is among other things because of the Espíritu Santo coffee plantation besucht.
Visit to the Espíritu Santo coffee cooperative
A visit to the 247 hectare cooperative is a “must” for coffee lovers. The altitude offers good conditions for the coffee plants to thrive. Tourists learn in the course of the Espíritu Santo Coffee Tourthat other crops are grown on the plantation besides coffee and cocoa. Coffee plants love it in the shade, which is why the plantation provides for a top planting of bananas or the like.
Espíritu Santo coffee plantation
Visitors see the saplings and berry-bearing coffee bushes. You will learn that a coffee plant bears fruit for the first time in seven years and that the pickers achieve an average daily output of at least 10 baskets of 12 kilograms each. Top pickers manage up to 20 baskets a day.
After a coffee tasting, visitors learn about the selection and drying of beans and the roasting facility. If you like, you can buy coffee and other souvenirs in the attached souvenir shop. By the way: Two thirds of the production is exported to well-known companies such as Starbucks.
Visit to the last Oxcart factory in Sarchí
Sarchí is located seven kilometers from Naranjo de Alajuela. It is said that the community of 7.000 souls is the cradle of Costa Rican handicrafts. A wide variety of wooden products and table decorations are manufactured and / or sold in more than 200 small craft businesses and shops. The best-known regional products are the “Carretas” or “Oxcarts”, artfully and lavishly manufactured ox carts in miniature format.
With the Oxcarts, the coffee beans were initially brought to the port of Puntarenas. Under the often critical transport conditions of the 19th century, oxen were better suited than horses or mules for transports lasting up to ten days.
In the center of Sarchí is the Parque Central the world's largest ox cart. It was specially made in 2006 for the city to be included in the Guinness Book of Records. The product, an oversized and beautifully painted vehicle, was a complete success.
The world's largest oxcart in Sarchí
The neighboring Catholic Church We like it because of its symmetrical outer shape and the unusual, green painting. Worth seeing inside the church are the wooden vaulted ceiling and the artistic carvings by regional artists. It is not clear to us why the church is jokingly called “wedding cake church” in all descriptions.
Catholic Church in Sarchí
The “Fabrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro” is a special attraction on the drive to Sarchí. It is the last of the many factories that were left Oxcart Factory. The small company does without electricity in the production of the mostly miniaturized Oxcarts; instead, water power is used to drive the machines. A water wheel and transmission belt provide the spectacular propulsion of the equipment. The factory offers tours to show how the Oxcarts are made and painted. All kinds of handicrafts are sold in the attached, large souvenir shop. Visitors satisfy their hunger in a cantina above the shop.
The 6½-hour boat tour in Costa Rica's highlands offered by Holland America Line cost a modest $ 2019 in December 59. We think this is money well spent!